Saturday, August 29, 2020

Book Review: A Perfect Paris Christmas by Mandy Baggot


United in grief. Pushed apart by tragedy. 

Keeley Andrews knows more than anyone that you only live once. So when she receives an invitation to spend two weeks in Paris, all expenses paid, she jumps at the chance. 

Ethan Bouchard has had the worst eighteen months of his life. He's ready to give up on everything, including his hotel chain. So when he meets Keeley, it simply isn't the right time. 

As Keeley and Ethan continue to bump into each other on the romantic Parisian streets, they can't help but wonder whether this is fate telling them to let go of the past and leap into the future...

Tee's Review

August was one of those months that I struggled to read. Nothing  I read seemed to captured my attention or if I did manage to read, it took me forever to finish the book. Luckily I was gifted a copy of the recently released Christmas romance A Perfect Paris Christmas by Mandy Baggot from NetGalley. I love Hallmark Christmas movies, yes, all the gooey stupid and predictable storylines, so I knew reading this book would help me get out of my slump. And it did!

A  Perfect Paris Christmas was not the typical romance at all, it was actually deeper than most that I have read. The Mandy Baggot has done a great job at writing not only a romance book but one that could easily be read by fans of women’s fiction. 

There are actually several plots going on in the book, with quite a lot of secondary characters, but the book is well written and they do not get confusing or overwhelming, they flow perfectly with the story.  There is Rach, who is the main character's best friend and her travel partner to Paris. Silvie, who is the mom of the kidney donor, and Erica, who is my favorite, and who reminds us that we need to live each day, as we are not guaranteed the next one.

The main character is Keeley Andrews, she is a survivor of a car wreck that kills her sister Bea. We are told that Keeley was also near the point of losing her life but was given another chance with a kidney transplant. She is invited to Paris to meet the mother of the donor and while she is there she also meets Ethan, who himself is struggling with the recent loss of his best friend, while also fighting with the friend's family on how to run the hotels that they owned together. Ethan also has a great storyline with a homeless girl named Jeannie and her dog BoBo which quickly became one of my favorite parts of the book.

My favorite in any romance, reading or watching, is always the meet-cute, and the one between Keeley and Ethan did not disappoint, it is comical and even involves a penguin and a prank. It wasn’t a quick meet, it was well into the book and I was beginning to think we would not be getting one!

The author also did a great job describing the streets of Paris, from the carousel to the Christmas markets, to the interiors of the hotels and small courtyards. It transported you there and made the story even more magical because you pictured each scene very vividly along with the added bits from your own imagination.

When I started A Perfect Paris Christmas I was expecting the nice fluffy candy floss sweetness of most romance books, but the book offered me so much more than that. It was a heartfelt read about several different types of love, dealing with grief, in-depth family relationships, and very touching friendships. If you need an escape from your usual reading I would highly recommend this wonderfully written story.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert


Jacque's Review:

Eat, Pray, Love is about Elizabeth Gilbert's personal journey after a bitter divorce. At the age of thirty she seemingly had it all. A husband, loving family, great job, and a beautiful home in New York. Everyone, including her husband, felt the logical progression was for them to start a family. Liz was not content and wanted the freedom to live and explore life on her own terms. She spent her evenings crying on the bathroom floor until she built up the courage to leave her husband. 

Once the divorce was finalized, she quit her job and spent a year traveling. She received an advance from her publisher to write this book and used the money to fund her yearlong trip to Italy, India, and Bali. In Rome she "studied the art of pleasure." She had always wanted to learn Italian, so she registered for classes and joined conversational groups to improve her skills. She also enjoyed the culture and indulged in the local food. She met some interesting people and shared some entertaining stories about her time in Italy.

Her next stop was India, where she spent several months at an ashram following the teachings of her guru. She spent a lot of time learning to meditate, which I couldn't even imagine. They spent hours a day meditating, chanting, and doing chores to earn their keep. While this destination did not appeal to me in the least, Liz did learn a considerable amount from a number of unique individuals while she was there. Richard from Texas gave her a lot of tough love and advise that she definitely needed to hear. She had been holding onto a lot of baggage from prior relationships that she needed to let go of if she was ever going to achieve happiness. She also met a poet that shared some meaningful insight and provided a means for her to let go of the feelings and attachments that were holding her back. 

