Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted PlacesGhostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a unique take on the whole ghost story fascination in America. I found it very compelling. I felt like the author wove the stories of places haunted with the reality of each of those places. The perspective that Colin Dickey brings to the traditional ghost story is really interesting. It seemed to be a very thoughtful take on hauntings. If you're fascinated with the topic, this is a really strong take on it. It was definitely a fun read for the end of October!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Romance Quick Reviews

I've been needing a number of  palette cleansers lately to help balance out the more intense fiction that I've been reading. Having something lighter to read has helped me sometimes to keep reading and not getting overwhelmed by all the heavy reads. And so ... I have a number of romance reviews for you ...


Escorting the Player (The Escort Collection, #3)Escorting the Player by Leigh James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn't expecting a lot when I decided to read this since it was a Kindle freebie. Yet, I was quite surprised by this one. It was a solid read and I enjoyed the story. It was a little predictable and I never felt like I really connected with the heroine but it was a quick and easy read. This is a perfect light read - a little fluffy yet quite good. The writing was solid and the story was put together well.


When Stars Collide (Light in the Dark, #2)When Stars Collide by Micalea Smeltzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I hadn't read the first book in this series, I didn't feel like I missed anything by starting with number two. This can definitely be read as a stand alone novel. I really liked the characters in this series (and plan to go back and read book 1). I really enjoyed the story in this one. Although it's based on a fairly typical premise (brother's best friend), I found it to be unique and interesting.

I really liked Xander and Thea ... their banter was great, their relationship felt very real. I had a bit of an issue with the idea that Thea, who has loved Xander for years, would react the way she did to their waking up married in Vegas. But, I was able to overlook that as the story moved past that. Beyond the romance (which I think was quite well done), this novel explores themes that I don't typically see in your average romance such as child abuse and family violence. And, I think it explored it rather well. It was handled effectively and gave the story itself that something special.

All in all, I recommend this one and plan to go back and read the first novel in the series!

The Goal (Off-Campus, #4)The Goal by Elle Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just love this series and was so glad to finally get to know Tucker better! I loved this story and I think it was a unique one! I loved Sabrina and Tucker - such great characters. If you haven't read the series, I highly recommend it!




Catching Cassidy (Harborside Nights #1; Love in Bloom #55)Catching Cassidy by Melissa Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nice little romance. Some of the back and forth - oh we shouldn't, it will ruin our friendship - was just beginning to be annoying when it was resolved. But, I love that trope myself! I liked these characters and their challenges. Interesting details to the story. I like Melissa Foster's writing and intend to check out some of her other work. Not bad for a Kindle freebie!


Make Me WholeMake Me Whole by R.C. Matthews
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love the idea of a hero with a disability as well as the menage idea. This was just clunky and I didn't love one of the decisions made by the heroine that didn't feel like something she'd do. Just ok.




Lady Killer (Tangled Desires, #2)Lady Killer by Misti Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really love the Hadleys and I think I liked this one even better than the first book in the series. Tom and Gemma were a great couple and the story was interesting! I'd say this one is more of a 3 and a half stars, pushed to a 4.





Cocky F@#ker (Tangled Desires, #3)Cocky F@#ker by Misti Murphy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liked finally getting to the bottom of Mace's story but didn't like it quite as much as the others in the series.





Rae of Sunshine (Light in the Dark, #1)Rae of Sunshine by Micalea Smeltzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really like the world created in this series. I started with book 2 so going back to the beginning was interesting. I enjoyed this relationship and it's unique challenges. I think it was handled well. Looking forward to the 3rd book in the series.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review: A Life In Parts by Bryan Cranston

A Life in PartsA Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a huge Bryan Cranston fan after watching him in Breaking Bad and other things. But, wow, now I'm an even bigger fan of the actor and man. He's a fascinating guy. Very real and honest. This is a man who takes great care in each and every thing he does. I loved learning about his path to improve his craft as well as his time in Hollywood. Learning about his family and his growing up was also fascinating and gave me a new perspective on him and his work. This is a memoir that I couldn't stop reading. It's so compelling and interesting. He's led quite a life ...

I think this memoir shines whenever he speaks about acting and his passion for his work. I loved hearing about his perspective on some of the projects he's worked on. If you are a Cranston fan OR if you are considering/pursuing a career in the dramatic arts, this may well be a great fit for you.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book does what most of Jodi Picoult's novels do ... take something controversial and make it real to the average reader. This particular novel centers around racism and I found it to be especially timely given the current racial politics in America.

Here's a quick (spoiler-free) overview - Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

I found this one to be a very powerful read. It gave me a new perspective to think about when it comes to racism. I am not close to the white supremacist movement. In fact, I try to avoid hearing about their beliefs because I find them so repugnant. This book gave me an insider's look at white supremacy. It also gave me even more information about what it is to be black in America. The view into Ruth's life were fantastic (albiet a bit heavy handed at times). I really learned from them. They gave me things to rethink. It made me start looking at the world around me differently. Which I think is KEY to getting to a better place on issues of race. However, I will also say that Ruth also wasn't the best character in the novel - she could have been handled so much better, in my opinion. Picoult's handling of Ruth's story felt heavy handed ... and didn't always feel authentic. Although I think the story does do what Picoult wants it to do ... take a look at racism, I think this novel could have been even more if Ruth had been handled a bit better.

I struggled a bit in putting into words my thoughts because although I really liked this novel and think it is a good step in the right direction, I did find it to be less authentic than I'd hoped. I didn't seem able to find the right words but then I read Roxanne Gay's review at the New York Times and she said it even better than I ever could have. So, I recommend that you check that out here. It's a really thoughtful look at the novel.

All in all, I highly recommend this one. I think that, despite it's flaws, it's a really great way to begin a conversation about race. This might be a good book club pick or a book to read along with friends.

NOTE: I received this ARC from the publisher for an honest review.

Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am really struggling with rating this one. I'm more in a 2 and a half to three place with this one. I was really interested in the concept of this memoir and hoping it would add some insight into the decisions people make as they relate to culture, class and regional differences. My rating is based on how I came away feeling about it overall. It's a fine memoir, very interesting. But, it didn't add a lot to my own knowledge about the white working class. It would start to delve into those concepts but it never quite made it beyond describing the issue. I was hoping for something more in depth. Perhaps that's my own fault for looking for more than a memoir when this is clearly a memoir. But, given the state of US politics today, I was hoping this would illuminate some of the things we're seeing around regional decision making regarding politics and policies. I didn't quite get what I was hoping to get but I did get a great story of a man who pulled himself out of Appalachia despite the odds. So, I don't NOT recommend it. I recommend it if you're drawn to the memoir but not an in-depth conversation about how it plays out in society.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Reviews Coming Soon! (And an Update)

I have been so busy with life that I'm behind in getting my reviews written and posted for you! I promise that there are a number of them coming this weekend! Some of the reviews coming include Jodi Picoult's new novel Small Great Things, A Life In Parts by Bryan Cranston, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. and about 8 romance novels. I've been reading them in between some of the more intense books to help clean my palette!

Also coming up are reviews for the books I'm reading now - The Mothers by Brit Bennett (I can't WAIT to tell you about this one), American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodward (which I'm finding fascinating), and The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book by Wendy Welch (which I'm reading as I work on my business plan for the independent bookstore I'm planning to open). I've also just started Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People by Thomas Frank that I found on this fantastic list of books to read to be an informed voter. Given the current political environment, I've added a number of these to my list! I've already read 4 of the books on the list and they were all great. I've got a number of others on my 'get to soon' list! I highly recommend that list (or any of the content at Book Riot, for that matter). They also have several amazing podcasts which I also recommend if you love books! They are all fantastic! I'll have a post soon all about book podcasts that I love ... so keep an eye out for that as well!

Review: Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the WorldWomen in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is such a fantastic book! Unique, interesting and perfectly put together! The book itself is literally a work of art. The illustrations are fantastic! This book features 50 amazing women from the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It covers everything from ancient items to the present! I learned so much about trailblazing women - many of whom I had never heard of! I learned so much with this book! Each scientist gets a spread in the book - one full of detailed writing about their lives and work and one illustration (and some words). It's just packed full of information and wonderful illustrations! There are also really cool timelines, a glossary and a list of other women in science. I love that it really focuses on the fact that the next great scientist could be any of us! This is one that I loved and plan to share with my 11 year old. I think it's important for her to see how many cool things women have done ... and I suspect she'll find it to be lots of fun! I can't wait for Rachel Ignotofsky to write more great books like this! I'll be first in line to pick them up! I highly recommend this to any and all readers!

