Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Frost

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! (If you're on Goodreads, I've included a button to add the book to your list just below the teaser!)

This week I am sharing another teaser from an independent author, who also happens to live in Georgia. (I live in Georgia, last week's Teaser Tuesday post featured an author who lives in Georgia... You get the idea... :-)) A friend of mine who has similar reading tastes recommended this particular series, so I thought I would give it a try! Instead of just a couple of teaser sentences, here's the opening paragraph + 1...

It was cold, the kind of cold that made bones feel brittle and hands ache. My breath streamed from my lips like smoke, and my feet made wet, crunching sounds in the snow as I slipped through the forest. As I ran, my lungs ached and my sack of yarn thumped against my back. My cloak tangled around my ankles, but I yanked it free without stopping.

It was quota day in the village, and I was going to be late if I didn't hurry.
~ page 1 of Frost by Kate Avery Ellison
{click on the cover to visit the book's Goodreads page/synopsis}

Frost (The Frost Chronicles, #1)

Monday, April 29, 2013

REVIEW: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Series: Lunar Chronicles #2
Genre: YA Paranormal/Dystopian
Pub Date: February 2013, Feiwel and Friends
Format: eBook (Nook)
Source: Purchased from BN.com
The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.


Well, Marissa Meyer has done it again with Scarlet... As much as I loved Cinder, I'm pretty sure I enjoyed its sequel even more! While Cinder was an obvious re-telling of the story of Cinderella, this time we have the dystopian future version of Little Red Riding Hood and it was every bit as captivating as the cyborg version of Cinderella.

Meyer's creativity seems to know no bounds with these stories she has crafted. She has a gift for creating characters that come to life right off the pages of the book. This story alternated back and forth mainly between Scarlet's and Cinder's points of view, so in addition to Scarlet's own part in the Lunar Chronicles, we picked up Cinder's story right where it left off in the first book. While Scarlet is matched up on her adventure with the "big, bad" Wolf, a dark and troubled street fighter, most of Cinder's journey finds her in the company of "Captain" Thorne, a spaceship thief and general rogue who provides much of the comic relief during the story. And a bit of a spoiler, for those of you who were amused by Iko in Cinder, you can look forward to her return in Scarlet, though not quite how you would expect. :-)

Of course, quite a bit is done to advance the story of Queen Levana's quest to claim power over the Earthen Union, as well. Meyer also tells some of the story from Kai's point of view, though overall he was a more minor player in this book. Yet it was his decision towards the end that finally spurred Cinder to take some action and shoulder the responsibility that comes with her true identity, which she is finally able to fully admit to herself. Fans of Cinder will surely love the story's continuation, though I would recommend re-reading Cinder if it has been awhile since you first read it. I am now stuck playing the waiting game for the remaining two books, but I look forward to getting to re-read Cinder and Scarlet before they are released. Cress is due out next year and is to be a Rapunzel re-telling, while Winter will be released in 2015 and will focus on Snow White. Seriously, if you have any love for YA dystopian/sci-fi books, then add in all of these fairy tale re-tellings, you've got a highly original series and you owe it to yourself to give these books a try!

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Read this book/series...
  • If you enjoyed the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld or The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  • If you like fairytale re-tellings
  • If you like YA Dystopian with a good mix of Sci-Fi
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: A coming storm...

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog, At Home With Books.
About a week ago I looked out the window and noticed it looked like a storm was coming. Then I realized how GREEN the sky was in the distance, and there was almost a clear division as the green color continued to approach. Unfortunately, the sight I took in with my eyes was very difficult to capture on camera, but I tried...

It actually took awhile before the rain/thunder/lightning hit after I took this picture, and I started wondering if that was just an extreme amount of pollen in the air, haha. But eventually we did get a brief, violent thunderstorm...

Time to get ready for my mother-in-law's visit. I'll be back this afternoon/evening to visit your snapshot posts!

Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 26, 2013

REVIEW: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Genre: YA Dystopian
Pub Date: January 2012, Feiwal & Friends
Format: eBook (Nook)
Source: Purchased from BN.com
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


So this is one of those books that I saw popping up on Teaser Tuesday posts recently, along with the second book in the series, Scarlet. I'll admit what I saw had me intrigued, but I was a little skeptical. But then I kept reading glowing review after glowing review and my curiosity was piqued even more. I guess I have B&N to thank for having their NYT Bestselling titles for Nook on sale for 50% off this weekend, because that is what finally spurred me to just take the leap and give Cinder a try.

