Lead by Kylie Scott

Lead (Stage Dive, #3)Lead by Kylie Scott

As the lead singer of Stage Dive, Jimmy is used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, whether it’s booze, drugs, or women. However, when a PR disaster serves as a wake-up call about his life and lands him in rehab, he finds himself with Lena, a new assistant to keep him out of trouble.  

Lena’s not willing to take any crap from the sexy rocker and is determined to keep their relationship completely professional, despite their sizzling chemistry. But when Jimmy pushes her too far and Lena leaves, he realizes that he may just have lost the best thing that ever happened to him.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. It’s been a long time since I found a novel that has so much humour and sassy wit in it. This will keep your attention no matter what is going on around you. To the point that it might be dangerous:)

The main characters are both lovable in their own distinct ways. The dynamic between them is unmatchable. Never have I wanted to see something work out for two people so badly. I got a big kick out of the arguments and rough words between them and especially the way Lena put Jim in his place.

This is one of those books that you will find consumes you early on. The story flows well and the plot does things that you don’t fully expect. I had nothing but fun whilst reading this.

If you are a fan of edgy romances with characters that really are memorable, this is the book to choose. I’m looking forward to another book from Kylie Scott.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and was provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size Machine

The Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size MachineThe Great American Slow Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes for Every Day and Every Size Machine by Bruce Weinstein

The ultimate in slow-cooker books–with 500 recipes, each adapted for three sizes of appliance. From breakfast to soups, mains to grains, vegetables to desserts, this guide is the only book you’ll ever need to master your slow cooker or crockpot.

Millions of people are turning to slow cookers for their weeknight meals yet often can’t find recipes that match their exact machine. Adapting recipes meant for a different-size cooker doesn’t work–getting the right level of spice in your Vietnamese soup or keeping pulled pork tender requires having ingredients in the right proportion. But now, Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have decoded slow cookers, and each of their recipes includes ingredient proportions for 2-3 quart, 4-5 quart, and 6-8 quart machines, guaranteeing a perfect fit no matter what machine you own. Each recipe is labeled for its level of difficulty and nutritional value, and they cover every kind of dish imaginable: delicious breakfast oatmeals, slow-braised meats, succulent vegetables, sweet jams and savory sauces, decadent desserts. This is the slow cooker book to end them all.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is really good for the cook who doesn’t have a tremendous amount of time to prepare meals big enough for an entire family. I liked that there were measurements for various sized slow cookers, so you don’t have to guess how much of something you will need to make an adjustment.

There are a lot of recipes in this book (500 to be exact) and many of them do not require special ingredients that most people won’t have on hand. The recipes are not time consuming and are easy enough that even the kids can help.

There are recipes here for every meal and even for drinks and desserts, so it will cover all the basics. The recipes can be easily adjusted to suit your personal tastes and become family favourites.

I enjoyed the way this book is set up, with variations on basic recipes. There are a lot of things I never would have thought of doing with a slow cooker that I discovered in these pages.

This would make a nice gift or just a good go-to book for anyone’s kitchen.

Recommended.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called LivingEdgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins

5 Stars

Looming large in the popular imagination as a serious poet and lively drunk who died in penury, Edgar Allan Poe was also the most celebrated and notorious writer of his day. He died broke and alone at the age of forty, but not before he had written some of the greatest works in the English language, from the chilling “The Tell-Tale Heart” to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”—the first modern detective story—to the iconic poem “The Raven.”

Poe’s life was one of unremitting hardship. His father abandoned the family, and his mother died when he was three. Poe was thrown out of West Point, and married his beloved thirteen-year-old cousin, who died of tuberculosis at twenty-four. He was so poor that he burned furniture to stay warm. He was a scourge to other poets, but more so to himself.

In the hands of Paul Collins, one of our liveliest historians, this mysteriously conflicted figure emerges as a genius both driven and undone by his artistic ambitions. Collins illuminates Poe’s huge successes and greatest flop (a 143-page prose poem titled Eureka), and even tracks down what may be Poe’s first published fiction, long hidden under an enigmatic byline. Clear-eyed and sympathetic, Edgar Allan Poe is a spellbinding story about the man once hailed as “the Shakespeare of America.”

 

My review:

 

As with other historical authors of note, there have been so many different biographies and books written about the life and times of Edgar Allan Poe. Yet, as I am a curious sort, I tend to read every one that I can get my hands on. Previously to this one, I found myself quite disappointed with the vast majority of them. Most of the time this was for two main reasons, which I shall note later in this review. This book delighted and surprised me.