Her final stop was Bali where she intended to meet up with a medicine man she met on a previous trip. The old man had invited her to come back and stay with his family, but when she arrived, he didn't remember her at first. He eventually put it all together and they spent hours a day sharing stories and enjoying each other's company. While in Bali, Liz makes a few friends and eventually attends a party where she meets someone. She told herself before the trip that this was going to be a year for just herself. She was not planning on having any romantic relationships, but a Brazilian man eventually stole her heart. 

Elizabeth comes full circle in this story, but it isn't a journey for everyone. I personally would have enjoyed a few months in Italy, but the rest of the trip wouldn't have been for me. Liz is far more spiritually dedicated than the vast majority of society. I enjoyed learning about the different cultures and felt her story could be very inspiring to people who may find themselves in a similar situation. Not everyone has the means to quit their job and spend a year traveling while they try to find themselves, but it was inspiring to see her take charge of her own life and find happiness.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Review: Witch's Pyre by Josephine Angelini


Goodreads Overview:

Lily Proctor has come a long way from the weak, sickly girl she used to be. She has gained power as a witch and a leader, found her way home, chosen to face battle again, and (after losing her first love and being betrayed by her new love) she has learned more about loss and grief than she ever wanted to know.

Thrust once again into a society different from anything they have ever seen, Lily and her coven are determined to find answers―to find a new path to victory, a way to defeat the monstrous Woven without resorting to nuclear weapons or becoming a tyrannical mass murderer like her alternate self, Lillian. But sometimes winning requires sacrifices . . . and when the only clear path to victory lies at Lillian's side, what price will Lily be willing to pay?

Jacque's Review:

Overall, I thought this was an entertaining series, but it wasn't nearly as good as Angelini's Starcrossed series. 

In this final installment, Lily and her coven discover a secret city on the west coast that none of the eastern cities knew existed. It is essentially a perfect society. There is no crime, everyone is wealthy, the city is pristine, and it appears that aging and illness have been completely eliminated. This may sound like a magical place to live, but perfection may cost more than Lily and her friends are willing to give up. 

Once Lily discovers the source of the city's power and wealth she is determined to defeat their leader. Lily and Lillian must gather a huge army and work together if they are going to have a prayer of a chance of victory. They know the odds are not in their favor, but the world as they know it could be in danger if they don't act.

The story is action packed and I enjoyed the magical elements contained throughout the series. I did find some of the concepts to be far fetched and difficult to relate to at times. For example, the fact that Lily could transport thousands of people in and out of danger at will. Yes...It was convenient for the story, but I prefer some amount of plausibility even within fantasy/fiction. 

Also...It seemed like the drama between Lily and Rowan went on for WAY too long. For two people who can use mindspeak to read each others thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you would have thought they could have gotten to the truth behind their dilemma a lot sooner than they did.

This was a 3 star series for me from start to finish. I was expecting a bit more from Angelini after reading her Starcrossed series which I gave 4 stars, 5 stars, 5 stars respectively. Helen, Lucas, and the rest of the characters in the Starcrossed series captivated my attention from start to finish. I simply couldn't get enough of that series. In this case, I was interested in the story and wanted to see how it ended, but I never felt compelled to stay up reading "just one more chapter."

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Book review: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer


Book Summary
When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

Flo's Review
If you're a Twihard, you're going to love this, of course.

Myyyy Edward is angsty! But it was still so cool to see events that I knew so well from the book and movie through his eyes. Two particular things I loved about it:

First, I loved learning more about the family and the dynamics between them. It was so sweet how much Edward loves Esme and respects Carlisle. I never thought of Emmett as a big teddy bear, but that's how he read and it was great. It was also interesting too see the strained relationship between Edward and Rosalie, which I kind of picked up on from Twilight, I guess, but not as much. 

This ties right into the second thing I loved about it, which was the end. It must have been so crazy for Stephenie to have to write that! I bet she never thought she'd need to show exactly how Alice plans and executes things. It was so crazy seeing her process for everything at the end. This was all new material because, of course, we only saw Bella's end in Twilight, so I really had fun reading about the Cullens' journey to the dance studio in Phoenix. Alice is simply amazing. You go, girl!

One thing that didn't quite line up was how Emmett and especially Jasper were able to stand being in the car with bloody Bella for so long. I know they were holding their breath and all, but still. Just because to go from that to the beginning of New Moon where Jasper looses it when Bella cuts her finger? But, like I said, I don't think Stephenie was planning to have to deal with all that, so it made sense the best it could.