I've had a pretty good run of luck lately, as this was another book that I absolutely devoured and couldn't put down. I do love a good dystopian, and somehow I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Sci-Fi. Cinder is definitely an excellent blend of both, not to mention an incredibly unique "re-telling" of the Cinderella story. You'll never view this fairytale in the same way after reading this version! I really loved everything about this story -- the premise, the characters, the execution... I couldn't believe how quickly the pages flew by and before I knew it I had finished! I'll admit I figured out where part of the story was headed pretty quickly, but I really enjoyed seeing how Meyer revealed it bit by bit as the book went on. I know that's a bit cryptic...

It's funny, I find myself struggling to write this review because I don't want to give anything away, and so many things I keep thinking about mentioning really spoil too much of the story. One thing I can say is that I enjoyed the characters as much as I enjoyed Meyer's refreshingly original storyline. There's so much more to Cinder than meets the eye, Kai may be a prince, but that doesn't mean he always acts like one, and don't be surprised if you find yourself attached to a particular android... I'm so glad I went ahead and bought Scarlet, taking a chance that I'd want to continue the series. Of course, I'll have to play the waiting game along with everyone else to read the last two books in the Lunar Chronicles, but that just means I can look forward to a re-read before they are published!

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Read this book...
  • If you enjoyed the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
  • If you like fairytale re-tellings
  • If you like YA Dystopian with a good mix of Sci-Fi

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

REVIEW: Deep in the Heart
by Staci Stallings

Genre: Christian Romance
Pub Date: September 2011, Spirit Light
Format: eBook (Nook)
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Just out of college and completely alone in the world, Maggie Montgomery has one shot left to save her life from an abyss of poverty and hopelessness. Clinging to the last shred of fuel and hope, she arrives at the mansion of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayers. Although Maggie is clearly not what Mr. Ayers and his wife have in mind for a nanny, they agree to hire her temporarily until they can find someone more appropriate to fill the position. However, Maggie’s whole world is about to be up-ended by two way-over-scheduled children and one incredibly handsome hired hand. As she struggles to fit into a world she was never made to fit in, Maggie wonders if she can ever learn to become a perfect version of herself so she can keep the job, or is she doomed to always be searching for a life she can never quite grasp?


Though I generally prefer Christian historical fiction, every once in awhile I will go for a contemporary romance. This one caught my eye, not only because I really liked the cover, but I also have a penchant for stories set in the West. While Stallings is less subtle in her use of Christian themes, prayer, and Biblical passages than a lot of the Christian fiction I read, those elements were not too over the top for my tastes. Overall, I thought Deep In The Heart had an interesting plot and Stallings was very adept at developing the storyline and keeping the pace moving right along.

Maggie's life story and her position in the Ayer household made for an intriguing story -- thanks in large part to the strangeness of the Ayer household! In addition to an adeptly written plot, Stallings provided a lot of strong character development, both with the focal characters (Maggie and Keith), and with some of the more minor characters (Conrad and his wife, among others). There's also the obligatory shrew, but I really can't say more than that without giving away a major part of the plot that isn't included in the synopsis, and you know how I hate to give spoilers! Just know there is a lot more to this story than you're led to believe when you read the blurb, and because of that, anticipation will keep you turning the pages until you reach the end.

In the end, the biggest flaw with this book is the writing. It wasn't so much a case of typos, but more along the lines of occasional awkward phrasing. Additionally, the dialogues needed to be improved with more descriptors used so that the reader would be clear as to who was speaking. I had to re-read a couple of different passages to make sure I knew who was saying what to make sense of what was going on. One more round of editing would have helped to eliminate these issues and really tighten up the writing. Even so, Deep In The Heart was a relatively quick read that was generally engaging and had a satisfying conclusion.
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Read this book...
  • If you enjoy contemporary Christian Fiction/Romance
  • If you liked My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade (This one isn't quite as good, but I don't have a lot of contemporary Christian fiction to compare it to -- I usually go for historical fiction.)

 Deep in the Heart

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

REVIEW: Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase

Series: The Suddenly Series #1
Genre: New Adult / Contemporary Fiction
Pub Date: April 2013 (self-published)
Format: Paperback, 464 pages
Source: Pre-ordered directly from the author at an event.
Samantha Rousseau is used to getting her hands dirty. Working toward a master’s degree in wildlife biology while helping take care of her sick father, she has no time for celebrity gossip, designer clothes, or lazy vacations. So when a duchess from the small country of Lilaria invites her to dinner, Samantha assumes it’s to discuss a donation for the program. The truth will change the course of her life in ways she never dreamed.

Alex D’Lynsal is trying to keep his name clean. As crown prince of Lilaria, he’s had his share of scandalous headlines, but the latest pictures have sent him packing to America and forced him to swear off women—especially women in the public eye. That is, until he meets Samantha Rousseau. She’s stubborn, feisty, and incredibly sexy. Not to mention heiress to an estate in his country, which makes her everyone’s front-page news.