This author took a different approach. Rather than treating this man as though he were a villain or a hero, he instead took a much appreciated far more neutral approach. In this particular book, Paul Collins did not treat Poe as if he were some rare anomaly, but rather discussed the hardships and high points of Poe’s life. I think this is the first work of non-fiction about Poe’ life that I actually felt like he was being portrayed as human in. No parlour tricks, no illusions that he was something dark and macabre to be feared. Just a man on a streak of bad luck and bad decisions.

I was impressed by the author’s meticulous research and that he seemed to hit most of the valid and important parts of Poe’s personal life and career from the beginning. Unlike many other biographies on the man, this book did not centrally focus on the publication of the Raven, nor the drinking habit which the author later became synonymous with. His actions are debated somewhat here and there, but are not put under a 21st century microscope of morality. I like it when the author can allow a story (especially in non-fiction) to tell itself with little interference in the way of the author’s personal interjections.

This is not a long book, but has more than just the simple, basic Poe info in it. If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or just curious about a man who led an intriguing life of poverty and moderate success, then this would be a good book for you to choose.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Salvation by W.A. Heisler

SalvationSalvation by W.A. Heisler

Salvation is a fast-paced book of horror garunteed to raise the hairs on the back of the neck. It’s style has been compared to the works of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Salvation begins with a frantic phone call to Father Brian Halloway from Eric Parkins, a parishioner in his church, who is desperate to find answers to his wife’s strange behavior following the death of her mother. It seems to Halloway that the woman is simply having difficulty coping with her grief, and nothing seems out of the ordinary. Until he is told about the “thing” in the basement. And how Sylvia changes after nightfall. It is then, the priest begins to worry. After witnessing Sylvia’s disturbing and violent behavior for himself, Halloway comes to the conclusion that something has gone horribly wrong at 1312 Lafayette Drive. Fearing for the safety of the couple, Halloway enlists the help of his longtime friend and fellow priest Father Michael Constantine, a priest chosen to fight the deadliest of wars, and the keeper of New York Dioceses’ darkest secret. It is then the dark war begins. Constantine, joined by Father James Connelly, a young priest eager to prove himself to his mentor, along with Halloway, Sylvia’s husband, and her brother, Mark Barnett, a doctor who is hiding his own dangerous secret set out to engage the invading entity. The men quickly come face to face with a savage, brutal being that snakes its way into the darkest depths of their psyches in its unyielding and vicious attempts to destroy them and all who participate in its “game.” The book climaxes with the entrance of Arandavius, a dark, tragic figure, fallen with Lucifer after The Great War. A fallen angel who walks the earth and claims hismission is to send the demon back to its “Realm.” A being Constantine knows has held one title since his expulsion. Arandavius: The Overlord of Legion. Constantine finds himself trying to save a woman who is now caught in the middle of a vicious game of cat-and-mouse between two demons-one, a brutal, sadistic being who holds the life and soul of its victim in its clutches-the other, the most savage and merciless of Legion’s warriors. A game both beings are willing to play out to its explosive and bloody end. Welcome to darkness. Welcome.to the game.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book!

The horror genre can go either way for me. Sometimes I really like the idea, but the execution seems off, or the book is too bloody and gory. It is hard to find a horror novel that keeps up an intense pace without coming off as silly or losing speed as it goes along. This book never slows down and is interesting right to the very end.

If you have ever read a book and wished that you could keep one of the characters as a friend or ally once the book is finished, then you will know what I mean when I say that I was sorry to see fallen angel Arandavius go. He was the type of character that you can’t help but love. He should get his own series.

The author did a fantastic job of coming up with an original idea about what happens with fallen angels and creating a scenario that made me stop and think. I was very impressed with the possession scenes as they stayed consistent throughout the story and didn’t waver. I didn’t want to go to sleep with the light off.

This book takes what happened in the exorcist and makes it look like a mild case of PMS. I appreciated that the author was able to make this possession not only span the entire book, but involve multiple characters. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the story unfolded. I expected most of the cast to be wiped out before the end of the book, and that did not happen. I love it when you can’t predict an ending.

The only thing that left me a little disappointed in this novel was that Eric and Sylvia didn’t get more of the stage for their last act. For a story that was built surrounding them from the beginning, I thought thy should have been followed up a bit more before the close of the book.

This is an excellent book, and even for those who aren’t a particular fan of horror, I think this could still be appealing.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez

The Art RestorerThe Art Restorer by Julián Sánchez

Enrique Alonso travels from his new home in Manhattan to San Sebastián, Spain, to attend the reopening of the San Telmo museum, where his ex-wife, Bety, works in public relations. There he meets American Craig Bruckner, a retired art restorer studying the museum’s collection of works by Sert—a contemporary of Picasso and Dalí who worked for the most famous billionaires of his time and whose mural American Progress graces the walls of Rockefeller Center. When Bruckner is found drowned in La Concha bay, Bety suspects foul play and Enrique agrees to help her look into the man’s death. Their investigation reveals a mystery connected with Sert’s checkered past, which provides fertile ground for the new thriller Enrique is writing, and the plot develops in parallel to his research.