Oh! Also, it was so interesting to see what Edward thought of Jacob and to hear Jacob's thoughts. Like, that's totally going to change come Eclipse. Lol. And I'd never even considered what kind of minds it would take to make Bella's. I was so intrigued to hear Edward try to figure out both Charlie's and Renee's thoughts. 

Midnight Sun was such fun, and I'm so so glad Stephenie finally published it for us! I am hearing different things about what she's working on next, but whatever it is, I already can't wait for it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Book Review: Bear Necessity by James Gould-Bourn


Danny’s life is falling apart. He’s become a single father to eleven-year-old Will—who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash a year earlier—and Danny has just been fired from his construction job. To make matters worse, he’s behind on the rent and his nasty landlord is threatening to break his legs if he doesn’t pay soon. Danny needs money, and fast.

After observing local street performers in a nearby park, Danny spends his last few dollars on a tattered panda costume, impulsively deciding to become a dancing bear. While performing one day, Danny spots his son in the park and chases off the older boys who are taunting him. Will opens up for the first time since his mother’s death, unaware that the man in the panda costume is his father. Afraid of disclosing his true identity, Danny comforts his son. But will Danny lose Will’s trust once he reveals who he is? And will he be able to dance his way out of debt, or be beaten up before he has a chance?

Filled with a colorful cast of characters, Bear Necessity is a refreshingly unpretentious and ultimately uplifting story of a father and son reconnecting in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Bear Necessity is about a single father, Danny, who is struggling to connect with his son, Will, who hasn’t spoken since his mother died in a car wreck. Danny is struggling to make ends meet when he loses his job and decides to become a street performer with an old panda costume he was able to afford. While working in the park he saves Will from a group of boys who are tormenting him and Will opens up about everything to the panda-not Danny. They begin this relationship that Danny is conflicted about because on one hand he finally gets Will to open up but on the other, he knows this is a bad idea to take advantage of Will’s trust. 

This story was a very short read but even though it was small in pages it was BIG and fulfilling within those pages. The heartbreak of not knowing how to reach your child is one that many parents, single or not know and struggle with. 

I will say that there were a lot of parts that were too long or overly explained that didn’t need to be. I wish they would have left these details out and have more substance to the characters themselves. It was an interesting look into how everyone needs to move on from grief but not everyone takes the same path to do so-everyone heals differently. 

This is a great read filled with a lot of humor and then also a lot of sadness that almost brought a few tears to my eyes. There was a great balance where I enjoyed reading it but still got to experience some emotions without being completely drug down by sadness. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Book Review: Hex hall by Rachel Hawkins


Goodreads Overview:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Jacque's Review:

This was a free ebook that I downloaded quite some time ago. When I was on vacation, I finished the book I was reading and scrolled through my unread books and decided to read this one. It was a really cute story and I loved all of the characters. Most of the Prodigium grew up in magical families and were well aware of the history and dangers to their kind. Sophie grew up with her human mother and has never met her magical father. She has spoken to him on the phone, but she has lived a pretty normal life up until recently.

When her magic starts drawing unwanted attentions she is sent to a boarding school for Prodigium where she will stay until her 18th birthday. Hopefully she will learn to use her powers in a more controlled and discreet manner and come to understand her magical history. At first, Sophie considers it a prison sentence, but she soon meets some interesting students and quickly learns the real dangers this school can protect her from.  

Archer Cross is an attractive warlock that immediately catches Sophie's attention, but his girlfriend is the beautiful and snobbish ringleader of a coven of witches named Elodie. When Sophie refuses to join the coven, Elodie takes her anger out on Sophie in a variety of ways. The two spar back and forth through a number of magical pranks.

The most interesting part of this book was the mystery behind who was viciously attacking students on campus. The school is protected by magical wards, so it is assumed it has to be another student or staff member. All signs pointed to Sophie's roommate, the only vampire attending the school. She is deemed guilty until proven innocent, so Sophie sets out to prove who is really behind the attacks. 

I was shocked by several of the twists at the end of this book. There were several characters that were not what they seemed and Sophie is left contemplating leaving the magical world forever. I don't think she will actually go through with it, so I look forward to reading the next book in the series to see what will happen next.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Book Review: Garden of Thorns and Light by Shylah Addante

Book Summary
When Amethyst Faye was six years old, she was almost stolen by a monster in the woods on the same night her mother mysteriously disappeared. Ten years, a half dozen psychiatrists, and a slew of diagnoses haven’t made things any better; she is still plagued by nightmares, ridiculed at school, and misunderstood by everyone from her teachers to her counselor to her father. And lately she’s been sprouting thick green thorns out of her skin.