NOTE: I received this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Review: A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev

A Change of HeartA Change of Heart by Sonali Dev
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed her first novel so I was excited to hear about this one. This novel has an intriguing premise that I thought played out well throughout the story. The characters were well done and the story was well developed. I love how her stories center around other cultures and offer a great deal of cultural diversity. I feel like I come away from her stories feeling like I get not only a good story but also a better understanding of cultural identity.

I really like how this one is focused around black market organ transplants. I found that part of the story to be very well done. It added to the mystery of the overall novel.

Although I quite liked this novel, I didn't find it quite as engaging as the previous novel of hers. The character development was good but not as good as before. It took quite awhile to connect with them or to feel connected to their relationship. It eventually came together but it took longer than I would have liked.

NOTE: I was given an ARC of this novel by the publisher for an honest review.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review & Giveaway: Sparking the Fire by Kate Meader


Sparking the Fire
Book 3
A Hot in Chicago Novel
Kate Meader
Pocket Books
September 27, 2016
ISBM 9781476785936
$7.99





Praise for Sparking the Fire, Book 3

"The tale of hot firefighters and the women - and one man - who love them has come to an end. Meader ends this series with role playing, fierce family loyalty and multiple orgasms. The male protagonist goes through a transformation that showcases his vulnerability, insecurities, and protectiveness. The many instances of family sticking together through it all are more than enough to tug on the heart strings, but the steamy sex and sentimental pillow talk make this book a must-read.
- RT Book Reviews Fourt Star Review, Scorcher

"Can a fire fighter anda  movie star really make it work? Meader (Rekindle the Flame, 2015) immerses you in Wyatt's tight-knit family of foster siblings that she's built throughout the Hot in Chicago series, and readers will feel like part of the family in no time. Her descriptions of Chicago will leave fans wanting to travel to the Windy Cindy and fall in love with their own firefighters."
- Booklist

About Sparking the Fire, Book 3

Heating up reading lists this Fall will be Kate Meader’s highly anticipated Sparking the Fire, the “sexy and sassy” (#1 New York Timesbestselling author Jude Deveraux) steamy third novel in the Hot in Chicago series, where former lovers unexpectedly reunite for a sizzling affair that will have the director yelling, “Quiet on the set!”

AN OLD FLAME STILL SIMMERS … Wyatt Fox, resident daredevil at Engine Company 6, needs a low key job to keep him busy while he recovers from his latest rescue stunt. Consulting on a local movie shoot should add just enough spark to his day. But then in struts Molly Cade: the woman who worked his heart over good, and then left him in the Windy City dust.

BUT WILL A NEW SHOT AT LOVE LEAVE HER BURNED? Actor Molly Cade, America’s fallen sweetheart, finally has her shot at a Hollywood comeback with a dramatic new role as a tough-as-nails firefighter that promises to propel her back into the big time. And she’s not going to let anything stand in her way—even a certain brooding, blue-eyed firefighter she’s never quite been able to forget…Their story is straight out of a script: irrepressible, spunky heroine meets taciturn, smoldering hero. But these two refuse to be typecast, and when the embers of an old love are stoked, someone is bound to get burned…




About the Author


Kate Meader was raised on romance. An Irish girl, she started with Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper novels, and spiced it up with some Mills & Boon. Now based in Chicago, she writes romances of her own, where sexy contemporary alpha heroes and strong herioines match each other quip for quip. When not immersed in tales of brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron or fire hose, Kate lives on the web at katemeader.com.





Where to Buy this Book



My Review

4 stars

I am a huge fan of Kate Meader's Hot in Chicago series and I am loving this most recent (and final) book in the series. We finally get to find out Wyatt's story! But, I am bummed that this is the final book ... I'm going to miss these characters and the world Kate Meader has created! I love the idea of a group of foster kids who come together to find their own family. The love and sense of family that these characters display in the series just warms my heart. PLUS, the romances are all fantastically done!

In this one, we learn more about Wyatt and his relationship with Molly who is essentially America's sweetheart. I have to admit that Molly took a little bit to grow on me but I eventually found myself loving her as well! She and Wyatt were a great match and there was lots of heat between them! One of my favorite things about this series is the funny banter and wonderful dialogue! Wyatt and Molly certainly have all of that in their relationship!

Although this book can easily be read as a stand alone, I highly recommend you start with Flirting with Fire which is the first book in the series. I suspect you won't be able to stop reading until you get to this one! If you like romances with strong heroines and interesting heroes, you don't want to miss this one (or the series)!

Fire Giveaway

We are exited to do a Fire Giveaway to celebrate the third in Kate Meader's Hot in Chicago series, Sparking the Fire. This giveaway will include Flirting with Fire (Book 1) and Playing with Fire (Book 2). You can visit all sites on the blog tour to enter the Fire Giveaways - but keep in mind you can only win once! U.S. Only!

Hot tip: Kate is also offering a $25 Amazon gift card during the Sparking the Fire release tour. It will run Monday, September 26 to Friday, October 7. Enter here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour

September 14:
RT Book Reviews - Excerpt

September 20:

September 23:

September 26:
Harlequin Junkie - Interview
Under the Covers - Interview

September 27:

September 28:

September 29:

September 30:

October 3:

October 4:

October 5:

October 6:
The Librarian – Blog Talk Radio Author’s on the Air - Interview Only - Listen Live at 7:30 pm ET!

October 7:



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow ... what a book! I'm not sure what to even say other than it was wonderful and disturbing and beautiful and disturbing. Not a happy go lucky sort of book. Very dark and well, disturbing. It's about a number of things but mostly it tells the story of Wavy who is being raised by her drug addict mother and who is raising her younger brother. She's on her own in more ways than one. It's the story of a girl who lives in difficult circumstances and her ongoing relationship with an associate of her father's who is considerably older. It can be very uncomfortable when you remember their ages throughout the story so if that might be an issue for you, this is not the book for you.

What I liked about it was how Bryn Greenwood never made a stance in her writing of this story. She let their story happen and leaves the reader to determine what they think about it. This was a really effective way to explore a taboo subject in a thoughful way. I love that the author didn't avoid the ugly things (hence the title). This girls life is hardly ideal but this is ultimately a story about taking care of yourself and finding your way in the world when you don't have the support every child should have. I found the story interesting and thoughtful. Very well done and realistically done which I think is one of the reasons that I loved it so much. It didn't wrap anything up in a pretty package - it went to a place that felt real and honest.

This is a really unique novel that I couldn't put down. I came away thinking about these characters and their lives long after the book was over. If you can get past the uncomfortableness of a story about a young girl and her relationship with a man, it's so worth the read. It's a beautiful story with characters that I think will stay with you for some time!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Recent Reviews - Part 2

A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2)A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am having a hard time with this review because Sarah MacLean's books are all amazing - her amazing is better than most people. This one, however, isn't her best. It's good - better than most people's best work. I can't believe that I'm giving one of her books 3 stars but I just didn't connect with this story like I have with all of her others. The love story eventually came together for me but it took over half of the book for me to connect with them. I usually plow through her novels in a day or two, this one took close to four which is unusual. In the end, I quite liked it but I can't deny that it took awhile to get there which is why I'm rating it 3 stars. If you haven't read Sarah before, RUN and pick up any of them. Come to this one eventually. If you're already a fan, you'll definitely want to pick this one up because even what isn't her best is quite good!

Losing ItLosing It by Emma Rathbone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was really hopeful about this book but I just didn't enjoy it. It was ok, just meh. I'm still not completely sure that any of it was successful for me. The characters felt a bit flat to me. I just never connected with them or felt they were real. The story felt like it would begin to go somewhere interesting and then fall flat. I usually love books that are focused around internal dialogue but this time it didn't work for me. It felt random and, at times, boring. I really wish there'd been more Aunt Viv and less of the main character. THAT would have been interesting! I just think this one didn't work for me. Which is a shame because I was so hopeful based on the premise. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this one wholeheartedly but there are others who've quite liked it. Maybe give it a shot if it sounds promising to you ...

A Bollywood Affair (Bollywood)A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was quite nice to read a romance that had diversity in it. I feel like romances are always focused on white people so it was nice to have some cultural and racial diversity in this romance. In addition, I found the characters and the story to be really quite well done.

I loved reading about the cultural pieces in this novel. It really gave the novel that something special that kept me even more engaged than usual. I loved the hero and heroine in this story. They had chemistry that flew off the page. The way their relationship developed over the course of the book was fantastic! This had everything I love in a good romance plus some cultural diversity which was fantastic! Definitely recommend this one!

The WonderThe Wonder by Emma Donoghue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that is a slow burn. It's not fast paced. It's not going to keep you on your toes. And yet, it's so well done. And it does build steadily and suddenly it all catches up and you're overtaken with how wonderful it all is.

So atmospheric. Beautifully written. The characters in this novel feel like they are real in every way. I felt as if I was following the characters around and watching. The details of the world in that time period were outstanding. There are a great number of moral quandries in this novel that really made me think about things. Such a beautiful story. I highly recommend this one!



Monday, October 3, 2016

Recent Reviews - Part 1

November 9November 9 by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

Oh, Colleen ... you have done it again. Broken my heart into tiny pieces and then slowly put them back together! Colleen never seems to fail me - I can always count on her novels to give me a strong story, engaging characters, heartbreaking moments and lots of great romance! This is a fantastic novel that yet again made me sob like a baby more than once! Such a good book! If you're a Hoover fan, you want to pick this up! If you haven't read her, pick this one up (or Ugly Love or It Ends With Us). SO. GOOD.

 You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Megan Abbott and gymnastics ... YES, I am so in! No one writes about young people better than Megan Abbott so I could not wait to get my hands on this book since it centers around the world of gymnastics. The narrator perspective Abbott chose was an interesting choice here as it was not the teenage child but the mother. Ultimately, I think it worked well as it really helps the reader to get inside the head of a parent of an elite gymnast and the world they live in as a result of being a part of that world. The view into this very exclusive world was one of my favorite things about this novel. The depth of exploration in this novel was superb!

I love how Megan Abbott peels back the layers of what you think you know, unveiling how little we actually know. She is such a master at this peeling back! And I found the 'twist' or mystery at the heart of the novel to be quite good.

All in all, another great novel from Megan Abbott. Although this features a teen, I would not necessarily call this strict YA - it's very appropriate for teens AND adults. Pick it up! It's a great novel that will keep you on your toes!

NOTE: I received this novel from the publisher for an honest review.


Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life UnarmedCarry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm struggling a bit in reviewing this becaue I really loved it for the most part but there were aspects that didn't work for me. I love her overall themes of being honest, and taking ownership for your life. The essays focusing on her children, husband and sister were some of the best, in my opinion. The thing that fell flat for me was her focus on religion. I get it that religion is a big piece of her life and her story. Which is great. But, for those who are not 'religious' (me), it can get to be a bit too much. I'm quite spiritual but I'm not a Christian or a Muslim or a Buddhist, etc. I get the spiritual nature of her journey and appreciate her sharing it. In fact, I loved that she called out the fact that many Christians seem to forget the very teachings of Christ when they don't embrace other people whether they are 'good' or 'bad.' But, at one point, I foudn myself saying ok, I get it - you love God. You are religious. I GET IT. I wanted more of the other stuff about her life - which, frankly, speaks to her religion and it's impact in her life. Maybe it's just me but I wanted less overt religion and more of the day to day stories of her life.

So, I'm rating this one 3.5 stars because it didn't completely resonate with me. On her blog, I can generally skip the essays that are 'too religious' for me but that wasn't as easy in this book. However, I highly recommend this book overall. Very raw and real.


The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am so glad that I finally picked this novel up! It was even better than I'd expected. The premise didn't particularly grab me but the reality of the book is so wonderful! Jessie Burton is a great writer and she builds such wonderful characters in this novel. I loved learning about 7th century Holland and what life was like in that time. The story itself was quite well done - very nuanced and interesting. This novel explored a number of things that I wasn't expecting in a novel about miniatures (according to the premise) ... it's so much more than miniatures although that component is also an interesting part of this novel! There is definitely a gothic feel to this novel. Very creepy but not scary. The setting, the characters, the story .. it was all quite good. I definitely recommend this novel - especially if you're a fan of historical fiction or gothic stories!