Enrique and Bety’s reconstruction of the artist’s clandestine activities during World War II leads them to Paris, Barcelona, and New York, and in the process forces them to face their own past. But they are not the only ones interested in Sert’s work, and it appears there is more to his paintings than meets the eye.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Art Restorer” Is a very relaxing, well written book with a lot of careful mystery.

This is my first work by Julian Sanchez, as I did not read the first book in this series. I don’t think that it is necessary to do so in order to understand this book. There are frequent references to things that happened previously, and I felt like I had enough of an overall picture of the main character’s life to navigate this book just fine.

Whilst I greatly enjoyed this book, there are a few strange passages, where the sentence construction seems off, but that is likely due to translation. For the most part I found this to be a well-paced, interesting journey.

The setting is beautifully described and from the very beginning, the idea that the main character is such a real, down to earth type of person permeates the story. I felt close to him from the beginning, and as a result felt close to the characters he cared about.

Knowing that he is battling his own inner demons and trying to make decisions about his life was a good aside to the rest of the story he is a complex character with a big heart and a conscience that wills him to do the right thing in all situations. Most of the events that happened were believable and there is quite a lot of excitement after the first third of the story, where most of the setup happens.

I was very impressed with this book. If you are a fan of art history, captivating backdrops and imaginative writing, I am certain you will enjoy this novel.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Spooky Word Scrambles by Carolyn Kivett and Chris McMullen

Spooky Word ScramblesSpooky Word Scrambles by Carolyn Kivett and Chris McMullen

These word scramble puzzles consist of spooky words or phrases where the letters have been scrambled. Many of the puzzles relate to Halloween in some way. Solve each puzzle by rearranging the letters to form the word or phrase. For example, rearranging the letters M O B I Z E, we can form the word Z O M B I E. Each puzzle consists of a group of related words or phrases, such as words that relate to ghosts or different kinds of Halloween costumes. Knowing that the words in each puzzle are related may help you unscramble any words or phrases that you don’t see right away. A hints section at the back of the book provides the first letter of each answer, which is handy if you just need a little help; a separate section provides the answers so that you can check your solutions.EXAMPLES P A C EG S A F ND O B O LK A T E SN O C T UT A Y B TM A P R E V IA L C A R D UANSWERS cape, fangs, blood, stake, count, batty, vampire, Dracula.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Confession: I am such a kid. Really, I had as much fun with this book as the kids I work with did. There are a lot of benefits for children in exploring word scrambles. Elementary children will no doubt find these puzzles fun and challenging, and it is a great way to reinforce proper spelling. For ESL kids, word scrambles are a fun and easy way to help them rearrange letters and learn new words, plus the act of writing them down helps with memory retention.

I was particularly happy with the way this book was arranged, not only because of the fun Halloween theme, but because there is a challenging word at the bottom of each page that is the theme for that set of puzzles. The kids loved it and kept asking to do more puzzles. For a teacher, especially with a large group of kids, this was gold.

Don’t worry parents and teachers, if you don’t have time to figure out if the student was right about each answer, there is a key in the back for us big people.

This is definitely a book that I see helping kids to learn and retain correct spelling. An excellent choice and whole lot of fun. Recommended.

*If you haven’t run into Chris McMullen during your travels around WordPress yet, please do so here

Chris McMullen’s slightly more awesome and much less lewd blog than mine:   chrismcmullen.com

Aside from writing fine educational books, he also writes very helpful articles for authors about marketing, design and other writing essentials. Plus, he is really good at physics so you can ask him annoying questions about the human mind, naturalism, the philosophy of science, Steven Hawking, or Higgs Boson and he will surely blame me. Either way he’s a great guy with a lot of valuable info on his site. Go then. Why you wasting your time here? gooooo……

And this post would not be complete without:

*@$%

That Night by Chevy Stevens

This is the shereads.org monthly pick for July If you have not heard about she reads yet, you are missing out on some truly wonderful things. Please take a moment to check us out and support women’s literacy!

That Night

That Night by Chevy Stevens

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent
complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book a lot. There were a few times when the writing felt a little stiff and formal, but the depth of the characters and the ability of the author to show us the past and the present without it becoming confusing was very good and made up for the minor quirks here and there.

For me, the most fascinating part of this book were the portions where prison life was discussed. The detail the author included kept me interested in the life of the main character and wondering what would happen next. Rather than having a main character that spent a lot of time feeling sorry for herself and the wrongs that were done to her, she was proactive and witty and I was happy to support her.

The plot of this novel is complex and keeps you guessing about what really happened many years ago, until the very end. I like mysteries as much as the next person, but it was the human element of this story that made me love it. I felt close to the characters and that feeling grew as the story progressed. There are a lot of mysteries out there, but this one is told in such a way that you feel you are there, going through the same things as the characters.

If you like books that will stay with you when you are finished reading them, then this would be a good one to choose. Beautiful writing, haunting story, recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

A Sudden Light* If you have ever read “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” This is by the same author. Whilst this is definitely a different type of book from that one, this is also a book that has moments which will stay with you. I had a difficult time trying to decide how to rate this book fairly as there were some parts I loved and some parts that I did not.  It shall be released September 30th.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

When a boy tries to save his parents’ marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.

A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have you ever read a book and then been so conflicted about how you felt about it that you weren’t even sure what you would say if someone asked you “did you like it?” Yep. That about sums up how I feel about this book.

I’m not going to be negative here, the writing is beautiful and definitely worthy of being that of Garth Stein. I felt a few tendrils of his earlier works in this novel, although I must agree that it is a new direction for him and very different from his other, very popular book of recent note.

This novel was interesting and told from a voice and perspective that at times seemed to be more mature than the age I believed the narrator to be, but at other times seemed right for his strange family upbringing.

This is a generational tale with a bit of paranormal, a lot of mysteries and a very relaxed pace. If you are the type of reader who wants things to happen right away and don’t like waiting for the plot to reveal itself, this will likely not be the book for you.

However, if you, instead, are the type who enjoys very complex tales of family betrayals, multiple characters with secrets and intense past history, then you will love this.

Overall I found this to be a well-written book with a rather slow pace There were times when I struggled to pay attention and other points when a tornado could not have torn my attention away.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

A Good Year for the Roses by Gil McNeil

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A Good Year for the Roses: A Novel by Gil McNeil

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

This is one of those novels were when you beginning reading it, you will be hard pressed to stop. The wit and clever nature of the author are quite apparent even early on in this book and it makes for a delightful read.

I enjoyed the plot, the characters and the overall story very much, but what made me want to keep turning pages the most, was the relationship between the main character and her children. There were so many times during this novel that I laughed out loud and nodded my head in agreement. My boys do so much of the same thing and I felt I could easily identify with her position.

Very much a woman’s novel, this is perfect for those who have loved and lost, and those who seek a new path in life. Gil McNeil is a master at getting inside the mind and heart of the reader and displaying human qualities in her characters that make it easy for the reader to connect with them.

There is a lot of humour in this book, which I liked very much. Even during serious situations the author managed to lighten the mood with her ability to toss out random phrases and thoughts that make you laugh.

For a book that is heavily dialogue driven, you definitely want to see good dialogue. That happens here and it felt very natural and not forced.

This is an excellent book, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes stories of courage and family.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Language of Silence

The Language of SilenceThe Language of Silence by Anna Michaels

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

This is at once a difficult book to read and an easily flowing tale that will captivate your senses and make your heart bleed for the main character.

The difficulty is not found in the writing style. The author has crafted a beautiful book full of memorable characters that capture your heart and make you really feel for them and their various plights. The main character is a strong female protagonist but does not come off as a staunch feminist. She has a layered personality including a light and silly side that makes you love her.

The difficulty comes in the subject matter. If you have read other books about abused women, such as Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen, then you know how traumatic reading such novels can be. This book is at times heart-wrenching, but beautiful just the same. Any woman who has been in an abusive relationship will no doubt find something to identify with here.

Family and friendships and unlikely bonds take centre stage in this novel and remind us that not all family has to be blood relation. The history of the circus and the demons it possesses makes for an interesting and fulfilling side story that I thought worked really well.

Where I felt this book went awry, was the ending. This was such a serious book throughout, and I expected a big finish where the bad guy got his in the end. I never felt that happened. His goodbye was perhaps creative, and most definitely original, but not altogether believable. In fact, I thought it bordered on silliness. I was left with questions about the safety of the main character and her child.

Still this was a book worthy of the time to read and I will always be happy I had the chance to do so. It is very special to me, for many reasons. I would encourage others to give it a read and form their own opinions about it.

This is the kind of book you want to share with someone you love. Life, second chances, courage and the bravery we don’t always believe we possess until we have to face a situation that draws it out of us are all prevalent themes in this book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.