When the paranoia doesn’t end, and the treatment options run out, she’s faced with a choice between inpatient treatment or spending the summer with a grandmother she hasn’t heard from in a decade.

Summer at Gran’s in Morgan Springs wins out, just barely, and only because a backwater town sounds marginally more interesting than a mental institution. Amethyst draws the attention of Ben, the boy of her dreams, and Absynth, the creature from her nightmares. Although neither of them is what she expected, Amethyst realizes both Ben and Absynth are exactly what she needs to heal her heart and harness the fairy magic she’s inherited.

Unfortunately for Amethyst, trying to walk both paths could get her killed, but having to choose between them is far worse.

Flo's Review
First things first: #coverlove! Look at the luscious green and all the colors!

I've found myself back in the world of faeries with Garden of Thorns and Light. The interesting thing about faeries is seeing the different interpretations and iterations. The fae in this story were unlike any I had encountered before, and so it was interesting to learn their lore. Introducing much of the backstory through the book Amethyst got from Gran instead of a big info dump at the beginning of the story was also a good idea. It took a little bit to get to what felt like the magical heart of the story, but once we were there, the story took off. I wanted to scream at Amethyst way too much for the decisions she made, even though I understood why she made them. I found myself flying through the last few chapters of the book as I eagerly hoped everything would work out.

I would have loved to learn more about Ben's family and their experience, but it would make sense for that to come in the (hopefully!) second book. I've got two favorite parts of this story. First, I love the way the real world meets the fantasy world. They dance together, circle each other, but are still two distinct places -- the garden and the forest, in particular. And secondly, Ben. Because, Ben.

Garden of Thorns and Light publishes September 15th from Month9Books. I received an advance readers copy in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Book Review: My Life For Yours by Vanessa Carnevale

Paige and Nick are happy. They have a beautiful home, a loving family and, most importantly, they would do anything for each other. Now, they are having a baby and it feels like all their dreams are coming true.

But joy turns to despair when they discover that Paige has a rare, life-threatening heart condition and they lose their longed-for child. Heartbroken, the couple must accept the reality that they may not become parents after all.

Just as they begin to come to terms with their loss, Paige unexpectedly falls pregnant again. Paige’s heart is still weak, and to carry the baby to term puts them both at risk. The couple now faces an impossible decision: Paige’s life or the life of their unborn child?

If Paige keeps the baby, she could lose her life and destroy the man she loves. If Nick tries to stop her, he may lose them both forever. It’s the most important decision they have ever had to make – and time is running out.

My Life for Yours is a heartbreaking, gripping, and emotional story about love, loss, and an impossible choice, perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Kelly Rimmer, and Kate Hewitt. 

My Life For Yours is separated into three parts. The first part of the book deals with Paige and Nick and their joy over having a baby. You get to know each of them...Nick a Pediatric surgeon, and Paige who works in an assisted living/ nursing home. You also get to meet Paige's family, her mother, and father, who are loving and have been married forever and still in love, her brother Ryan, who lives away, and her sister Caitlin, that is in Paige's eyes living the perfect life with two kids and a husband, a house and a country home they are renovating. Paige and Nick are excited they are having a baby, it is something they have both wanted and planned for. The author takes you through their lives as they get ready for its arrival, from planning a nursery to arriving at the hospital. Only once it happens, it doesn't go well and Paige loses the baby, that they named Max, and also finds out she has heart failure.
Part two is one of those sections that will rip at your feelings. It is the two of them trying to navigate the death of their son, and get life back to normal if it can ever be that way again. And as much as Paige wants a baby, she has been told that now is not the time because of her heart, it could kill her or the baby, or even both. But she does find herself pregnant and it comes down to them having to choose between lives. Part three goes from there and tells of her pregnancy.
I don't want to say anything more than that, but the entire book is told in two POV's.. Paige's and Nick's. There is much conflict and you might find you need to grab a tissue or two. This is a very emotionally charged book, that will make you think, and wonder if you could hold up in the same situation. It deals with the heartbreak of losing a child, of choices that feel impossible to make, and of dreams the parents and families have.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley