Review Tuesday: Love Story by Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is one of those authors that I just buy. I don’t even need to know usually what the book is about, I know that I’m at least going to enjoy it and more than likely fall in love with it. Love Story by her, however, was one of those books that I enjoyed but didn’t love – still good read, but not one of my favourites by her.

love-storyFrom Goodreads:

When Lucy Hawkins receives a job offer in San Francisco, she can’t wait to spread her wings and leave her small Virginia hometown behind. Her close-knit family supports her as best they can, by handing over the keys to a station wagon that’s seen better days. The catch? The cross-country trip comes with a traveling companion: her older brother’s best friend, aka the guy who took Lucy’s virginity hours before breaking her heart.

After spending the past four years and every last dime caring for his sick father, Reece Sullivan will do just about anything to break free of the painful memories—even if it means a two-week road trip with the one girl who’s ever made it past his carefully guarded exterior. But after long days of bickering in the car turn into steamy nights in secluded motel rooms, Reece learns that, when it comes to Lucy, their story is far from over. And this time, they just might have a shot at a happy ending.

This book alternatives points of view (POV) every chapter, and it’s not my favourite way to tell a story. I find that most of Lauren Layne’s non-series books are like this. (Which is maybe why I’m not in love with any of her books that aren’t part of a series…).

Reece’s story is a heartbreaking one. He had a very traumatic childhood that has impacted his emotional wellbeing harshly. I spent this book simply wanted to give Reece a hug and protect him from the world. No one should have to go through what he has gone through. One of the things that I love about Lucy is that she wants to do the same thing. She wants to love Reece and protect him and be there for him in a way that no one else ever has. I love her for that.

These two run aground because of Reece’s emotional baggage, Lucy not quite understanding that baggage, and because the two of them simply cannot communicate well enough (or at all) to articulate their feelings, and what they are thinking. That was frustrating because I spent most of this book just wishing, demanding, and finally yelling at my Kobo screen, that they would just talk to each other and be honest.

One of the great things about this book is that it shows you that even though you’re in love with someone, it takes a lot of work to get onto the same page sometimes. It takes a lot of work and energy and effort to love someone. And it also takes a hell of a lot of trust – in order to be vulnerable in front of the person that you love. It takes Lucy and Reece a long time to get to that point. But when they do, my heart did a little tap dance because these two definitely deserved their happily-ever-after.

Like I said at the beginning of this review, this isn’t a book I’m in love with, but it is very good. It’s a quick read (with some potentially yelling at characters part way through) and well worth it.

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Review Tuesday: The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott

I borrowed The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott from a friend of mine. It was one of those, I was perusing her bookshelf, came across it and asked to borrow it. I was definitely not disappointed. This is my favourite book of the year so far.

shattered-courtFrom Goodreads:

Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

This book starts off simple enough – you meet the two main characters Sophie and Cameron at the very beginning. Their life is a rather ordinary one. Cameron is a Red Guard – which means that he is a royal guard and someone who can do battle magic – and Sophie is a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. She is turning 21 and when she does she will find out if she has powers or not. If she does, she becomes an item auctioned off to the noble who will benefit the Crown the most. Oh, the joys of being a woman. Obviously, as it says in the description, Sophie does come into power. And she is unbound by marriage rites. What does this mean? It means that her powers are fully her own, and when you’re in line for a throne (even far down the line) that makes for a very dangerous situation.

The plot of this book is engaging and engrossing. The magic (what you know of it) is interesting, and the intrigue of the court, and who is responsible for certain things keeps you on the edge of your seat. Nothing is quite like it seems. I will admit however, that it is a little frustrating at times because you learn things slowly and only as Sophie learns them. I want to know all of the things, and I want to know them now!

The other thing that makes this book so enjoyable is Sophie and Cameron. They start of indifferent to each other and slowly (and then quickly) a bond grows between them. An unshakeable bond. These two characters and their relationship brought me joy. I want them to succeed. I’m rooting for them all the way. I’m smiling right now just thinking of them.

The book ends with many things left unanswered. It is definitely written as the first book in a series. I am so excited for book two – which is suppose to be coming out this year but that’s all I know. This is definitely a book that I’m going to be buying for myself and most likely reading again – maybe even again this year.

Review Tuesday: A Lady’s Heart by Vivian Arend

I don’t remember how I stumbled across Vivian Arend, but I’m so glad that I did. I love the shifter series (fantasy + romance) and the cowboy series that she has. They’re so entertaining. You fall in love with her characters so easily in these two series.

I think that I read A Lady’s Heart in about a day – maybe a day and a half. It was a quick read, with an engrossing story. I also really enjoyed the fact that the story was about Mandy. Readers met her in a previous book in the series. She was a character that you felt terribly for, and who you really wanted to get a happily-ever-after.

a-ladys-heartFrom Goodreads:

Lady Amanda Ainsworth found a safe place to pull herself together under the roof of the loud, boisterous Takhini Wolf pack. Safe—except for the sexy grizzly shifter with the oversized biceps and the steely-grey eyes who’s also hanging his hat with the Whitehorse wolves. Justin Cullinan makes her light up and shimmer inside like the Northern Lights, and she knows it’s time to start her new life.

He may be the bodyguard and not the CEO, but Justin’s powerful in his own right. He gets what he wants—and who he wants is the sweet seductive Mandy. He’ll go as slowly as necessary, but he has no intention of stopping until she admits they’re meant to be.

But when her safety is threatened, all bets are off. Justin’s going to keep his lady safe and find out who’s stalking her, and the best place is hidden in plain sight in the biggest shifter town in the north.

That is, if they aren’t running into a trap…

Like I said earlier, you met Justin and Mandy in an earlier book. In that book you immediately feel sorry for Mandy, and you instantly like Justin. So the fact that this book is about the two of them is awesome.

One of the things that I love about this  book is that Mandy learns how to stand up for herself. She decides what she wants and Justin helps her, in any way that he can, get it. It was so empowering watching her take bigger and bigger steps towards the person that she wanted to become. And I love that Justin always built her up. There were things that she wanted to do that she thought was silly and small, but he was always there to remind her when she gave in to self-doubt that if she wanted to do them, then they weren’t silly or small. It was simply what she wanted to do. Mandy gaining back her self-confidence, and trusting herself was a highlight of this book for me.

I also just enjoyed her and Justin’s relationship. There is a little zest of danger thrown into the story because someone is following Mandy and they’re not sure who is and what their motiviation is, but it does add  some heat to the story and to their romance.

In this story you also of course run into characters from previous books, and it’s just so wonderful seeing them all again. It’s like running into an old friend and playing a quick catch up. And what I like about it to is that you don’t run into ALL of the previous characters, just enough that you enjoy the catch up without being overrun with information that hinders the flow of the storyline.

There are of course hints dropped about upcoming books – there are at least 2 different sets of would-be couples, though one more than the other, that I’m excited about reading.

This was a quick read, and an enjoyable storyline. If you haven’t read any of her shifter series, and you’re into fantasy and romance then definitely give this series a go!

 

Review Tuesday: The End of All Things by John Scalzi

You know what’s great about John Scalzi and the Old Man’s War series? I’ve never been disappointed with it. I know that when I pick up one of the books in the Old Man’s War series, it’s gonna be good, I’m going to love it, and I’m not going to be able to put it down until I’m done. This is all true for The End of All Things, the latest installment in the series.

end of all thingsFrom Goodreads:

Humans expanded into space…only to find a universe populated with multiple alien species bent on their destruction. Thus was the Colonial Union formed, to help protect us from a hostile universe. The Colonial Union used the Earth and its excess population for colonists and soldiers. It was a good arrangement…for the Colonial Union. Then the Earth said: no more.

Now the Colonial Union is living on borrowed time—a couple of decades at most, before the ranks of the Colonial Defense Forces are depleted and the struggling human colonies are vulnerable to the alien species who have been waiting for the first sign of weakness, to drive humanity to ruin. And there’s another problem: A group, lurking in the darkness of space, playing human and alien against each other—and against their own kind —for their own unknown reasons.

In this collapsing universe, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson and the Colonial Union diplomats he works with race against the clock to discover who is behind attacks on the Union and on alien races, to seek peace with a suspicious, angry Earth, and keep humanity’s union intact…or else risk oblivion, and extinction—and the end of all things.

This book, like the previous book, The Human Division is broken down into different novellas, but in the larger book format they just come across as long chapters or different parts of a whole, so it’s no big deal.

One of the things I really liked about this book was that it took (for me anyway) 2 notably different first person points of view – these two points of view were from characters who were not part of the CDF and one wasn’t even part of the CU. I really enjoyed that. It made me feel more connected with different parts of the storyline than I have before, and it more firmly entrenched the series plot line away from the “us vs. them” plot that the series started out in.

Some of your favourite characters from previous books obviously make an appearance or are stars of the show for a little while, which is always nice when you get to see what your favourite characters have been up to while you’ve been gone and time has moved along. I really like Harry and Dani – and there’s this one scene with Harry and her over breakfast that I highly enjoyed.

This book is an excellent edition to the Old Man’s War universe, and I would recommend the series to anyone. It’s so awesome. The only distressing point I had with this book is when I finished it. I realized that now I’m all caught up. There are no new books to read in this series. *sigh* It’s a hard-knocked life I tell ya.

Review Tuesday: The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a way with words. He is one of those authors that makes me look at things completely differently – such as “Night’s Bridge.” That’s a scene and an image I’ll never get out of my head. And he also has a way with speaking – the way that he speaks about reading and libraries and art is inspiring. Thus, I was very excited when I heard that he was coming out with a collection of his essays and speeches in The View From the Cheap Seats.

view from the cheap seatsFrom Goodreads:

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

The book is broken down into different sections:

  1. Some Things I Believe
  2. Some People I Have Known
  3. Introductions and Musings: Science Fiction
  4. Films and Movies and Me
  5. On Comics and Some of the People Who Make Them
  6. Introductions and Contradictions
  7. Music and the People Who Make It
  8. On Stardust and Fairy Tales
  9. Make Good Art
  10. The View From the Cheap Seats: Real Things

The book started off strong with some interesting essays and forwards that he wrote for different books. I also really liked that there were some authors and works that I had never heard of because it meant that I kept opening Goodreads or Evernote to find or write down the different book titles that seemed interesting to me so I could read them later. It’s always fun when an author you enjoy essentially recommends new books to you.

However, by the middle, I was starting to falter. The introductions started getting repetitive and I started getting a bit bored. A couple of the people he was talking about became the “one in a million people” and I feel like I would have liked those forwards more if I wasn’t reading them all together in one shot.

The book picked up again though in the last couple of sections and I found myself devouring it. I loved the On Stardust and Fairy Tales section, and Make Good Art, as well as The View From the Cheap Seats: Real Things. There was one essay in that section about refugees that made me cry actually.

I’ve decided that the original essays or speeches that he wrote and put into this book are my favourite and kept me entertained and engaged the most. The forwards are the ones that I didn’t like nearly as much (though I liked the beginning ones more than the middle ones).

Overall though it was a book I enjoyed and I did end up making a list of new books and authors to check out. Can’t go wrong with that!

Review Tuesday: To Have and to Hold by Lauren Layne

There are some authors whose books I buy without evening needing to know what it’s about. Lauren Layne has become one of those authors for me. She has a book releasing, and it’s marked down in my calendar to buy. To Have and to Hold is book 1 in a new series by her called Wedding Belles, and it did not disappoint.

to have and to holdFrom Goodreads:

Discovering her fiance is an international con man just moments before they exchange vows devastates celebrity wedding planner Brooke Baldwin’s business—and breaks her heart. Now a pariah in Los Angeles, she seeks a fresh start in New York City and thinks she’s found it with her first bridal client, a sweet—if slightly spoiled—hotel heiress. Then she meets the uptight businessman who’s holding the purse strings.

Seth Tyler wishes he could write a blank check and be done with his sister Maya’s fancy-pants wedding. Unfortunately, micromanaging the event is his only chance at proving Maya’s fiance is a liar. Standing directly in his way is the stunning blonde wedding planner whose practiced smiles and sassy comebacks both irritate and arouse him. He needs Brooke’s help. But can he persuade a wedding planner on a comeback mission to unplan a wedding? And more importantly, how will he convince her that the wedding she should be planning… is theirs?

This was an incredibly cute and lovely story. When we meet Brooke, life has kicked her harshly in the pants, and while she’s down, she’s definitely not out for the count. Brooke is fun, sassy, and has a never say die attitude. It was awesome watching her find her place in a new city, at a new job, and connect and build relationships with her coworkers who are most definitely going to become/are becoming her new set of girlfriends.

I had read that Seth was a take on the Mr. Darcy character (also, by the way, Mr. Darcy is most definitely one of my favourite characters, ever.) and as I was reading this book I could most definitely see it. Seth is a control freak. There’s probably nicer ways to put it, but it all comes down to the same thing. Control freak. And unfortunately, this comes across often as trying to micromanage people rather than that he cares – which he very much does. I ached sometimes for Seth because he cares so much, he has just a different way of showing it, and he has to learn how to show he cares in different ways.

Put Brooke and Seth together though, and they’re a show stopper. The passion and sizzle between them are awesome, as well as the banter. (You have to have good banter, otherwise, a romance book is a bust, in my opinion). You want them to work out, and you’re rooting for them from the beginning. Also the ending – be still my heart. It was so wonderful.

This was a great first book in a new series, and I can’t wait to read the next two. This is a definite must read if you’re in the market for a romance story.

 

Review Tuesday: The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg is book 5 in the Fox and O’Hare series. I love the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and that’s how I got started reading this series.

the pursuitFrom Goodreads:

Nicolas Fox, international con man, thief, and one of the top ten fugitives on the FBI’s most-wanted list, has been kidnapped from a beachfront retreat in Hawaii. What the kidnapper doesn’t know is that Nick Fox has been secretly working for the FBI. It isn’t long before Nick’s covert partner, Special Agent Kate O’Hare, is in hot pursuit of the crook who stole her con man.
 
The trail leads to Belgium, France, and Italy, and pits Nick and Kate against their deadliest adversary yet: Dragan Kovic, an ex–Serbian military officer. He’s plotting a crime that will net him billions . . . and cost thousands of American lives.
 
Nick and Kate have to mount the most daring, risky, and audacious con they’ve ever attempted to save a major U.S. city from a catastrophe of epic proportions. Luckily they have the help of an eccentric out-of-work actor, a bandit who does his best work in the sewers, and Kate’s dad, Jake. The pressure’s on for Nick and Kate to make this work—even if they have to lay their lives on the line.

This series is simply hilarious. None of the books that Janet Evanovich writes are serious. They might deal with some series topics – bounty hunting, biochemical warfare etc. – but all of her books (and books that she writes with others) are silly fun adventures where the main characters always turn out okay.

If you’re not into that kind of fiction, then this isn’t a book or a series for you. However, if you are, then this series is awesome. I read this book over a weekend. It was fun and hilarious. Things blow up, bad guys get hurt, good guys come out on top. It’s a win-win all the way around.

I do really like how Kate and Nick’s relationship is changing and growing as the books continue. Because of their relationship their both experiencing personal growth that I think they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Also, Kate’s Dad is amazing, and is one of my favourite secondary characters.

This is a great book if you want a crazy adventure in conning, action, and a little romance. A great summer read, and a read guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.