Kim’s Guest Review of Almost Persuaded by P.O. Dixon

appodJane Austen has given us countless characters to love: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth, Elinor & Marianne Dashwood, and so many others. Sprinkled within the pages of her beloved novels she’s also given us many lesser-known, lesser-developed characters that readers have been able to flesh out and develop with their own imaginations. Author P.O Dixon has decided to take Mary King, “that nasty freckle-faced girl,” who was almost engaged to Wickham in Pride and Prejudice and write her story in Almost Persuaded.  My review of this short novella is my latest post over at Austenprose.

For a direct link to my review, click here.

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Todd’s Review of The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd

At a time when the average temperature across America is a balmy negati15801724ve 300 degrees, it was a nice change of pace (and scenery) to read Lloyd Shepherd’s The Poisoned Island, which partially takes place in Tahiti.  It was an altogether warmer and intriguing story that kept me from thinking about the chills outside!

From Goodreads:

LONDON 1812: For forty years Britain has dreamed of the Pacific island of Tahiti, a dark paradise of bloody cults and beautiful natives. Now, decades after the first voyage of Captain Cook, a new ship returns to London, crammed with botanical specimens and, it seems, the mysteries of Tahiti.

When, days after the Solander’s arrival, some of its crew are found dead and their sea-chests ransacked – their throats slashed, faces frozen into terrible smiles – John Harriott, magistrate of the Thames river police, puts constable Charles Horton in charge of the investigation. But what connects the crewmen’s dying dreams with the ambitions of the ship’s principal backer, Sir Joseph Banks of the Royal Society? And how can Britain’s new science possibly explain the strangeness of Tahiti’s floral riches now growing at Kew?

Horton must employ his singular methods to uncover a chain of conspiracy stretching all the way back to the foot of the great dead volcano Tahiti Nui, beneath the hungry eyes of ancient gods.

The Goodreads description doesn’t do this book justice; Shepherd packs so much imagery and description into his prose that my imagination had to work overtime to keep up.  I could only imagine the Solander’s arrival, laden with a multitude of colors and scents as it pulled into the docks of dreary London.  This was the backdrop for a creepy murder mystery, where all of the victims were found with looks of pure delight frozen on their faces as they were brutally murdered.  The constable appointed to look into this mystery is Charles Horton.  I took an immediate liking to him, as his natural inclination to investigate connected with me intellectually, and the fact that he is an all-around good guy didn’t hurt either.  As these were the days before detective work was commonplace, Horton is forced to do much of his work alone and in secret.  What’s more, his wife is inadvertently pulled into the fray, making the level of suspense even higher.

Additionally, Shepherd doesn’t just keep us confined to London, as we travel to Tahiti itself and get to view the mystery from the point of view of a young prince.  This added another level of complexity to the story, as this point of view begins to intersect with those of Horton, Horton’s boss, the magistrate of the River Police, and the proprietor of the Solander herself, Sir Joseph Banks of the Royal Society.  With all of these characters so expertly depicted and developed, it was easy to fall right into the story from the first page.  My only complaint is that Shepherd got slightly too descriptive at times, which made things lag slightly.  Other than this, Shepherd has written a solid work that makes me excited to check out his other novel, The English Monster.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd
Simon and Schuster UK (2013)
Hardcover: 386 pages
ISBN: 9781471100345

Special thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for my review copy!

Charlie’s Review of The Geek’s Guide to Dating By Eric Smith

17568806When I was given The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith to read, I was intrigued by the concept as I identify myself as a 21st century geek. We all know that this is a cool thing these days, even though I have had these interests long before they were cool. As far as dating advice goes, anyone who knows me knows I don’t need that. I was quite the ladies’ man before I found the love of my life. So, I read this book solely based on the entertainment factor as I have no need for help in my love life. However, for all you out there looking for that special someone, The Geek’s Guide to Dating is not just entertaining, but may actually help you succeed!