While Sam tries to navigate the new world of politics and wealth, she will also have to dodge her growing feelings for Alex. Giving in to them means more than just falling in love; it would mean accepting the weight of an entire country on her shoulders.


Soooo... Can I tell you how much I LOVED this book? I read over half of it one evening and then put off work the next morning (good thing I work from home!) to finish it. Okay, now let's just go ahead and get this out in the open: no, the premise of Suddenly Royal is not exactly original (think The Princess Diaries, but steamier). However, in my opinion that absolutely does not take away from what an incredibly fun and engaging book this is! For me, I think that's in part because I'm one of those girls who always had that secret little dream inside of discovering that she is actually a princess. I'm not ashamed to admit that in the least! Come on, I know there are more of you out there...

I read most of this book with what was probably a very goofy grin on my face. I was hooked from page one. How could I not love Samantha?! She is smart, sassy and unafraid to speak her mind, yet at the same time vulnerable and just so real. And while far from perfect, Alex certainly made for a pretty dreamy prince. It probably didn't hurt that Chase had mentioned she envisioned Chris Hemsworth as Alex. I'll take that visual any day! Prince Yummy, indeed... ;-) But in addition to these engaging lead characters, Chase does what she is so very good at, providing a well-rounded and well-written supporting cast. Between Sam's personal assistant, Chadwick, her best friend Jess, and various members Alex's family and other Lilarian royalty, there is a great variety of people who each add something special to the story and the events that unfold. Without a doubt, the lovable (and even the less-than-lovable) characters are the other big reason why this story just worked so well for me.

What may be most telling: I loved this story so much, I would rather not even call attention to the handful of typos I came across, but fairness dictates that I have to at least mention them. I believe they were all cases where apostrophes had jumped into words where they didn't belong -- probably from some of the words that were missing them... Those pesky apostrophes! Even they could not mar my enjoyment of Suddenly Royal. I laughed, I even got a bit teary, and by the time I turned the last page I sighed in complete contentment.

Looking back, it's funny to think that had I not worked with a young lady who knew Nichole Chase and just happened to mention her Dark Betrayal trilogy to me in conversation one day, I might not have discovered her books -- at least, not as soon as I did. Suddenly Royal is easily now my favorite of Chase's books and if you have read the rest of her works, I think you will see how much her writing and storytelling have grown. The earlier mention of The Princess Diaries aside, this book really did play out like a movie in my head as I read, thanks to Chase's descriptive and easy-to-read writing, which enables you to just immerse yourself in the story as if you were a part of it. I think anyone who had dreams of becoming a princess or their own happily-ever-afters would enjoy this book. And, well, if you don't happen to be one of those girls, then you might just enjoy it for the smart characters and the steamy romance that develops between Sam and Alex.
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*It should be noted that due to adult content, Suddenly Royal falls into the New Adult category, not YA like Chase's Dark Betryal trilogy.

Read this book...
  • If you ever had dreams of being a princess
  • If you have read any of Nichole Chase's books
  • If you enjoyed the Princess Diaries

Suddenly Royal

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Suddenly Royal

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! (If you're on Goodreads, I've included a button to add the book to your list just below the teaser!)

This week, I wanted to share a teaser with you from the newest release from one of my favorite indie authors, Nichole Chase. In fact, today is release day for Suddenly Royal, so what better way to celebrate?! I loved this book and can't wait to share my review with you tomorrow, so if you're curious after reading the teaser (I'm cheating today and sharing quite a few sentences), please be sure to stop by again tomorrow!

Sounds of the TV drifted to me from the living room, so I padded out to see who was awake. Jess was sitting on the couch, curled up under a blanket and staring at the TV with large eyes.

"What got you out of bed so early?" I sat down next to her and tugged some of the blanket over to cover my legs.

Jess just pointed at the TV. I looked at the bright screen through slitted eyes and gasped. "Why is there a picture of our house on the news?" A sinking feeling filled my gut. 
~ page 56 of Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase

Suddenly Royal

Monday, April 22, 2013

REVIEW: A Shade of Vampire
by Bella Forest

Series: A Shade of Vampire #1
Genre: YA Paranormal
Pub Date: December 2012 (self-published)
Format: eBook
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Download the first few chapters and try it out! (Many thanks to Ms. Forest for providing the excerpt!)
On the evening of Sofia Claremont's seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake.

A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood.

She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine.

An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains.

Sofia's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is the one selected out of hundreds of girls to join the harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince.

Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.

Will she succeed? ...or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks?


Firstly, I would like to thank Bella Forest for contacting me to offer a copy of A Shade of Vampire in exchange for an honest review here at Melissa's Bookshelf. I thought the premise and the setting for the story sounded incredibly intriguing and would offer a breath of fresh air to the already heavily saturated YA paranormal/vampire market, and in that respect I was absolutely right. Unfortunately, the execution just wasn't quite there. Believe me, there is so much potential for this story, but I think it would require some extensive editing and rewriting to bring it to the level it needs to be in order to be a 4- or 5-star read for me.

I think the over-arching issue is that Forest does far more telling than showing, as the expression goes. It seemed like the vast majority of the story was given through dialogue, and on top of that, often there were not enough descriptors used to enable the reader to know who was speaking. Though there was a little bit of world-building, there simply was not enough to truly do the Shade justice -- I wanted so much more. In addition, the story is told with the chapters alternating between the points of view of Sofia and Derek, and while that can work in some cases, I found it to be choppy, confusing and difficult to follow in this book. I think the difficulty I had lies in the fact that Sofia and Derek sound very similar -- Derek certainly didn't come across as a 500-year-old vampire that had been in a magically-induced sleep for 400 of those years. There were attempts to reinforce Derek's actual age and the time he had missed by having him not know what current technologies were, but the way he spoke and acted just was not what I would have expected of a vampire who was alive and turned during the 1500's, then asleep the last 400 years. He lacked a certain formality, mystery, and maturity that I think would have really added to his character. In truth, most of the characters in the story were pretty bland -- we are only really given surface qualities and characteristics and little is done to develop either Sofia or Derek, not to mention any of the supporting cast.

And honestly, I couldn't understand why Derek was so wrapped up in Sofia almost immediately, except for the fact that we know she is apparently very beautiful. But the one small thing she does early in the story that touches and impresses Derek just didn't seem like enough to spark the obsession that follows and sticks around through the rest of the book. If anything, it seemed like it really came down to Sofia's looks, despite the attempted indications otherwise. Regardless, as I read, I just felt completely detached from the story and the characters -- I simply didn't care how events played themselves out. More detailed character development would have gone a long way to making me feel more invested in Sofia and Derek.

Given the uniqueness of the premise, I really wanted to like this book, which is probably why I pushed myself to finish it. Clocking in at 149 pages for the paperback edition, A Shade of Vampire is a relatively short read, but I actually think that it would benefit from being longer, filled with more imagery, world-building and significantly more in-depth character development. At times, I also found myself having to re-read some parts to understand what was going on, due to some awkward phrasing, as well as the lack of sufficient descriptors during the dialogues; hence, my earlier remark about editing and rewriting. But in fairness, I have also seen a lot of very positive, even glowing reviews out there, so take mine as only part of the overall picture. I will say this, though -- I do love that cover!

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Download the first few chapters and see what you think!
Like on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AShadeOfVampire
Follow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AShadeOfVampire

A Shade of Vampire (A Shade of Vampire, #1)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

TSS/Suddenly Sunday: Week-In-Review

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Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea @ The Muse in the Fog Book Review. The purpose of Suddenly Sunday is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week. If you would like to participate, just grab the button and link back to Svea's blog.

After a rather slow and quiet week last week, I got back into regular blogging with a few reviews and other posts this week, managing to post something every day. I've been doing LOTS of reading lately, much more than I had thought I would be and I still haven't gotten burned out on it! I think it helps that I try to mix up the kinds of books I read so I don't get into a rut with a particular genre. But as of Friday, I am actually halfway through with my 2013 Reading Challenge!

I'm still a little surprised, myself, when I see those numbers! :-)

But in case you missed anything at Melissa's Bookshelf this week, here's a round-up of what went down...

I reviewed four books books:
For Teaser Tuesdays, I shared a passage from The Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill, a Harlequin romance that I don't plan to review here at the blog, but as I noted on Goodreads, it was better than I expected! I may add more to that review down the road.

This week I wrote a Thursday Thoughts post, since the prompt for Booking Through Thursday wasn't really up my alley this time. I may do that from time to time instead of always participating in BTT... (Random aside, does anyone else remember the Thursday Thunks meme? I really miss that!) Anyway, for Thursday Thoughts, I mused a bit about no longer accepting books for review. And the reason why that has come up again for me is because of a certain negative review that I am putting off writing even at this very moment by scheduling this post instead, haha.

And last but not least, yesterday I shared some pictures from this year's Spring planting efforts around our patio for Saturday Snapshot.

I'm expecting the coming week to be another good one. As I write this (Friday afternoon), I've got three reviews to write and schedule, my Teaser Tuesdays post is already waiting to go live, and I'm sure I'll have some pictures lined up for Saturday Snapshot again. So, I guess I'd better get cracking on these reviews now... Hope everyone has a great day and enjoys what is left of the weekend!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Spring has Sprung!

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog, At Home With Books.
Last Saturday I was finally able to get around to planting flowers around our patio and hanging baskets of flowers in all of our usual spots. Now I can't wait for another couple of months to pass so the flowers will have really filled in around the patio -- that's why I love impatiens, because they do a great job making their presence known, even if they have to be planted annually (though we usually do have them come back sporadically every year from the previous Spring's plantings). We also decided to splurge and ordered new wicker chair/ottoman set for the patio and it arrived just in time for me to include it in the pictures. Looking forward to getting lots of use out of it this summer -- yay for my improved warm-weather reading spot!

I ended up having to buy new pots for our planter this year. I loaded them with petunias, which I have had the most success actually keeping alive through the hot summer months here in Georgia, haha.

For hanging baskets, I chose a smaller variety of petunias...

I was happy to be able to get the hanging baskets in different color combinations. I would really love to have fuchsias in the baskets but we haven't had a lot of luck with those in the past. In the background below, you can see our clematis that continues to thrive... Shouldn't be too long before I have lots of blooms to take pictures of!

Sorry the next picture is a bit over-exposed, but as it rained all day yesterday, I had to wait until this morning to get any pictures and we get morning sun on our patio. This is our other line of impatiens along the house. By the time summer is in full swing, as long as they don't get eaten, we should have a very full row of flowers, just about completely covering up the mulch and probably close to a foot high.

Here's the new patio set! It was a little bigger than I realized it was going to be, so we had to arrange it a little differently than I had planned, but I love it! (Notice the jacked-up blinds in the window on the right? Someone was trying to peek outside while I took pictures...)

Here's our entire patio. The first summer after we got married, we expanded it down the back of the house with the paving stones. Our old sitting chairs have become chairs for our small table that came with four rather flimsy folding-style chairs. These actually seat us up at a better position for the rare times we eat out there and we still have the other chairs should we need the extra seating for any reason. It worked out well!

I'm thinking about trying to get some kind of fun extra hanging lights to use out there when we want to sit in the evenings this summer. We just have the one porch light nestled in the nook as you can see in the picture above, and it doesn't really reach the lounge area at the end. I'd also like to buy some wind chimes, but sometimes it gets SO windy where we're positioned up on our hill that I'm afraid they'll either blow away themselves or drive us crazy. We'll see...

Now I'm off to check out your pictures and enjoy the rest of the day. Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 19, 2013

REVIEW: To Win Her Heart
by Karen Witemeyer

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Pub Date: May 2011, Bethany House
Format: eBook (Nook)
Source: Purchased from BN.com
Having completed his sentence for the unintentional crime that derailed his youthful plans for fame and fortune, Levi Grant looks to start over in the town of Spencer, Texas. Spencer needs a blacksmith, a trade he learned at his father's knee, and he needs a place where no one knows his past. But small towns leave little room for secrets...

Eden Spencer has sworn off men, choosing instead to devote her time to the lending library she runs. When a mountain-sized stranger walks through her door and asks to borrow a book, she steels herself against the attraction he provokes. His halting speech and hesitant manner leave her doubting his intelligence. Yet as the mysteries of the town's new blacksmith unfold, Eden discovers hidden depths in him that tempt her heart.

Levi's renewed commitment to his faith leads Eden to believe she's finally found a man of honor and integrity, a man worthy of her love. But when the truth about his prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a way to win back the librarian's affections?


Well, it would seem that Karen Witemeyer is quickly becoming a new favorite Christian fiction author of mine. I loved Short-Straw Bride when I read it last month and I enjoyed To Win Her Heart just as much, if not more! Witemeyer has a gift for telling a breathtaking story with a definite Christian theme, but without preaching to the reader via the oft-used method of one character seemingly preaching to another or trying to change the other person. I read this book in one sitting -- I absolutely couldn't put it down until I read the last pages and yes, I even got a little teary at the end. Thankfully, they were tears of joy and satisfaction, because you know how I can't stand to read a sad story!

Can I tell you how much I loved Levi Grant? I'll admit I wasn't particularly crazy about Eden Spencer, but then I suspect that Witemeyer wrote her character a little less favorably on purpose. Not only has Levi come a long way in his own life and faith, but Eden learns a few lessons along the way and transforms herself, as well, by the end of the book. But without a doubt, it is Levi who steals the story (along with the heart of the person reading it). As I read, I anxiously awaited the moment when Levi's past would catch up with him and without giving too much away, I'll just say that Witemeyer gives him a bit of a double whammy when it finally happens. There are interesting side plots that definitely helped to round out the story and develop both Eden's and Levi's characters -- not to mention providing some excitement near the end of the book.

But it is the final chapter and epilogue that will leave you deliciously satisfied and certainly filled me with emotion. The end of the story is beautifully written and I thought that Witemeyer closed the book perfectly. I can't wait to get my hands on every other book she has written and if you enjoy Christian historical fiction (particularly that set in the early Western United States), then you will want to give this book a try and see if you don't feel the same way.

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Read this book...

~ If you like any of Karen Witemeyer's other books
~ If you enjoy Christian Historical fiction in a Western frontier setting
~ If you love books by Tamera Alexander, Janette Oke, Colleen Coble, Kelly Eileen Hake, etc.

To Win Her Heart

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday Thoughts: Why I Might Stop Accepting Books for Review

Since I don't read books in foreign languages, today's Booking Through Thursday prompt wasn't really up my ally, so instead I thought I would share something that's been going through my mind lately...

From time to time I find myself thinking that perhaps it is time for me to stop accepting copies of books to review. I have cut the number I accept so low as it is, that it really wouldn't be THAT big a change for me. Well, in the last few days I have been revisiting the idea, or I have also been thinking that I might just limit myself to accepting books by authors I have previously read and reviewed here.

Usually when I get this feeling, it's because I'm feeling panicky about how much I have going on and trying to meet review deadlines on top of that just adds to my anxiety. This time, however, I find myself in the position of writing a less than favorable review for a book I received from an author and, well, I just feel badly about it. Yes, I realize that the general subject of writing negative reviews has been beaten to death, and its ghost dragged back out and beaten some more... Don't get me wrong -- I am firmly of the opinion that regardless of how much or how little one enjoys a book, they should be entitled to write a 100% honest review, no matter the source of the book. But that doesn't mean I get any sense of enjoyment from bashing someone's effort.

I truly hate to hurt someone's feelings, but at the same time I absolutely think negative reviews need to be shared. Even though some people don't seem to get this concept, not everyone is going to like every book. Shocking, I know. From a reader's perspective, sometimes I have read negative reviews and because of some key bit of information shared, it has saved me from reading a book that I know I wouldn't like, and you know what, I like to save both time AND money. And for authors who are capable of taking criticism, I would like to think that they might be able to take away something useful from a thoughtful critical review. (I won't get into snarky vs. thoughtful reviews here, since I simply don't write snarky negative reviews.)

But back to my situation at hand... I had the fleeting thought of telling the author of my concerns and even offering not to post a review of the book, but that just doesn't seem right, either, because I really feel like I need to share my opinions on why the book didn't work for me. I mean, I take my book-blogging seriously and always try to write honest reviews of what I read. Sometimes that means I might go a little fan-girly on a book I loved, other times I am even inspired to write a more critical review of a book that I didn't care for. I suppose part of the reason I want to write this review (and any other negative review I choose to write) is because I think there should be balance that comes from a dissenting opinion. Not that every review I saw on this particular book was glowing -- but there were many that were. And to be fair, I don't dislike EVERYthing about the book, but I also don't see how I can rate it higher than two stars when considering all factors.

And so once again I find myself thinking about no longer accepting review books. For me, personally, I think it is the right thing to do, since I apparently can't keep from feeling guilty about not enjoying a book I've received for review. Perhaps it wouldn't have been as difficult if I had just received the book from a publicist, but as it came directly from the author, that somehow changes matters for me. Or if I did this professionally, I expect I would feel differently, but I'm just a little ol' book blogger -- an avid reader who knows what she likes and what she doesn't and tries to form intelligent thoughts around that to share with others who love to read.

So now, I just have to muster up the will to write this review, pass along the information, and hope that it all just blows over with little hoopla.

Have any of you stopped taking review books for this reason? Or have you just limited yourself to authors you have read and reviewed in the past? Just curious to hear thoughts on negative reviews as they relate to taking review copies, or any other thoughts you care to share!

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my rambling!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

REVIEW: Don't Fear The Reaper
by Michelle Muto

Series: Netherworld #1
Genre: YA Paranormal
Pub Date: September 2011; Dreamscapes, Ink
Format: Paperback, 251 pages
Source: Purchased directly from the author at an event.
Grief-stricken by the murder of her twin, Keely Morrison is convinced suicide is her ticket to eternal peace and a chance to reunite with her sister. When Keely succeeds in taking her own life, she discovers death isn’t at all what she expected. Instead, she’s trapped in a netherworld on Earth and her only hope for reconnecting with her sister and navigating the afterlife is a bounty-hunting reaper and a sardonic, possibly unscrupulous, demon. But when the demon offers Keely her greatest temptation—revenge on her sister’s murderer—she must uncover his motives and determine who she can trust. Because, as Keely soon learns, both reaper and demon are keeping secrets and she fears the worst is true—that her every decision will change how, and with whom, she spends eternity.


This is the second book I have read by Michelle Muto, the first being The Book of Lost Souls, which I reviewed earlier this year and really enjoyed. Don't Fear The Reaper is a darker story and demonstrates the breadth of writing Muto can offer the YA Paranormal genre. I've never read a story dealing with teen suicide (or suicide of any sort, for that matter), but I was quite impressed with how Muto wrote about it. Seriously, the opening chapters of the book were powerful -- I was fascinated, horrified, and yet felt sympathy for Keely over the course of reading the pages about her actual suicide. It is no small feat that Muto can tell the story in such a way that you could sympathize with Keely despite her choice to take her life.

The majority of the story focuses on Keely's afterlife in the Netherworld and touches a little on the affect her suicide has on her family, friends, and on-again, off-again boyfriend, Miles. Immediately upon Keely's death, we are introduced to Banning, the Reaper assigned to help Keely's soul cross over (to heaven or to hell is the question), and Daniel, a demon who is determined to make sure Keely's soul heads straight to hell. But, well, it's just a little more complicated than that... However, I am not going to spoil the story for you, but I will say that both Banning and Daniel are well-written characters and came to life on the pages -- probably more so than Keely, in fact.

My only issue with this book was that Muto tipped her hand way too early about what was ultimately going to happen and hinted at it again later before the event actually occurs. That doesn't take away from the fact that the story is interesting and beautifully written, but it did make me more anxious to get to the end and see how everything actually occurred. Despite that flaw, I would still recommend Don't Fear the Reaper, not only for Muto's handling of the difficult topic of teen suicide, but also her depiction of the in-between phase of a soul before it heads to its final destination.

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Read this book...

~ If you like YA Paranormal stories dealing with the afterlife, angels, and demons
~ If you enjoyed Shadow Eyes by Dusty Crabtree

Don't Fear the Reaper (Netherworld, #1)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: The Inconvenient Duchess

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! (If you're on Goodreads, I've included a button to add the book to your list just below the teaser!)

Today's teaser is from a Harlequin Romance, which I don't read too often, but I was looking for a one-and-done kind of read. I'm not ready to jump into another series just yet and I wanted something light and romantic (and relatively mindless). Hopefully this book will be just what I'm looking for...

"Damn that woman. She made me promise. But it was a deathbed promise, and I said the words hoping her demise would absolve me of action."

"You promised to marry me, hoping your mother would die?" She stared back in horror.
~ page 16 (Nook eBook) of The Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill

The Inconvenient Duchess (The Radwells #1)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Behold, Here's Poison by Georgette Heyer

Series: Inspectors Hannasyde & Hemingway #2
Genre: Mystery
Pub Date: April 2006, Arrow (re-release)
Format: eBook (Nook)
Source: Purchased from BN.com
When Gregory Matthews, patriarch of the Poplars is found dead one morning, imperious Aunt Harriet blames it on the roast duck he ate for supper. After all, she had warned him about his blood pressure. But a post-mortem determines that the cause of death is much more sinister. Murder. By poison.

Suspicion falls immediately amongst his bitter, quarrelsome family. Each has a motive; each, opportunity. It falls to Superintendent Hannasyde to sift through all the secrets and lies and discover just who killed Gregory Matthews, before the killer strikes again...


I suspect more people are familiar with Georgette Heyer's Regency romances and works of historical fiction, rather than her mysteries, but she did write about a dozen of them! As opposed to her romances and historical fiction, Behold, Here's Poison and her other mysteries are set in 1930's Britain and thus were contemporary to Heyer's time. I find her approach to detective stories to be rather similar to Agatha Christie's, though Heyer doesn't quite have the knack for developing and unveiling a spellbinding mystery the way Christie does. That said, her books are almost always entertaining, if not for the quirky characters that are reminiscent of Christie mysteries, then certainly for her sharp and witty dialogues.

I have yet to read all of Heyer's mysteries and this book was my third or fourth. It is a solid effort both in terms of the mystery and investigation that follows, as well as sharp wit and quirky characters that will keep you amused throughout the entire book. Many family members have both motive and opportunity to poison Gregory Matthews and a more argumentative, distrustful bunch you will be hard-pressed to find. A hypochondriac, a moocher, a penny-pincher, a niece and nephew of whom Gregory Matthews didn't seem overly fond, and the nephew who became the head of the family... just who was it that finally had enough and decided to send Mr. Matthews on his way? Speaking of the new head of the family, Mr. Randall Matthews was certainly a character. Over-the-top affected, I couldn't decide if he was amusing or annoying. But every time he referred to someone as "my precious," I couldn't help but picture Gollum and The Ring...

Heyer also has a tendency to toss in a romance with her mysteries and frankly, I wish she wouldn't. The romance in this story just isn't believable at all and the story would have been just fine without it. So, I would say it is safe to go in knowing this will be a fun read, but don't have high hopes for the romance bit. If you want that, then be sure to pick up one of Heyer's Regency romances instead. I will say that I was surprised by the outcome and perhaps too surprised. A few more clues might have been helpful to be able to solve the mystery before it was revealed. But overall, I found it to be an entertaining read that was easy to pick up and get lost in.

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Read this book...
~ If you like Georgette Heyer (particularly for her sarcastic, witty dialogues)
~ If you enjoy reading Agatha Christie

Behold, Here's Poison (Inspector Hannasyde, #2)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

REVIEW: Dark Triumph by R.L. LaFevers

Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub Date: April 2013, Houghton Mifflin
Format: eBook (Nook)
Source: Purchased from BN.com
Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons.

But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats.


I know I am in the minority with this series, but I am just not as into these books as everyone else seems to be. I want to love them. I mean, who wouldn't want to love books about assassin nuns? The premise behind this series screamed to me and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book after I read Grave Mercy last Fall. But sadly, Dark Triumph fell flat for me. I wish I had written a review of Grave Mercy so that I could remember all of my thoughts after reading it, but I do know that I enjoyed that book more than its sequel.

I'll start by saying that Dark Triumph started off very slowly for me. So slowly, in fact, that I didn't find myself getting into the story until probably close to halfway into the book. Not only that, but I had no problem putting it down when I had to do something else or go to bed or whatnot. I'm not sure if the slow pace is due to the high level of detail LaFevers provides in her story-telling, or that events simply weren't happening fast enough to keep me interested, or perhaps it was a combination of the two. Like Grave Mercy, this book is written in the first person present tense, this time from Sybella's perspective. I generally don't care for first person present tense storytelling, though it has worked for me a few times, most noticeably with The Hunger Games trilogy. Well, I can't way it worked for me in Dark Triumph. I can't pinpoint what it was about it -- perhaps an awkwardness at times? Regardless, I found myself distracted by the fact that the book was written in the first person present tense, so that took away from my enjoyment of the story. Other than my issue with the point of view and tense, I do like LaFevers' writing style and her use of imagery and description.

I enjoyed the way LaFevers told us Sybella's backstory in bits and pieces throughout the entire book. It was an effective way to develop her character and I will say that I probably preferred her to Ismae. In the end, though, I felt like this book was doing more to tell us about Sybella, her life, and her personal experiences, as opposed to really furthering the plot surrounding the Duchess and those working treason against her. I don't mean to imply that is necessarily a bad thing, because Sybella's story is certainly powerful, but everything involving the Duchess felt like it almost didn't belong in the book. Hands down, my favorite part of the story (minor spoiler alert) was the developing romance between Sybella and Beast. Those were the pages where my attention was truly captivated and I very much wanted to keep reading the story. But make no mistake, this book is much darker and grittier than Grave Mercy, there is nothing exactly light-hearted about the unfolding romance or the rest of the story (assassin nuns, remember), but the growing relationship between Sybella and Beast is beautiful to read.

I suppose I can understand why so many people love these books, but they just are not quite working for me as a total package. The first two books feel a bit disjointed and even the stories within each book seem disconnected at times. We know so little about Annith, whose story will be featured in Mortal Heart, and what we do know doesn't spark much interest for me, so I have a difficult time seeing how her story will follow Ismae's and Sybella's and connect the three books. I'm not sure if I will be in a rush to read the final bok when it comes out next year, but I expect I will want to at least finish out the series at some point.

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Read this book...
~ If you liked Grave Mercy -- no reason not to continue the series, right?
~ If you enjoy paranormal historical fiction/fantasy
~ If you liked Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo or The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Time to Play Outside!

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog, At Home With Books.
I am so glad the weather is finally consistently warmer! It is nice to have the option to take the kiddo to play outside at one of the neighborhood playgrounds and today I am planning to finally plant the flowers in the bed around our patio out back. Spring finally feels like it is really here -- not to mention the pollen had been going crazy and covering everything in yellow, lol... Anyway, last Saturday we took SweetPea to the playground where she got her fill of going down the slide over and over and over again...

Now I'm off to visit your Snapshot posts before heading outside to plant flowers. Happy Saturday!!