From the publisher:

Boldly Go Where No Geek Has Gone Before! You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your closets are full of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear, but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl who just moved in down the hall. What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer is jam-packed with cheat codes, walkthroughs, and power-ups for navigating the perils and pitfalls of your love life with ease. Geeks of all ages will find answers to the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything romantic, from First Contact to The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond. The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys everywhere to love long and prosper.

This guide is a geek reference bible. From Star Wars to Star Trek to Doctor Who, the list goes on and on. It’s very heavy on the video games references as well (just look at the cover.) All of these witty references have a purpose, though, and they apply themselves towards being useful knowledge. Whether you need help meeting someone in the real world or in cyber space, there is something here for you!

Referring to the reader as “Player One”, this book seems like it’s specifically made for guys, which is always a geek stereotype, but there are plenty of girl geeks out there too! With that being said, there is a little something for all of us here. This isn’t your average self-help nonsense. As I said earlier, this is more of a geek culture book, and reading all the references makes it a great read and much more than a dating book. This guide touches on not just how, but when to talk to the ladies. Something that stood out in the book was that it teaches readers that they WILL fail, and that is OK. Just as I have experienced in life, as has almost everyone else in the dating game, sometimes you fall, but you just have to pick yourself back up again. Learn from your mistakes and life just gets better. Eventually you all will be as lucky as me and find your Princess Leia (I am obviously Han Solo.)

All and all, Smith has constructed an excellent geek read, even if you aren’t looking for dating advice. It’s well written, creative, and funny (the list goes on and on.) His knack for understanding the geek culture really makes the book shine. I would love to see him write a Sci-Fi novel! While some may not agree, I really believe this book can appeal to not just guys, but girls as well. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves all things geek because at its core, that is what it really is. In the end, it definitely can help out with some dating hints, but you are going to want to read this for all its references.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith
Quirk Books (2013)
Hardcover: 208 pages
ISBN: 9781594746437

Special thanks to Quirk Books for my review copy!

Series Spotlight: The Westfield Wolves Series/Regency Vampyre Trilogy by Lydia Dare

This past summer, as I was stalking the Nook sales site, I found several books by Lydia Dare that intrigued me. While I don’t read as many paranormal books as I used to (I’m not sure why), I still like throwing one or two into my reading pile every few months to help me mix things up. The “one or two books” I threw into the mix this year turned into seven, with another two being thrown into my to-read pile. The seven books I read turned out to be two series by Lydia Dare (actually two authors – Tammy Falkner and Ava Stone) that intersect each other. The first four books are part of The Westfield Wolves series, the next three are the Regency Vampyre Trilogy, followed by two more Westfield Wolves books (another wolf book is slated for 2014 release and will be the tenth in this dual series.)

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So why am I telling you to read these books? It’s because of the kick-ass, take no prisoner heroines. You see, all the male characters are strong, powerful, domineering men. They’re werewolves and vampires, so their domineering natures are to be expected. However the women that enter their lives are no simpering misses. These women stand up to their domineering partners, challenging them and effectively wrapping these men around their little fingers. There is nothing they won’t do for their women, especially fall in love, which is something they’ve all sworn never to do due to their wild natures. Yet these fearless women show them how much better life is with someone by their side; they are an equal partner with whom they can share the ups and downs, the good and the bad.

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The books that really stand out in this series are Tall, Dark, and Wolfish and It Happened One Bite. Tall, Dark, and Wolfish follows Benjamin, a werewolf who has suddenly stopped changing during the full moon, and Elspeth, a healer who is part of a coven of witches in Scotland. Ben travels to Scotland in search of a famed healer (Elspeth’s late mother) to help him with his “ailment”.  As Elspeth is the only remaining healer, he finds himself in her company often as she tries to figure out how to get him to turn back into a wolf.  The two have such sharp and witty dialogue that I couldn’t help but fall in love with their story and subsequent relationship.

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In It Happened One Bite, Elspeth’s coven sister Blaire travels to a castle in Scotland that she never knew belonged to her family.  While exploring the castle she finds a man, James Kettering, locked in her cellar.  It turns out that her mother and the four other witches of their coven locked him in the cellar 20 years earlier for reasons unknown to James, Blaire, or the current coven. What I liked about this one was the change in Blaire’s character over the course of the novel.  She’s the battle witch of the coven – she can shoot fireballs, is excellent with a bow and arrow, etc. Her personality is already a bit more hardened and tomboyish to begin with, but to watch her fall in love was great. And James – he’s never threatened by her tough exterior. In fact, he loves her sarcasm and dry wit. He knows deep down inside she’s capable of great warmth, kindness, and loyalty. Their story definitely hooked me and made me extremely excited to continue the series.

I hope that I’ve given you enough reasons to read these series, as they aren’t ones to miss. And for those of you nervous to read something that is a collaboration of two authors, let me assure you that their writing is so flawless and seamless that you truly cannot tell that it was written by more than one author.

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. A Certain Wolfish Charm (Westfield Wolves #1) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  2. Tall, Dark, and Wolfish (Westfield Wolves #2) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  3. The Wolf Next Door (Westfield Wolves #3) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  4. The Taming of the Wolf (Westfield Wolves #4) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  5. It Happened One Bite (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #1) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  6. In The Heat of The Bite (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #2) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  7. Never Been Bit (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #3) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  8. The Wolf Who Loved Me (Westfield Wolves #5) – On my to-read list
  9. Wolfishly Yours (Westfield Wolves #6) – On my to-read list

Kim’s Review of Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon

doadgFour books in and The Outlander Series has quickly become one of (if not my favorite) book series. Each book refuses to be boxed in to any specific genre, allowing Diana Gabaldon to continually exceed her reader’s expectations. In Drums of Autumn, the fourth in the series, we find Jamie and Claire beginning to settle in mid 1760s America, while their daughter Brianna and her historian friend Roger continue to unravel their feelings for each other in the late 1960s.

From Goodreads:

It began at an ancient Scottish stone circle. There, a doorway, open to a select few, leads into the past—or the grave. Dr. Claire Randall survived the extraordinary passage, not once but twice.

Her first trip swept her into the arms of Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scot whose love for her became a legend—a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child. Her second journey, two decades later, brought them together again in the American colonies. But Claire had left someone behind in the twentieth century—their daughter, Brianna….

Now Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the circle of stones and a terrifying leap into the unknown. In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history … and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past … or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong….

With every Outlander book Jamie Fraser takes another piece of my heart and claims it as his. I never thought I’d ever utter those words for anyone other than Fitzwilliam Darcy, but Jamie is my favorite character that has ever been written. Every book gives us another sliver of the enigma that is Jamie Fraser. His strengths, his weaknesses. The depths of his love for Claire, for his family. He truly is the very best of men.

While the events of the book moved a little slow for me at first, the last 600 pages really flew by. Within each Outlander book I’ve found that there is a chapter that just suddenly clicks. Once that click happens the pages and story fly by faster than you realize. For the last 680 pages I didn’t even move from my chair. I became so enthralled by this story and the twists and turns Gabaldon was taking me on. The more thorough introductions to Roger and Brianna were welcome (and surprising) additions as well.

I’ve been told that the series jumps the shark a bit beyond Drums of Autumn, but I’m determined to continue. After all, who doesn’t want more Jamie Fraser?

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twenty-fourth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
Random House Publishing (2004)
eBook: 928 pages
ISBN: 9780440335177

Kim’s Review of The Ever After of Ella and Micha (The Secret #4) by Jessica Sorensen

teaoeamjsI am a big fan of authors who write imperfect characters who learn to find the beauty in their flaws. Ella and Micha from Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret series are two of my very favorite flawed characters. In The Ever After of Ella and Micha we finally get to see them achieve their happy ending.

From Goodreads:

The day Ella has waited for is just around the corner. It’s the day she’ll marry Micha, the love of her life, the light that guided her out of the darkness. It looks like it will be the perfect Christmas-until an unexpected package arrives with a harsh reminder of Ella’s past. Suddenly Ella doesn’t feel as confident about her future. Can she really have a “happily-ever-after” if she’s never even seen one?

Micha will stand by Ella no matter what she’s going through-though he worries that she might leave him standing at the altar again. When he’s offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tour with his favorite bands for three months, Micha knows he can’t leave Ella behind. But can he ask her to uproot her life to join him on the road?

Now Ella and Micha must find a way to balance their fears, their dreams, and their love . . . if they ever want to hear wedding bells.

As much as I love this series and its characters, I hope this is the last book focusing on Ella and Micha. I think we’ve reached the end of their story arc in a perfect manner. The growth these characters have displayed over the past three books (reviews of book one, two, & three) has been conducive and organic to the story. Their problems weren’t ones that could have been believably solved over the course of one book. I respect Sorensen as a storyteller immensely for not compromising the integrity of her characters with a quick finish. She let Ella and Micha grow naturally as individuals and as a couple, allowing readers time to grow with them. Their journey has been one wrought with difficulties and misunderstandings, but it is one that teaches us the beauty in flaws, the beauty of true love.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Ever After of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 272 pages
ISBN: 9781455582679

Special thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim’s Guest Review of The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle

tpombpmIf you’ve often thought that Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice has been neglected in the Austen fan fiction world, listen up. My latest review for Austenprose is on The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle and it’s all about Mary!

I can happily tell you that Mingle gives Mary a story well worthy of her character.

For a direct link to my review, click here!

This is my thirteenth completed review for the Pride and  Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

This is my twenty-third completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Kim’s Review of Sweet (True Believers #2) by Erin McCarthy

semWhen I read True by Erin McCarthy back in July I’ll admit, I wasn’t wowed.  Having just come off of a new adult reading high I chalked some of my disappointment up to that (I mean I can’t LOVE everything I read….)  Giving McCarthy the benefit of the doubt I continued with the series, promptly requesting Sweetbook two in her True Believers series, as soon as it became available. From Goodreads:

Jessica Sweet thought going away to college would finally make her free of her parents’ constant judgments and insistence she play chastity club role model for their church events, but if anything, the freedom has made her realize she can’t go home and be a hypocrite anymore. Tired of dodging their questions, she stays at school over the summer and lands in an unexpected crash pad: Riley Mann’s house.  Sarcastic, cocky, and full of opinions, Riley is also sexy personified with tattoos and biceps earned from working as a roofer all day. Not the right guy for her even if Jessica was looking for a relationship, which she is definitely not. But Jessica knows that Riley hides the burden of having to raise his younger brothers behind that grin and as she helps him get his house in order for a custody hearing, they begin to fall hard for each other, and she is forced to question what she’s hiding herself.  Jessica has never had a problem getting naked with a guy, but when it comes to showing Riley how she truly feels inside, her fear of rejection may just ruin the best thing—the best guy—to ever happen to her…

I’m glad that I gave this series a second shot, because Sweet was ten times better than True. I think it’s directly related to the characters.  First, let me say that I love when authors write characters that were raised wealthy and then throw them into situations where they have to be frugal/poor. I like seeing how believable an author can be at developing the character, as I think this particular transformation can be difficult to accurately achieve.  Jessica Sorensen did it really well with Lila in The Temptation of Lila and Ethan and I can happily say that McCarthy achieves success with Jessica in Sweet!  

Jessica was raised in an extremely stringent and hypocritical household, yet she was also raised with the best of everything. She’s never had to worry about money; she’s only had to worry about pleasing parents that are never satisfied with her. Refusing to be the good-girl martyr they expect her to be, she decides to rebel for the summer and work at a steakhouse near college.  Needing a place to crash, she winds up at Riley’s house while his brothers are all away. It’s here in his run-down, almost bank-owned home, that she begins to understand life and herself. Her development from start to finish is awesome.  Starting out as a bit of a princess, she becomes this fierce tiger, unafraid of going after what (and who) she wants.

And then we have Riley. He’s one of those bad-boy characters that has a heart of gold and kindness you never imagined.  He struggles every day to make sure his younger brothers are taken care of and kept out of the child welfare system. Blow after blow keeps threatening to tear him down, but somewhere inside of himself he finds the gumption to keep the battle alive. And when he falls for Jessica…..he falls hard.

I loved the dynamic of their relationship. While they were raised in two different lifestyles, their remarkably similar people: neither of them back down from challenges, they’re both rash, opinionated, and are at times unrelenting. Together they make each other better, stronger. McCarthy definitely hooked me into Sweetso much so that I’m eagerly awaiting the January release of book three, Believe.

4 out of 5 Stars

Sweet by Erin McCarthy
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook: 232 pages
ISBN: 9781101623169

Special thanks to Penguin Group for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim and Kelly’s Review of Heating Up The Holidays by Lisa Renee Jones, Mary Ann Rivers, & Serena Bell

huthWith the holidays quickly approaching, what better kind of anthology to read than one about romances during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years?  The holiday season is the perfect setting for romances; it is a time where we are surrounded by loved ones and good cheer.  In the Heating Up The Holidays anthology, authors Lisa Renee Jones, Mary Ann Rivers, and Serena Bell celebrate the spirit of the holidays with some good old-fashioned romance. Reading bestie Kelly (of Reading With Analysisjoined me for another of our dueling reviews!

From Goodreads:

As leftover turkey and stuffing give way to stockings and little black dresses, this tantalizingly sexy eBook bundle offers up holiday-themed novellas from a trio of beloved romance authors. Lisa Renee Jones gives a dedicated reporter and a powerful businessman a chance to count their Thanksgiving blessings in Play with Me; Mary Ann Rivers presents Snowfall, the story of a woman who confronts a life-changing event—hopefully with a special man by her side—just in time for Christmas; and in Serena Bell’s After Midnight, an explosive New Year’s kiss leaves two strangers wondering whether they’ll ever see each other again.

PLAY WITH ME by Lisa Renee Jones

Kali Miller has spent three years reporting fluff stories, waiting for the article that will launch her career to new heights. When she suddenly finds herself forced to take a job as an executive secretary at a Vegas casino, Kali meets the subject of what will surely be a shocking exposé: her boss, Damion Ward, the arrogant and undeniably sexy CEO. But after Damion invites her to help him plan a Thanksgiving charity event, Kali begins to see another side of the man. And when she surrenders to the exhilarating tension simmering between them, Kali hopes her story will have a happy ending.

SNOWFALL by Mary Ann Rivers

Jenny Wright can’t get enough of her erotic conversations with someone she knows only as “C.” Flirting online helps Jenny temporarily escape confronting the changes to her life as she slowly loses her vision. Jenny’s occupational therapist, Evan Carlisle-Ford, is helping her prepare for the challenges ahead, but the forthright, trustworthy man can no longer ignore his growing attraction to his fiercely intelligent client. Now Jenny must choose between the safe, anonymous “C”—or the flesh-and-blood Evan, whose heated kisses can melt snow faster than it can fall.

AFTER MIDNIGHT by Serena Bell

The clock is ticking down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, and all Nora Hart and Miles Shephard can think about is kissing each other—even though they met just minutes before. Then, as fast as Miles enters Nora’s life, he’s gone . . . and she never even gets the name of the man she thinks might just be “the one.” One year later, Nora and Miles are reunited. The chemistry between them is just as strong as they remember. But Miles broke her heart once before—and this time around, Nora’s not sure whether she can give love a second chance.

Play With Me:

Kim: Almost as soon as I started reading Play With Me I got a funny feeling I wasn’t going to like the story.  The interactions between the two main characters, Kali and Damion, were strange and honestly never gelled.  Even after I finished the story I asked myself, “What attracted them to each other?”

Kelly: I think the writing contributes to the strangeness.  The story is told in a funky first-person, present tense narrative that just feels awkward.  From the first page: “‘Ms. Williams’ charges down a narrow hallway and I chase after her, just as I did for the reporting job at the Vegas Heat that fell through before I ever started to work. She disappears into an office and I follow, swiping at a strand of my long blond hair, which suddenly feels as disheveled as the new life I’ve gambled on.” Maybe it’s the infodumping — I don’t know — but the narrative feels about as comfortable as a pair of burlap yoga pants.

Kim: Not only is the writing strange, but the entire timeline of the book is completely unbelievable.  We’re expected to believe that Damion, who is dealing with a massive cyber threat to his company, knows after 5 minutes of meeting Kali that she has no part in it?  (Even though we find out ::SPOILER ALERT:: later that it’s people who have been with his company for years. And that he considers to be good friends with? It’s obvious from THAT that he doesn’t have the best judgement of people.)

Not even that, but how is there some weird storyline about the mob and homeless shelters that gets shoved into this love story that goes from first introductions to marriage proposals in less than a week? Oh did I mention that they started living together less than a week after their initial introduction?

Kelly: Wait. I’m just going to butt in for a moment.  Full disclosure: I didn’t finish this story.  On the first go, I got to the beginning of chapter four and just dropped it with an eyeroll.  But, just now, I started reading again where I’d left off, and… UGG.  So it’s our intrepid heroine’s first day on the job, and she spends the morning stuck in HR.  At some point, she gets rescued from ignominy by a phone call from Damion, who then yells at the HR lady and forces her to explain herself to Kali: it’s just that time of the month.

UGGGGGGG.  I dunno, Kim. Are you ready for final thoughts?

Kim: Hell yes.  Having finished the whole book, it’s sad that this was the story chosen to open it up.  The other two stories in the anthology don’t even belong in the same stratosphere as this one.  The other two authors and stories completely blow this out of the water.

Kelly: Ain’t that the truth.  I stopped reading this book because I got a weird sexual harassment vibe from it, and I just didn’t feel like taking the time away from the other two stories.  It’s possible I’ve never made a better decision in my entire life.

Snowfall:

Kelly: I’m having a difficult time corralling my thoughts about this story.  I mean, the bottom line is that I loved it more than peanut butter, but my thoughts and my feels are still all mixed up.  I should start with the writing, though, because this book immediately follows Play With Me and because it’s also written in a first person present-tense narrative.  In Snowfall, however, that narrative works (as opposed to Play With Me) and it really feels like Jenny is telling the story.

Kim: I completely agree with you about how difficult it is to put thoughts and feels on paper for Snowfall.  Let me say this at least: Mary Ann Rivers was put on this Earth to be a writer.  She is a writer that possesses the rare skill of making their storytelling seem effortless.  Kelly will tell you that after we finished her debut novella, The Story Guy, we were ruined trying to write our thoughts about it, let alone read anything else.  There weren’t words to express our feelings and nobody else could match up to the beauty present in her story.  Snowfall is that all over again.

Kelly: I described The Story Guy as effortlessly deliberate, and Snowfall is, too.  With so much of the story focusing on Jenny’s narrowing field of vision, it was lovely how Rivers used such vibrant language, rich with imagery, to develop Jenny’s world and to demonstrate just how much Jenny is losing with her sight.  For this story, the first person narrative is perfect, because it enables the reader to get deeply involved with Jenny, to feel emotionally invested in her struggle, and to enjoy the mystery of the story.

Kim: I remember when I finished I said, “For a character going blind, her vision and sense of the world around her is stronger and more poignant than most.” Like sighted people – she sees and senses everything despite her disability. This is a person who is truly absorbing the world around her.

Kelly: It’s often difficult (apparently) for writers to craft believably brilliant characters, but Jenny is exactly that.  Rivers doesn’t have to tell us that Jenny is a smarty mcsmarty pants; it’s obvious from the turn of Jenny’s mind and the amount of perception and observation Jenny employs (and her stories about stressed out e. coli help, too.)  Further, while Jenny’s off-the-charts intelligent, she’s still accessible — certainly emotionally accessible — as a character.  Her intelligence is a facet of her character, not a trait that renders her an otherworldly being (in contrast to our common perception of geniuses in general and scientists in particular).  I loved that Jenny could be all these things: a scientist, a woman, a daughter, a difficult patient, an anonymous Internet acquaintance, a fuckup, and a person dealing with grief and fear and change.

And Evan? Wow.  Sometimes it’s difficult in a first-person narrative to connect with the other characters because readers are shown only one POV, but Evan manages to shine through.

Kim: Her characters completely speak for themselves.  Between their conversations and actions they become real people.  There is no question whatsoever at you (the reader) getting attached and invested in their lives.  Rivers’ characters are some of the most beautifully complex creations I’ve ever read.  If she wrote a story about two characters reading a grocery list I’d read it. Because somehow, while those characters were reading that grocery list, we’d be treated to an amazing story about two people and their way of finding beauty in the world, themselves, and each other.

Kelly: I want to talk about the contrasts between the first and second stories.  Both use the same narrative format but to very different ends.  Both feature seemingly difficult relationships that push the bounds of what’s appropriate… Boss and employee… occupational therapist and patient… (!!!)  But the difference seems to be that Rivers actually thought through those things and anticipated the reactions of reasonable readers.  Also, her writing is a thing of beauty.

Kim: I totally agree with you.  Evan goes through a whole inner conflict about what’s appropriate in his feelings for Jenny as her OT.  That’s actually a major part of the story and the way that Rivers chose to deal with that issue shows both professionalism and poise.

Kelly and I think she’s a great lady, so we wrote her a note to share our affection.

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann, please publish a novella anthology in which you are the sole author.

Kim: Because there is no way on Earth anyone else’s stories can even compare to yours. Also, you write so well that we literally cannot speak about your works appropriately.

Love,

Kelly and Kim

Kelly: P.S. Please write all the things.

After Midnight:

Kim: So this was my first Serena Bell read and I have to say I was super impressed.  The romance genre is so large that I find it hard to find those “gem” authors.  These authors write romances, but underneath the romance teach us about life, relationships, and ourselves in the process.  In After Midnight we get to see two people who are filled with self-doubt and confidence issues stemming from previous breakups.

Kelly: I loved how Bell turned a rebound romance story into something more.  I’ll admit, when I read about these characters fresh from disastrous breakups, I was a little concerned about how it was all going to play out, especially when I considered the extent of Miles’ issues.  But this character-driven story shows — rather concisely — these two characters healing from the past and learning to embrace a future.

Kim: I felt that their individual journeys were completely realistic.  I did an air fist bump to Bell for making them deal with their shit on their own.  So many times authors write romances where everything is magically ok once a character finds love.  Unfortunately real life doesn’t work like that.  If you’re not “together” as an individual, you aren’t going to be “together” in a relationship. The inner journeys that Miles and Nora take are completely necessary for their individual happiness.

Kelly: The first scene with Miles and Nora does an excellent job of establishing their characters and hinting at where they’ll go, but then they part ways and there’s a time-lapse.  You know, time lapses can be rough, and I worried that the characters’ development towards each other would seem choppy or badly paced, but it never felt that way.  I think that’s because the story covers pretty much all the time that the characters are interacting and lapses only when they’re not in contact.  It gives the story an episodic feel — in a good way — and enables the characters to get to know one another again and again and to note how they’ve changed.

Kim: Can I also say how much I loved that Bell made their first interactions after a year a bit awkward?  Again, realistic.  You meet someone for the first time ever, never catch their name, yet have strong feelings for them.  A year later you reconnect.  Wouldn’t you be slightly nervous and awkward too? I know I would.  That’s probably my biggest compliment to give Bell’s writing.  Her story is based in a realistic world, with realistic people, realistic problems, and realistic solutions.  It’s refreshing to have characters that aren’t developed by using tragic pasts of abuse or rape.  They’re developed with everyday situations and issues.

Kelly: Tangent: isn’t it sad that it’s refreshing to have an author take the trouble to create character development apart from tragedy and violence?  I’m with you… I loved this story all the better because of its reality and accessibility.

:Spoiler alert: One thing that ever so slightly bothered me about this story is that Nora was set up almost from the beginning to be the one to make geographical concessions, and the gravity of those concessions was never mentioned in the story.  It’s a big deal to move all your things and find a new job in a new city just to be closer to someone, and I really wanted the narrative to acknowledge that sacrifice.  Instead, it felt like the narrative downplayed it by making Nora less tied to any geographical area.

Kim: Final thoughts on the story? Great introduction to Bell’s writing.  She’s definitely an author I’m going to start following for new releases (especially since she wrote about New Haven pizza in After Midnight.  Clearly the girl’s got some awesome taste when it comes to picking places to write about!)

Kelly: I loved this story, and I’m glad it introduced me to Serena Bell’s writing.  I’m looking forward to more great stories from her.

Kelly’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Kim’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Heating Up The Holidays by Lisa Renee Jones, Mary Ann Rivers, & Serena Bell
Loveswept (2013)
eBook: 378 pages
ISBN: 9780804178402

Special thanks to Loveswept for our review copies via Netgalley!

Kim’s Review of The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3) by Jessica Sorensen

ttolaejsIt’s not a secret that the new adult genre has found a fan in me this year. It’s a genre that catches a lot of flack (unfortunately.)  That makes me sad because I truly think there are great reads to be found within it.  Your late teens/early 20’s are an extremely difficult time to navigate.  Most people are in college at that time, which leads to navigating those years with people new to your life that may or may not know you as well as the people you left at home.  It’s a time that you experiment. A time filled with peer pressure. A time to question the things you’ve been taught your whole life. But above all, it’s a time to experience life.

This is why I’ve found the new adult genre so important and awesome.  It’s filled with books that truly speak to the fears, issues, and experiences that occur during that time of your life.  I’ve found books like Tammara Webber’s Easy to help promote knowledge of rape culture and sexual assault.   Cora Carmack’s Losing It is all about the pressure in today’s society to lose your virginity.  The Temptation of Lila and Ethan by Jessica Sorensen is being added to this list of new adult must-rec’s for tackling of drug abuse, specifically prescription drugs.

From Goodreads:

On the surface, Lila Summers is flawless: good looks, expensive clothes, and a big, beautiful smile. But a dark past and even darker secrets are threatening to bubble over her perfect façade. She’ll do anything to keep the emptiness inside hidden-which leads her into situations that always end badly. Whenever she hits bottom, there’s only one person who’s there to pull her out: Ethan Gregory.

Ethan set the rules a long time ago: he and Lila are just friends. He doesn’t do relationships. Although his tattooed, bad boy exterior is a far cry from Lila’s pretty princess image, Ethan can’t deny they have a deeper connection than he’s used to. If he’s not careful, he could be in serious danger of becoming attached-and he’s learned the hard way that attachment only leads to heartbreak.

When Lila falls farther than she ever has before, can Ethan continue to help as a friend? Or is he also getting close to falling . . . for her?

Jessica Sorensen is an author you need to add to your must-read list.  She tackles this difficult subject matter with hope and beauty.  I’ve loved this series from the beginning (see my reviews of book one and two); it is filled with characters that have realistic flaws and the strength and courage to view those flaws as beautiful.  In The Temptation of Lila and Ethan Sorensen is preaching to her readers that it’s ok to be flawed.  Striving for perfection will kill you because perfection is unattainable.  Our flaws are what make us “us.”

She shows us the dangers of drug addiction, and what such an addiction can do to a person’s life.  I applaud her emphasis on prescription drug abuse, which is becoming more rampant in younger generations, and it gives hope to those who think they are powerless over these substances.  Speaking to the young adult target audience directly about these issues, Sorensen is most likely saving lives.  That is extremely important, and more proactive writing like this is needed to show young adults that they are not alone and can fight drug addiction just as the characters in Temptation do.

Therefore, I heartily encourage any fans of the new adult genre to give The Temptation of Lila and Ethan a try.  It’s a powerful read with a serious message that is worth spreading.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Temptation of Lila and Ethan by Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central Publishing (2013)
eBook: 336 pages
ISBN: 9781455574902

Special thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!