The Sharp Hook of Love: A Novel of Heloise and Abelard by Sherry Jones

by Sherry Jones
Published by Gallery Books on October 7, 2014
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God. But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever.

Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

Abelard_Heloise_title_frontis

Heloise_marriage_freedom_pp124_125

Abelard and Heloise 1

Sapiophiles unite. Heloise and Abelard are our heroes.

Faith. Knowledge. Friendship. Lust. CASTRATION. Thus is the story of Heloise and Abelard. A love story steeped in provocative intellectual sparring and the knowledge of forbidden fruit. If you are a fan of the great and tragic romances of Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, or Tristan and Isolde, then you are a fan of Heloise and Abelard: star-crossed lovers whose characters were crucified for the love they bore each other.

If you enjoy historical fiction with strong female protagonists then you will enjoy this novel. The author has constructed her version of Abelard and Heloise from a vast array of letters and historical documents available to researchers and enthusiasts. The world of 12th century Paris is also skillfully recreated by the author and was such a pleasure to read. Through lenses of love and desire the culture and social issues of the time are examined, revealing gender inequalities and double-standards that are still, strangely (or predictably) enough, prevalent in today’s society.

The author’s writing is passionate, lyrical, and poetic. Jones has composed a literary love ballad about two historical personalities that challenged the conventions of their time, and risked everything  TO DO WHAT THEY WANTED.

If you are a fan of female historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Hildegard von Bingen, or Eleanore of Aquitaine, I think Sherry Jones’ ballad of Heloise and Abelard deserves a spot on your TBR list.

Here’s a great What You Missed in History Class podcast about Heloise and Abelard to check out to learn more about them and the culture that shaped their love story.

And Just for FUN:

lettere-amorose

The magnificent Magdalena Kozena’s album, Lettere Amorose, is a collection of 17th century Italian Baroque ”love letters” that is worth listening to on its own, but made the perfect soundtrack for reading this novel. While the music featured on this album is not from the 12th century, it still has the feel of Heloise and Abelard’s story. I used it as my reading soundtrack because Jones’ novel uses the real correspondences of H & A to construct her story, and this lovely album plays up that theme.

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Hurricane Kiss by Deborah BlumenthalHurricane Kiss by Deborah Blumenthal
on May 1, 2016
Pages: 243
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

For sixteen-year-old Jillian McKay, the threat of Hurricane Danielle means a long car ride with her neighbors--including River Daughtry, the former star quarterback of Harrison High. The guy who was headed to glory until suddenly he disappeared to a West Texas juvenile detention center. Once cocky and flirtatious, he's now silent and angry. When their evacuation route is gridlocked, River is the first to recognize the danger they're in. Together he and Jillian set out to seek shelter in their abandoned high school. As they wait out the storm, they confront the past and realize survival is about more than just staying alive--it's about fighting for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all anyone will remember is that there were unanswered questions about the two kids who thought they could get out of a car in the middle of the freeway and survive a hurricane by running directly into it instead of getting the hell away. Two stupid kids who thought they were smarter than everyone else.

 

Hurricane season is upon us, and for those who live in coastal regions, it’s kind of a big deal.

People who live close to big bodies of water have hurricane prep rituals that mimic back to school chaos. You can never have enough supplies for the impending storm.

Hurricane Kiss
Hurricane Kiss by clockbirdstar featuring a shedrain umbrella

As a Houston native, Deborah Blumenthal’s Hurricane Kiss hit close to home for me and surfaced vivid memories of hurricane Ike, Rita, and news coverage of hurricane Katrina. If you have never experienced the fear, anticipation, and destruction that come with a hurricane than Blumenthal’s novel might feel over-the-top. But as someone who has lived through this stuff, let me tell you, she hits the nail on the head.

Hurricane Kiss is set in Houston, Texas and Blumenthal’s Friday Night Lights writing tone is pitch perfect. There is a cinematic scope to her storytelling, yet everything stays grounded in relatable experiences and events.

Hurricane Safety checklist

I loved both the male and female protagonists because they could have been my nextdoor neighbors, and because they were well fleshed out, complicated characters. Jillian and River fight for their lives during a hurricane, both weighed down and brought together by the emotional baggage they carry from past events. Events that wrought destruction on their lives long before the hurricane hit. The romantic and emotional tension sizzles like lightening between the two MCs, and I was sucked into the journey they both took during the timespan of the storm. Once I started reading Hurricane Kiss, I couldn’t put it down.

Aerial footage of Hurricane Rita evacuation:

Hurricane Rita Evacuation footage

Hurricane Kiss is a clever and imaginative love story that explores the emotional storms that can destroy us as much as any natural disaster. The story explores the resilience of the human spirit as well as that of the people who experience tragedy at the hands of Mother Nature. I’m a huge fan of Deborah Blumenthal’s work, and I recommend this book to anyone who needs a fast and entertaining read steeped in complexity and regional culture.

And Just for Fun:

Here’s a lovely cover of Bob Dylan’s Hurricane:

 

 

 

 

 

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Paris Is Always a Good Idea by Nicolas Barreau

by Nicolas Barreau
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 29, 2016
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Rosalie Laurent is the proud owner of Luna Luna, a little post-card shop in St. Germain, and if it were up to her, far more people would write cards. Her specialty is producing "wishing cards," but where her own wishes are concerned the quirky graphic artist is far from lucky. Every birthday Rosalie sends a card inscribed with her heart's desire fluttering down from the Eiffel Tower - but none of her wishes has ever been fulfilled.

Then one day when an elderly gentleman trips up in her shop and knocks over a post-card stand, it seems that her wish cards are working after-all. Rosalie finds out that it is Max Marchais, famed and successful author of children's books who's fallen into her life. When he asks her to illustrate his new (and probably last) book, Rosalie is only too glad to accept, and the two - very different - maverick artists become friends.

Rosalie's wishes seem to be coming true at last, until a clumsy American professor stumbles into her store with accusations of plagiarism. Rosalie is hard pressed to know whether love or trouble is blowing through her door these days, but when in doubt, she knows that Paris is Always a Good Idea when one is looking for the truth and finding love.

As one customer aptly put it in her review on Amazon, “Reading this book is a GREAT idea.” I concur.

paris is always a good idea pic

If you are like me and have never had the pleasure of visiting Paris, then you probably have a stack of travel books and travel fiction as tall as the Eiffel Tower. Not to mention ones with the word “Paris” in the title. Queue my NON-reluctance to read JUST ONE MORE book set among the most romantic city in the world.

Reading Paris Is Always a Good Idea is like unwrapping a Dove chocolate, popping it on your tongue, and letting it melt in your mouth. Seriously. This book is a sweet literary luxury that will warm you up like a rich, velvety cup of hot chocolate. The story was atmospheric and romantic with the perfect touch of sentimentality.

The three main characters of the novel all come together by chance giving this book the feel of one of those magical films starring Audrey Tautou. Rosalie, the female MC, is personable and the most likable character of the story. A lovely painter and postcard shop owner, she embodies what it is to be living the perfect Parisian life.

And as if the dreamy story world were not enough to make me starry eyed, the introduction of an intellectual idealist- a delicious Professor close to Rosalie’s age- enters the picture, rather chaotically, and adds another fun dimension to this synchronistic tale.

Although the story is quite predictable, it is only in the best way. It provides intense satisfaction seeing all of the  pieces fall into place as you had expected them to.

This book is a quick read that would be perfectly paired with a lazy afternoon and a snuggly reading spot.

Some of the scenery that came to mind while reading this book:

Paris is Always a Good Idea- Audrey Hepburn

 

Paris is Always a Good Idea- Audrey Hepburn by jeanine65 featuring a garden picture

Setting the Mood:

This book will make you want to sink into a plush velour chair or blanket surrounded by white Christmas lights with a mix of Edith Piaf and Carla Bruni playing in the background.


One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
The Secrets of Midwives by Sally HepworthThe Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
Published by St. Martin's Griffin, St. Martin's Paperbacks Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

A novel about three generations of midwives (a woman, her mother, and her grandmother) and the secrets they keep that push them apart and ultimately bind them together

THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES tells the story of three generations of women devoted to delivering new life into the world—and the secrets they keep that threaten to change their own lives forever. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?

Check out another fantastic book I reviewed that centers around midwifery HERE.

 Here’s a vague, three run-on sentence long history of delivering babies: 

Skilled women helped other women deliver their babies and would pass the torch of ”mystical delivery” down to other women because, after all, a woman knows how women things work better than a man. Fast forward to the nineteenth century and the medical field becomes ”professionalized” and the field of gynecology was invented in which ONLY MEN  were allowed to seek professionalization in. After this, midwives began to be demonized and were called ”witch doctors” and were looked upon by the male dominated medical profession as incompetent, ignorant busy bodies that had no right delivering babies even though they had been successfully doing it for centuries. 

Check out the engrossing BBC series Call the Midwives on Netflix.
Check out the engrossing BBC series Call the Midwife on Netflix.

A few years ago (heck, maybe even a few months ago), I would never have imagined myself being remotely interested in a story with midwifery as its vehicle. But it seems like midwifery and midwives in general have been making a comeback over the past decade, not only in real-life, but also in the entertainment industry. A good question to explore would be why this is happening. Why are more and more women turning to birthing centers that employ nurses and skilled midwives and turning to at home births instead of state-of-the-art hospitals with M.D.s?

Would you have a home birth?
Would you have a home birth? Click on the picture for an informative read about Modern Day Midwifery.

To answer and explore this question with the attention it deserves, I would have to write a dissertation for this blog post. So, instead, I will leave you some questions to ponder on your own (for those of you who are interested): How has the medical industry (in America) changed over the past two decades? How does access to healthcare impact the way women choose to deliver their babies? And what new information, documentaries, etc. have been released over the past decade that may have heavily influenced the way mothers-to-be have approached child birth? 

Okay, moving on to my review of Sally Hepworth’s The Secrets of Midwives now, lol.

In short, I loved it. I ended up reading it in a couple of sittings because it was fascinatingly informative and had a mystery at the heart of it. The social set-up and dynamic between the characters reminded me of the film How To Make An American Quilt, only this novel was way more entertaining.

This widely popular documentary appeared on Netflix in 2008 and created a movement of women who turned away from hospital births and reinvigorated the Midwife movement.

Business of Being Born

The story revolves around three generations of women and switches off between their perspectives. I thought this would be confusing at first, but it is clearly queued and so well done. I had no problem following their individual story lines in addition to the main story line.

The three women characters were fun, entertaining, and well crafted. I finished this book wishing I had these ladies as friends of my own, or the kind of friendship that they had with each other. The peripheral male characters were the perfect addition to the story to give it just the right amount of intrigue and… male-ness (?) LOL.

The Secrets of Midwives is a humorous, heart-warming, emotionally complex story full of laugh-out-loud, intimate, and watery-eyed moments. A satisfying and quick read that left me wanting to Amazon Prime all of Sally Hepworth’s other novels. Young Adult, mother, grandmother, daughter, husband- I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an entertaining yet meaningful novel.

Do you have an interesting birthing story? Would you ever deliver your baby at home with a midwife? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below!

Just for fun:

This is an attention-grabbing film about hippie women in the 1970s teaching themselves to be Midwives. Click on the photo of the film to watch a preview of Birth Story on YOUTUBE. Birth Story

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. HarnettThe Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett
Published by St. Martin's Griffin, St. Martin's Paperbacks, St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Books on May 13, 2014
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the Black Lung stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet. Inspired by real-life events in now-infamous Centralia and the equally devastated town of Carbondale, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place.

“We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet.”

The synopsis of this book is the kind that plants little hooks inside my historically minded brain and pulls on it. Especially the part of my brain that loves hauntingly atmospheric settings set among neglected snapshots of American history.

The below picture is what first came to mind when I read that the story setting was in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania. I immediately imagined the coal mining children of the early 1900s then realized that Harnett’s novel is set in the 1960s.

Penn boy miners

 

Close your eyes and imagine you live in a half-deserted town that has abandoned coal mines scattered about and end-of-the-world sized cracks in the ground with what looks like the steamy breath of hell seeping through them. That’s the story setting. Part of me was really wishing that this had been a full-fledged horror novel. There are, indeed, some horrific moments and they are presented in that strange and spellbinding way that leaves you questioning what exactly ‘just happened’.

 

Centralia 2Centralia 1Centralia 3

Pictures of the town of Centralia from brave tourists.

Brutal and raw in its telling, the book deals with a murder mystery, a family curse and the adolescence of the book’s narrator, Brigid Howley.  I enjoyed how these plot lines were woven through the story of Brigid’s personal experiences. While I sympathized with Brigid, I cannot say I enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes. It was utterly depressing and the supporting characters are so dramatically flawed that I found myself feeling rage on more than one occasion. I found it particularly meaningful in how the book presented the Irish-American family’s ”curse”. This thread of the story highlighted the importance behind words and beliefs and how a child can interpret the careless words of adults in damaging ways.

The Hollow Ground has been compared to To Kill A Mocking Bird and a Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve read both of those books (it’s been a LONG while) and I understand the comparison, but those were not the associations this book conjured for me. There are adult themes of abuse, alcoholism and violence that are presented in a much more raw way than what I remember from TKAM and ATGIB. I think those comparisons are aimed at a specific audience and as someone who reads all over the charts, I found myself comparing The Hollow Ground to Victorian era classic literature and a Young Adult novel (strange, I know).  If I had to compare this book to others, I would say it’s a mix between a Thomas Hardy novel and a Cat Winter’s novel.

The author has done an amazing job of capturing the coming-of-age voice of Brigid Howely and has painted the story world in a way that the reader knows it’s the 1960s but feels like the little town of Centralia, PA is stuck in an ominous time-warp, still holding on to the early 20th century. I would recommend this book for the author’s lovely writing alone, but also recommend it for those who like to read about tucked away tragedies in small, creepy towns.

Here’s an interesting documentary on the town of Centralia if you are intrigued by its history after reading The Hollow Ground like I was:

 

And just for fun:

Here’s a creepy little video comparing Centralia to Silent Hill, the creepy-ass video game that has given me nightmares since teen-hood, lol. (If you don’t care about the full backstory, you can skip in to 2:30 to see the drive through town footage.)

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Girl on the Golden Coin by Marci JeffersonGirl on the Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson
Published by St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Books on February 11, 2014
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | iBooks
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.

Are you a fan of Historical Fiction? Then join me and others in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!

I read a ton of European Historical Fiction/Romance and general History but I have to admit, my reading experience with the Stuart era has been nil until the past year. What inspired me to delve into literature on King Charles I and II was a lovely blog I follow called The Seventeenth Century Lady. You can find all sorts of information on the 17th Century and “The Merry Monarch” on this historian’s/author’s website.

Frances Stuart gracing the Britannia.
Frances Stuart gracing the Britannia.

Girl on the Golden Coin was a rich and addictive story about Frances Stuart, a woman who became King Charles II’s biggest weakness. Marci Jefferson presents the fascinating Frances Stuart in a narrative rich with all the romantic suspense and scandal of a Harlequin Romance. The gloriously fleshed out historical atmosphere and fully realized characters kept me captivated beyond the page. There were a few surprising and sensuous gems of passion and romance embedded in this story, making for a very compelling read.

Below is an aria, Dido’s Lament,  from a composition by Henry Purcell that became popular around the same time that Frances Stuart’s story begins. Patricia Petibon’s rendition of this aria and her music video are so haunting and perfect for what I imagined Frances to be feeling on the darker days of her tumultuous life. Frances Stuart was remembered; her face never being forgotten while it graced the Golden Coin.

I had a love/hate relationship with most of the historical characters in this novel. I could not make up my mind if I ”saw” Frances Stuart in a flattering light or not. I honestly feel on the fence about her after reading Girl on The Golden Coin. Frances basically let herself be used as a political-prostitute-pawn in a game between two Kings (Louis XIV and Charles II), but we see that she chose this path as the lesser of two evils. She could risk living her life in ruin and having disastrous family secrets exposed, or, betrayed by her beauty, she could play the game that many a king’s mistress before her had played and save her family from further scandal. I think I love the author even more for making me feel so conflicted about Frances Stuart.

King Charles II and Frances Stuart.
King Charles II and Frances Stuart.

What is admirable about Frances in this retelling of her life is that she wasn’t all beauty, but possessed intelligence and bravery. Frances Stuart was a victim of the era she lived in. She had to play the cards she was dealt and she played them well for the most part.

I liked how this book was formatted. I appreciated the map of France and England, and the list of characters before the story begins. This book is for the Stuart era laymen as well as the Stuart scholar. Rich historical detail and psychologically stimulating characters made Girl on the Golden Coin shine.

Here’s a fun and informative short video on The Stuart Era:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8Ho76_rk4g

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Seared With Scars (Book 2 of The 2nd Freak House Series) by C.J. ArcherSeared With Scars by C.J. Archer
Published by Self Published on July 1, 2014
Pages: 229
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

With the Master's spirit still haunting London, Charity must remain at Freak House. But the peace is shattered when Samuel's father is brutally slain by a demon on the estate. Who summoned it and why?

As some questions are answered, yet more secrets about Samuel emerge that send him hurtling toward madness. Secrets that terrify Charity and draw her inevitably closer to him. As the lies are peeled back to reveal the truth, will she be able to conquer her fears and give Samuel what he craves?

You can check out my reviews for the first Freak House Series HERE:

Freak-House-Series

and for C.J. Archer’s The Medium trilogy HERE:

Spirit-Trilogy1

My review of The Memory Keeper, The 1st book in the 2nd Freak House series can be found HERE.

memory

C.J. Archer is my go-to-author for Historical Romance and luckily for me, she puts out books faster than I can keep up with. Especially concerning the Freak House series.

The second book revolving around Charity and Samuel drove me ABSOLUTELY MAD. Like I needed to faint and be slapped awake with butler gloves only to faint again from a temper tantrum mad.

I wanted to slip into Charity’s skin and possess her thoughts and make her do naughty, naughty things….Like take Samuel up to the nearest hay loft and ravish him.

There’s a lot of romantic tension and a whopping dose of suspense added to this installment of the 2nd Freak House Series. I really enjoyed the cat and mouse game between Samuel and Charity, and was ever so wonderfully tortured by the cryptic clues that are sure to lead up to something BIG in The Edge of Darkness about Charity and Samuel’s past.

This book also left me very curious about what’s to become of Sylvia and Tommy’s ”Upstairs, Downstairs” relationship. I’m as invested in the secondary characters of this series as I am of the main ones.

Once again, C.J. Archer is a master of her craft and vibrantly captures the culture, fashion, and rhetoric of the Victorian era. Mixing the paranormal and historic with a wonderful cast of characters does it for me every time. I really enjoyed Seared With Scars and will be jumping into Edge of Darkness immediately. (C.J. likes to leave her readers on the edge of their seats…mad and drooling for the next book.) 😉

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer CoburnWe'll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer Coburn
Published by Sourcebooks on April 8, 2014
Pages: 377
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

How her daughter and her passport taught Jennifer Coburn to forget about dying and truly live

Jennifer Coburn has always been terrified of dying young. It's the reason she drops everything during the summers on a quest to travel through Europe with her daughter, Katie, before it's too late. Even though her husband can't join them, even though she's nervous about the journey, and even though she's perfectly healthy, she spends three to four weeks per trip jamming Katie's mental photo album with memories. In this heartwarming generational love story, Jennifer reveals how their adventures helped relinquish her fear of dying...for the sake of living.

If you’re like me, a Summer Vacation, or any kind of real vacation, is out of reach on a seasonal basis. Between paying for school, paying the bills, paying for my zoo, and just plain paying to live (the daily grind kind), I’m lucky if I have enough cash to go on a road trip from Houston to Austin. So, naturally, I spend all of the disposable income I just denied having on books that take me to new places. (HA!)

download

When I picked up We’ll Always Have Paris at my local B&N, my first thought was that it was going to be a knock-off or play on Casablanca. Turns out it had nothing to do with Casablanca, and as soon as I read that the narrator would be taking me to Paris, Rome AND Spain, I knew I had to read the book to satisfy my Summer wanderlust.

If you like the kind of sentimental journey a memoir can take you on, then you will love this book. Jennifer Coburn balances heavy doses of sentimentality with a certain Charles Bukowski edge, alternating between poignant moments of reflection and frank moments of confession. Humorous and heartbreaking at once, We’ll Always Have Paris explores, analyzes, and evaluates the relationship the narrator had with her parents in comparison with the relationship she is having with her very own daughter thirty-some odd years later.

Coburn’s style and story kept me mentally and emotionally engaged, giving me as many ”AHA” moments as she experiences in her memoir. I cannot recall ever enjoying a travel memoir as much as I have this one. The pacing was comfortable and I enjoyed the back-and-forth between her childhood flashbacks and present day moments with her daughter.

Depending on perspective, I think everyone who reads We’ll Always Have Paris will take away something meaningful as well as discover a little something about themselves in the process of reading it. I’ll just come out and admit it: I’m really jealz of J. Coburn’s writing style, and I wish I had written this book myself. There.

Aaaand JUST FOR FUN:

I have yet to realize my adult-hood dreams of visiting Paris, Rome or Spain outside of a book, but this is how I aspire to be/look when I DO visit Paris (minus the neurotic train-wreck part):

The_Last_Time_I_Saw_Paris_2images (1)images

The title We’ll Always Have Paris of course reminded me of The Last Time I Saw Paris, and you can watch that gem of a film gratuit here:

Soyez le bienvenu!

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Monarch Madness: The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston + GIVEAWAY!The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston
Published by St. Martin's Griffin, Thomas Dunne Books on March 25, 2014
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

"The dead are seldom silent. All that is required for them to be heard is that someone be willing to listen. I have been listening to the dead all my life."

Lilith is the daughter of the sixth Duke of Radnor. She is one of the most beautiful young women in London and engaged to the city’s most eligible bachelor. She is also a witch.

When her father dies, her hapless brother Freddie takes the title. But it is Lilith, instructed in the art of necromancy, who inherits their father’s role as Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. And it is Lilith who must face the threat of the Sentinels, a powerful group of sorcerers intent on reclaiming the Elixir from the coven’s guardianship for their own dark purposes. Lilith knows the Lazarus creed: secrecy and silence. To abandon either would put both the coven and all she holds dear in grave danger. She has spent her life honoring it, right down to her charming fiancé and fellow witch, Viscount Louis Harcourt.

Until the day she meets Bram, a talented artist who is neither a witch nor a member of her class. With him, she must not be secret and silent. Despite her loyalty to the coven and duty to her family, Lilith cannot keep her life as a witch hidden from the man she loves.

To tell him will risk everything.

Spanning the opulence of Edwardian London and the dark days of World War I, The Midnight Witch is the third novel from New York Timesbestselling author Paula Brackston.

monarch

 

Okay, so this book doesn’t technically involve a monarch BUT it does involve a Duke and Duchess, so I’ve decided to include this review and the giveaway hosted by St.Martin’s Press.

I had not had the pleasure of reading one of Paula Brackston’s books until The Midnight Witch, and I cannot believe it took me this long to get around to it.

I can’t imagine a more magical combination for a Historical Fiction lover and all around genre lover than what Ms. Brackston has merged together in this book. We have: Royalty, World War I, Witches, Ghosts, Bohemia, Romance, and CATS. ——-Yes, you read that correctly; all of those luscious elements are embodied in this book.

Lilith has two very separate lives; she’s a Duchess and she’s the head witch of her coven. A necromancer coven. Lilith’s coven communes with the dead and can bring the departed back to life and use spirits as guides and helpers. Lilith keeps her witch side under the cloak of night, but both of her worlds end up colliding in this novel. The paranormal and the mundane become inextricably linked as Lilith discovers a sinister plot that will harm those she loves most.

And then she looks up and spies Bram, and her green eyes shine, and the smile with which she greets him warms his heart. As soon as she reaches him he snatches up her hand and presses it to his lips. For a moment they stand close, without speaking, desire fizzing between them.

The romance that spans the novel is beautiful and bohemian-like. Lilith is torn between the gentelman that is right for her status, and the one that is right for her heart.

I really enjoyed Brackston’s characters, and felt like they had a familiarity to them. The way the story unfolds was reminiscent of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. The Midnight Witch had a very epic feel and pace to it. The writing was beautiful and lyrical, but I would have liked a little more of the time period to have been captured as far as what was going on outside of Lilith’s circle. The part in the summary that mentions World War I was a huge pull-factor for me, but what is captured of it in the story is not satisfying for someone who really enjoys this time period.

Overall, I really liked this book and was inspired to read more of Brackston’s work. Full of rich descriptive detail and wonderfully crafted sentences, The Midnight Witch was a pleasure to read. ENTER BELOW for a finished Paperback copy of The Midnight Witch that includes a SNEAK PEAK at Paula’s forthcoming novel, The Silver Witch!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Monarch Madness: The Queen’s Dwarf by Ella March Chase + GIVEAWAY!!!The Queen's Dwarf by Ella March Chase
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on January 21, 2014
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: the Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

It's 1629, and King Charles I and his French queen Henrietta-Maria have reigned in England for less than three years. Young dwarf Jeffrey Hudson is swept away from a village shambles and plunged into the Stuart court when his father sells him to the most hated man in England--the Duke of Buckingham.

Buckingham trains Jeffrey to be his spy in the household of Charles' seventeen-year-old bride, hoping to gain intelligence that will help him undermine the vivacious queen's influence with the king. Desperately homesick in a country that hates her for her nationality and Catholic faith, Henrietta-Maria surrounds herself with her "Royal Menagerie of Freaks and Curiosities of Nature"--a "collection" consisting of a giant, two other dwarves, a rope dancer, an acrobat/animal trainer and now Jeffrey, who is dubbed "Lord Minimus."

Dropped into this family of misfits, Jeffrey must negotiate a labyrinth of court intrigue and his own increasingly divided loyalties. For not even the plotting of the Duke nor the dangers of a tumultuous kingdom can order the heart of a man. Though he is only eighteen inches tall, Jeffrey Hudson's love will reach far beyond his grasp--to the queen he has been sent to destroy.

Full of vibrant period detail and with shades of Gregory Maguire's Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Philippa Gregory's The Queen's Fool, The Queen's Dwarf is a rich, thrilling and evocative portrait of an intriguing era

 

monarch

The Queen’s Dwarf was a completely engrossing historical tale of turmoil and  intrigue from the perspective of the cherubic, 18 inch tall Jeffrey Hudson- a spy planted in the Queen’s Menagerie of freaks.

Jeffrey Hudson, The Queen’s Dwarf, and Queen Henrietta Maria

Jeffrey Dwarf and Queen Henrietta

 

I have not read much historical biography or fiction from the reign of King Charles I, and this book was such a great introduction to the time period. The Stuart era is lushly crafted, and the author moves her characters beyond the personas we usually associate with royalty. Ella March Chase gives her characters just the right amount of depth and development, and really grabbed me on the psychological level of each of the main players.

Was I like these people? Once I stepped through this door, I would be embracing the fact that I was a grotesque, repellent as the living corpse or the aged fool who seemed constructed of nothing but bile and gristle.

Still, what did it matter what outcasts such as these thought of me? I took a bold step into the room, trying to seem confident, though my breeches were bagging. […]

“Look at the shape of him!” I heard someone murmur.

“An angelic freak,” another marveled.

“This is Jeffrey Hudson.” Will said, interrupting. “His ears may be small, but they work just fine.”

Jeffrey’s character was endearing and hypnotic. It was somewhat heartbreaking- here was the complex reality of a young man who lived his life before the palace as someone who tried to blend in and navigate the world without being squashed to death. And then of a young man who is thrust into court life as a freakish marvel and is looked at as a ”pet” or possession. I loved how the author captured the sadness and frustration of Jeffrey as a man with desires and feelings the same as any normal size person but being prevented from expressing those feelings or embracing them wholly because of his dwarfism.  I couldn’t help but feel a protectiveness towards Jeffrey by the end of the novel. I loved being inside of his head and seeing him go through the very real, very troubling situations that tested his duties to Buckingham- the devilish duke that took him away from his family and employed him as his spy-and his loyalty to the French Queen. Loyalty that Jefferey could not help but feel towards the woman he was meant to destroy because he was so beguiled by her tenderness towards him and by her naivete.

Her luminous brown eyes sank a hook in my heart. I could feel them drawing me in. I bowed, flinging off Goodfellow’s cloak, baring my ridiculousness on purpose. Laughter rose from the ladies and even the queen herself.

King Charles I, Queen Henrietta Maria, Duke of Buckingham

King Charles I(c) The Bowes Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationDuke of Buckingham King Charles I

 

It was wonderful to be shown the perspective of a commoner and what Jeffrey thought about royalty and the monarchs while living beyond the palace walls, and then how that changed once he was in the midst of it all. It’s seems everyone, including Buckingham, was much more complex and tormented than one would assume. Despite the lavish parties, entertainment, and settings, every day in court seemed like a day playing Russian Roulette. I really enjoyed how the author meticulously represented all of this through her descriptive details that encompassed much more than lovely or -freakish- facades.

 

Greenwich Palace

Greenwhich Palace ceiling

 

The pacing of the story was just right, so as to fully develop every aspect of Jeffrey’s life and experiences and the Stuart era. There were many flashbacks throughout that help us understand Jeffrey as a character, and give insight to how he suspected his dwarfism came about. I can’t wait to read another book by Ella March Chase, and I recommend The Queen’s Dwarf to any Historical Fiction fan who is interested in reading about royalty from an un-royal and unique perspective. This book is also perfect for anyone interested in the Stuart era, or anyone who wants to be swept up in a lovely interpretation and depiction of real historical figures.

Many thanks to St.Martin’s Griffin for providing me with a copy for review of this novel, and for also providing a finished paperback copy for giveaway. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only. Enter below for a chance TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Fever (Parallon #1) by Dee ShulmanFever by Dee Shulman
Series: Parallon #1
Published by Penguin Books, Razorbill on April 5, 2012
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Amazon
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

 

Two worlds. Two millennia. One love . . .

A fearless Roman gladiator.

A reckless twenty-first-century girl.

A mysterious virus unites them . . .

An inventive love story between a teenage gladiator from 152 AD and a 21st-century girl. They both contract a virus that enables them to time-travel, with electrifying results.

The Parallon Trilogy trailer from Dee Shulman’s website:

I really liked this book. On top of the eye-catching, must-own cover, the love story at the heart of Fever was beautifully woven in and out of the past and present.

Kind of how I imagined Eva.
Kind of how I imagined Eva.

 

The first part of Fever takes place in present day London with our female protagonist, Eva. Eva is characterized as a girl who is too smart for her own good. Bored by the public school system, Eva hacks one too many computers and is expelled. After this series of unfortunate events,  Eva is promptly enrolled in an exclusive private school that will allow her to indulge her love of science. This is where things start to get Doctor Who-style weird.

Below are some ruins from the day of Roman Londinium.

images (1)images (2)images

The past part of Fever takes place with heroic gladiator, Seth, in Londinium- Roman occupied London from the year 152 AD. I really fell in love with his part of the story and lost myself in it so much that when things would revert back to Eva’s time, I was a little annoyed.

How I imagined Seth Leontis, OF COURSE.
How I imagined Seth the Gladiator, OF COURSE.

But when Eva and Seth’s paths cross because of a scientific fluke, I was completely taken in. I really enjoyed their stories unfolding together. The pacing of the story was a little slow, but well worth the wait by the time we have Seth and Eva together.

The world building of Londinium was really well done and the author does an awesome job of submerging the reader in both present and past. If you’ve seen the film The Gladiator starring Russell Crow, you will be able to visualize Londinium well.

All of the scientific aspects were really interesting and not too far fetched, in my opinion. The secondary characters were fun, although I think a lot of scenes could have been cut involving them to make the story more concise. Overall, I felt fully invested in this story after the first book and I would definitely read it again despite the slow pacing. It was a refreshing read, and not like anything I’ve read recently.

And just for fun:

Your Welcome.
You’re Welcome.
You're Welcom x 2.
You’re Welcom x 2.
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFeversDark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 2, 2013
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge - but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for...

You can check out my review for Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) HERE.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Dark Triumph like I did Grave Mercy. This second book in the series was close to 200 pages shorter but seemed much longer. To be honest, it was a laborious read for me.

Dark Triumph seamlessly picks up where Grave Mercy ends, but we are now looking through Sybella’s eyes. Sybella is a contemporary of Ismae’s. She is a fellow hand maiden of death and has been trained in the same deadly arts. While both Ismae and Sybella have very dark pasts, Sybella’s is somewhat more twisted and sinister.

The things I enjoyed about this book: The writing is still as beautifully crafted as in the first book. The characters are interesting and unique. I enjoyed the in-depth descriptions of the story world.

The plot in this installment moves along much slower than the first, and it wasn’t as intriguing. Much less historical context is focused on, and I believe the author states this in her notes at the end of the book.

Kinda what I imagined Sybella like.
Kinda what I imagined Sybella like.

Let me just start with this- Sybella is not the best character to be immersed in for a 400 page book. It was quite disturbing, boring, and frustrating. BUT THIS IS JUST MY OPINION. The same things I found annoying about her might be immensely interesting to other readers.  A lot of her inner dialogue was repetitive to the point of SEVERE ANNOYANCE for me. She would be faced with a decision about something or faced with a new experience/feeling, and here we go again with, “No one can love me. I’m damaged goods.” Or, “I’m too dark and demented to love someone,” yada yada yada.

“No. There could never be anything between us… As nice as it was to have someone view me in a flattering light, I was not worthy of his true regard. ” This thought is a broken record on repeat throughout the book.

I understand it is an important theme concerning her character, but I just wanted to bitch-slap her by the end of it.

WARNING: The below part of my review is slightly spoiler-ish concerning the sub-plot.

How I imagined Beast.
How I imagined Beast.

I did enjoy the “Beauty and the Beast” romance to this book. I was actually more drawn to “Beast” the secondary character in this novel than to Sybella. Beast is one of Duval’s comrades from Grave Mercy and he is very entertaining and likable in that “big ugly teddy bear” kind of way. Part of me wished the novel had been written from his POV.

I don’t really have much more to say about this one. I know a lot of people liked this book in the series far better than the first, but I wasn’t one of them. I adored Ismae and Duval in the first book and was disappointed when I saw that the next book would not be continued from their POVs. But I totally understand how the author wanted to expand on the wonderful secondary characters she had created. I can’t wait to read Mortal Heart (hopefully soon). I hope I like it as much as Grave Mercy or even more. Have you read this trilogy? Which book was your favorite?

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)  by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 3, 2012
Pages: 549
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

I remember the first time I almost purchased Grave Mercy.

It was a fateful spring night and under a facade of calmness, I was trying to decide on a book to purchase from Target’s limited selection of YA lit as the clock clicked closer to closing time. The book I had come for was out of stock, so I scanned the section for something else that looked appealing. I HAD to have a book. Going home empty handed wasn’t an option. The book-monster needed to be fed.

The intimidating tome that was Grave Mercy stared at me from its prominent front-cover display. I read the back quickly and new it was something the historian in me would love, but I just wasn’t in the mood to commit to this brick of a book that I had heard lukewarm things about. So I went for the pretty purple covered one right next to it: Fated. You can see how that little decision turned out right here.

A treaty that causes many problems in Grave Mercy.
A treaty that causes many problems in Grave Mercy.

Over a year later, I finally ended up purchasing Grave Mercy from  B&N. When I read the story synopsis again, it was like reading it for the first time. I was so excited to dive into Grave Mercy and I thought to myself, “How the FRIG did I pass this up the first time?!”.

I really enjoyed this book. I devoured it, basically. The book-monster was very pleased. Once I read the first few chapters, the girth of the novel didn’t seem so intimidating.

An Illuminated text from 15th Century France.
An Illuminated text from 15th Century France.

The setting amongst a 15th Century Brittany/France backdrop was absolutely captivating. I have always been intrigued with the Pagan gods and Pagan rituals that were commonplace before Christianity became law in Europe, and LaFevers uses this rich history of Paganism as the backbone of her story.

A young Gabrielle Anwar as a plotting Ismae perhaps?
A young Gabrielle Anwar as a plotting Ismae perhaps?

The novel is written in first person and we are intimately acquainted with Ismae, the main character, right from the beginning. Her character continually changes throughout the novel and I really enjoyed seeing her evolve and ultimately question everything she believes by the end of the story. Ismae is an extremely likable heroine and was very exciting to live vicariously through.

I find it very delightful to imagine Cavill as Duval.
And of course I find it very delightful to imagine Cavill as Duval.

And dear Pagan gods of yore, Gavriel Duval- Ismae’s love interest- is the stuff that Disney princes are made of. If Disney made adult fairy tales. Duval is a ruggedly handsome devil with a heart of gold. There is a sarcastic, playful banter that takes place between Ismae and Duval, creating a most intoxicating slow-burn romance. Duval is the PERFECT match to Ismae’s character. He is the trifecta of Charming, Confident, and HOT. I could not get enough of Duval and Ismae together.

"Oh, my, Duval! What has come over you?!" " I can no longer resist you, Ismae. You have seduced me with your assassin charms!"
“Oh, my, Duval! What has come over you?!” ” I can no longer resist you, Ismae. You have seduced me with your assassin charms!”

The cast of supporting characters were interesting in their own right and colorfully depicted. Their story, as well as Ismae’s and Duvals is centered around the time period of Anne of Brittany’s succession, and you can read more about the historical context here.

The pacing of the novel was nice and steady. And despite its length, I never felt a lull. I imagine this book to be much like French cuisine is- a perfect blend of all the ingredients that make a book something to be savored and deliciously digested. In this sense, Robin LaFevers is a Master Chef.

Fans of Grave Mercy and books like it will also enjoy Rima Jean’s Knight Assassin. You can check out my review and casting of characters for Knight Assassin here.

Knight Assassin cover

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
The Memory Keeper (1st book of the 2nd Freak House trilogy) by C.J. ArcherThe Memory Keeper by C.J. Archer
Series: The 2nd Freak House Series #1
Published by Self Published on May 2014
Pages: 216
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Charity Evans wants nothing more than to leave her troubled past behind and start afresh. The teacher at a London school for orphans is encouraged to have her memories blocked by hypnotist Samuel Gladstone, but when they experience visions with an unknown third person, they realize the past can never be truly erased.

Now her past is returning to haunt Charity all over again.

Samuel is determined to help her, but how can a woman who trusts no man trust a hypnotist? And what dark secrets changed the charming gentleman into a desperate man who'll do anything to keep those secrets buried?

The Memory Keeper is the first book in the second Freak House series, which I love fiercely. You can check out my reviews for the first Freak House series, here.

The Romance and Mystery continue at The Frankingham Estate aka Freak House:

freak-house

The Memory Keeper picks up with Samuel and Charity’s story right where we left off at the end of the first Freak House trilogy. I was SO ATTACHED and IN LOVE with Jack and Hannah’s story in the first series that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to properly ”get into” The Memory Keeper.

But I was wrong. (What’s new?)

The Memory Keeper was enthralling. It was full of suppressed attraction and pulse-pounding games of cat and mouse. The menacing thread of mystery throughout the story kept me completely captivated. Samuel and Charity’s story has a much darker edge to it than Jack and Hannah’s from the previous Freak House books, and The Memory Keeper made for a chilling Victorian-era read.

I kinda imagined Sara Gadon as Charity, though she isn’t my perfect match. These pictures of her are not Victorian-era, but it’s all I got.

Charity has a scandalous past. Orphaned at an early age, she was forced to fend for herself by any means necessary- even if it meant becoming someone’s mistress. WE meet Charity in the first Freak House trilogy because she was child-hood friends with Jack Langley. The Memory Keeper focuses on Charity’s internal struggles with the dark memories that haunt her and her desire to be rid of them once and for all so she can move on with her life. It was both heartbreaking and intriguing to be privy to Charity’s painful past, and ultimately frustrating because of how these experiences have scarred her. We also witness the unfolding of a sinister plot that involves people from Charity’s past that threaten to ruin the new sense of self and career she has made for herself. All of this was exciting and intriguing, but I was left with one question at the end of the book: Will Charity ever be able to love a man again, let alone trust one?

I always imagine Alex Pettyfer as Samuel.

SamuelUNF.Yes, please.

Samuel. *SIGH*. Sweet, seductive, sensitive Samuel. My heart definitely beats a little faster for Samuel, but he cannot replace my love for Jack Langley. Maybe that’s because Jack from the first Freak House trilogy is just the right amount of domineering and dashing. But Samuel is debonair as ever in The Memory Keeper and he about charmed the pants right off me- no hypnotizing required. He is the same enticing character he was in the previous books, but layers of mystery and depth come together perfectly to flesh him out in this novel. I enjoyed learning more about his life before he met Charity or entered the Freak House world of characters.

As learned in the previous Freak House trilogy, Samuel has a special skill- he’s able to hypnotize people on demand just by using his voice. In The Memory Keeper, Samuel uses this skill to help Charity cope with her past but it triggers something dark in him.

The Memory Keeper felt more character driven than the previous Freak House books to me, therefore the pacing was slowed down to match this shift. Samuel only has eyes for Charity and desperately wants to be the man in her life. But as one might guess- things are complicated.

Once again, the paranormal, romantic, and mysterious combine to create an attention grabbing story. C.J. Archer’s books are ones to be savored and shared with the historical fiction and paranormal fiction lovers in your life. If you haven’t read them already, please check the first Freak House trilogy before starting The Memory Keeper.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle MoranMadame Tussuad by Michelle Moran
Published by Broadway on February 15, 2011
Pages: 446
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.
 

 

 

 

 

images

 

I’m just gonna be honest here and admit that I am a MONARCH SYMPATHIZER and I despise how the French Revolution played out. *I’m looking at YOU Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette!* Looking back safely from my cocoon of present-day democratic America, with the knowledge of all I have read on the subject, I can say with conviction that I would have been an anti-revolutionary. And that’s why I enjoyed Madame Tussaud.

Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV
Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV

 

Michelle Moran writes Madame Tussaud from a sympathizer perspective, although she refrains from completely demonizing the revolutionaries. She presents Mme. Tussaud’s story in a way that made me question if I would have played to both sides for the sake of self-preservation as well.

When people hear the name Madame Tussaud, most of them think of this:

Robert-Pattinson-Wachsfigur-New-York
Robert Pattinson cast in WAX.

 

But Michelle Moran uses words and virtuoso story-crafting to mold the captivating character and unique history of Madame Tussaud herself.

Madame Tussaud
How I imagined Marie Tussaud.

 

The narrator, Marie (Mm. Tussaud), is fleshed out on multiple psychological levels. As the reader, we experience her thoughts on business, family, loyalty, love, survival, and treason. She is a clever character, and it was so fascinating to witness the inciting events of the French Revolution through her eyes.

Marie is forced to work with the people who are plotting against the King and Queen of France, but her observations of the cunning and subterfuge of the very people who should be most loyal to the Monarchy gives her a unique perspective of the situation.

Forced to walk a fine line between allegiance to the Revolution and allegiance to her Monarchs, Marie does what she has to do in order to save her family from suspicion in a city that is bent on dethroning the King and Queen.

The story unfolds over five years, starting with the first riots of the revolution up until the notorious Reign of Terror.  The novel revolves around Marie and her family as she practices the unique art of creating wax models of beloved and notorious public figures alike; displaying them in her families shop, and living off of the income that customers pay to view the wax spectacles.

This story is a perfect balance of in-depth characters and a worms-eye view of the French Revolution. The pacing might be slow to the point of distraction for readers who are not fascinated by the nation-changing events unfolding in this time period, but it will be a worth-while  pace for those who enjoy historical fiction that is not romance-driven. While there is a small thread of romance between the MC and a family friend, it is not enough to keep those who need a strong romance in a story captivated.

Michelle Moran’s book is a feast for Historical Fiction lovers. Fact and Fiction are symbiotic in this novel and the author immersed me in 18th Century France in all of its glory and horror.

keep-calm-and-vive-la-france-17

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
The Warrior (Dante Walker #3) by Victoria Scott: Review+GIVEAWAY!!!The Warrior by Victoria Scott
Series: Dante Walker #3
Published by Entangled Teen on May 6, 2014
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

War between heaven and hell is coming, but Dante Walker makes it look damn good.

Dante’s girlfriend, Charlie, is fated to save the world. And Aspen, the girl who feels like a sister, is an ordained soldier. In order to help both fulfill their destiny and win the war, Dante must complete liberator training at the Hive, rescue Aspen from hell, and uncover a message hidden on an ancient scroll.

Dante is built for battle, but even he can’t handle the nightmares where spiders crawl from Aspen’s eyes, or the look on Charlie’s face that foretells of devastation. To make matters worse, the enemy seizes every opportunity to break inside the Hive and cripple the liberators. But the day of reckoning is fast approaching, and to stand victorious, Dante will have to embrace something inside himself he never has before—faith.

I don’t mind first endings, second endings or sad endings. But I do mind farewell endings.

There’s no one who hates the ”farewell” ending of a series more than I do.

Now, I can’t technically prove that last statement.

But I CAN prove how much I loved the Dante Walker trilogy and how much Victoria Scott’s debut series meant to me.

How can I prove this you ask? With glowing praise and reverent reviews and five-star ratings?

YES. To ALL of those things….. PLUS a pound of ass-fat.

 

It was July of 2014 and I was dragging myself through a Ripped in 30 Jillian Michael’s workout with the goal of losing some flab.  Physical exertion in the middle of a Texas summer is its own special kind of hell and all I could think about was turning off the dvd, plopping on to my cool faux-leather couch and giving into the awesome book waiting for me to finish it on my side-table.

The Warrior was calling to me. I had put off reading it long enough because I couldn’t handle the thought of my journey with Dante Walker ending and just as I was about to press the stop button on my workout, a thought popped into my head: What Would Dante Do?

Dante would get his ass to work and sweat until his balls chafed to maintain his enviable physique,  that’s what he would do! And then I thought: just like Dante’s built for battle in The Warrior, I’m built for this temporary workout hell.

I am arms for push-ups, I am legs for squat thrusts and I am abs for planks!

 

So, yeah. That’s just ONE of the ways Dante Walker changed my life. He made me drop a pant size.

This past summer, every time I felt like giving up during a workout I just asked myself: WWDD?  Or imagined him waiting to greet me at the end of my fat fry session in all of his sinfully sexy glory.

I feel a little silly sharing this story with you but Dante loves taking the credit for my firmer bum and I can’t deny him anything.

I have a crush on Victoria Scott like I have a crush on Shakespeare. The Warrior was the perfect ending to the Dante Walker series and just as potent and clever as a Shakespearean sonnet. Each scene in The Warrior had a captivating feel that would push, push, push and then pull back in the most perfect and sentimental moments between Dante and Charlie.

Charlie continues stepping backward and I continue pursuing her. Finally, I can’t take it any longer. I reach out and snatch her and make her mine. She’s my moon, and I’ve plucked her from the sky.

[…]

Her smile falls away. She turns her head to the sea. “It doesn’t seem so scary anymore.”

“What doesn’t?” I ask.

“Dying.”

The inner workings of Dante’s mind were both heartbreaking and empowering with each personal demon he fought. Victoria wrapped the soul of a poet into this egotistical bad boy and managed to shine a light through his spiritual imperfections, reforming him without losing any of the diabolical charm that won my heart in The Collector.

The battle scenes were EPIC, the subject matter was dark and the humor was perfection. The Warrior was the best farewell ending to the Dante Walker series that I could have asked for.

If you haven’t had a chance to read The Warrior yet, then enter for a chance to win a signed paperback copy below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

About Victoria Scott

Victoria Scott is a teen fiction writer represented by Sara Crowe of the Harvey-Klinger Literary Agency. She’s the author of the FIRE & FLOOD series published by Scholastic, and the DANTE WALKER trilogy published by Entangled Teen. Her first stand-alone young adult title, TITANS, will be published by Scholastic in spring 2016.

Victoria’s books have been bought and translated in eleven foreign markets including the UK, Turkey, China, Poland, Israel, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Taiwan, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. She currently lives in Dallas, and hearts cotton candy something fierce.

Crank (Crank #1) by Ellen HopkinsCrank by Ellen Hopkins
Series: Crank #1
Published by McElderry Books on October 1, 2004
Pages: 537
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the "monster," the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or "crank." Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne'er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: "there is no perfect daughter, / no gifted high school junior, / no Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree." Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won't, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank. 
Soon, her grades plummet, her relationships with family and friends deteriorate, and she needs more and more of the monster just to get through the day. Kristina hits her lowest point when she is raped by one of her drug dealers and becomes pregnant as a result. Her decision to keep the baby slows her drug use, but doesn't stop it, and the author leaves the reader with the distinct impression that Kristina/Bree may never be free from her addiction.

I had ulterior motives for reading this book. I was doing research on the correlation between drug addiction and sexual promiscuity among adolescent girls who grew up with an absentee or poor father figure.(Don’t ask.) I really wanted to read something that was structured like a novel after scouring statistical research articles about the topic, and that’s how I stumbled upon Ellen Hopkins’ work.

I would not call this book enjoyable but it’s definitely worth a read. If you or someone you know has struggled with addiction then this book might have an almost cathartic effect. It’s strangely comforting to be able to read about someone else’s POS experience with drugs/an addict and vigorously nod your head in commensurate disbelief with the author while ”watching” the narrator spiral downwards.

This book is written in verse and serves the story well after Kristina/Bree, the protagonist, starts testing the murky waters of drugs and sex. The style gives the novel a very living-for-the-next-fix-kind-of-hazy feel.

When Kristina finds herself surrounded by this ”drugs are a normal part of life” subculture while visiting her dad, she has many first experiences: drugs, alcohol and first-thru-third base to name a few.

Although the author is writing this novel based on her daughter, it never feels like she’s standing on a soap box or trying to preach about the perils of experimenting with drugs and promiscuity in high-school. Crank truly comes off as an objective sociological surveillance.

Just Before the Drop

You know how you

stand and stand and stand

in line for the most

gigantic incredible roller

                                                coaster

you’ve ever dared attempt.

Anticipation swelling,

minute by minute by minute,

you choose to wait even

longer, to ride in the front

                                               car

and finally it’s your turn.

They buckle you in, lock

the safety bar with a jolting clunk!

Hook engaged, the chain jerks

you forward. You start to

                                                 climb

crank-crank-crank.

Cresting the top, time

moves into overtime

as you wait for that scant

hesitation, just before you

                                               drop

knowing you can’t turn back.

You know how you feel

at that instant? Well, that’s

exactly how it feels when you

shake hands with the

                                              monster.

 

Crank is an anxiety-filled, sometimes gut-wrenching story of a girl who loses her worldly-innocence and the people around her that couldn’t see she needed help until her addiction and bad-judgement irrevocably change her life forever. It’s not fun reading, but I think teens and parents would both benefit from reading it. Have you read Crank or any other books by Ellen Hopkins or similar books by other authors? What were your thoughts?

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth EulbergRevenge of the Girl With the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg
Published by Point on March 1, 2013
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarHalf a Star

Don't mess with a girl with a great personality!

Everybody loves Lexi. She's popular, smart, funny...but she's never been one of those girls, the pretty ones who get all the attention from guys. And on top of that, her seven-year-old sister, Mackenzie, is a terror in a tiara, and part of a pageant scene where she gets praised for her beauty (with the help of fake hair and tons of makeup).

Lexi's sick of it. She's sick of being the girl who hears about kisses instead of getting them. She's sick of being ignored by her longtime crush, Logan. She's sick of being taken for granted by her pageant-obsessed mom. And she's sick of having all her family's money wasted on a phony pursuit of perfection.

The time has come for Lexi to step out from the sidelines. Girls without great personalities aren't going to know what hit them. Because Lexi's going to play the beauty game - and she's in it to win it.

This book made me feel embarrassed to be a Texan. It reminded me of every time I cringe when I see a national commercial showing guys and gals wearing cowboy hats and Wranglers, driving out to their Texas ranches in their Chevy trucks at five a.m. It’s why my cousins in New York can’t believe I drive a Honda and don’t raise cattle for a living. I feel like Texas was demonized in this novel, but I get it. My state has a high-concentration of big moms with big dreams that were never fulfilled, and by God they will be fulfilled through their children by dressing them up like 40-year-old call girls. If you loved the movie Little Miss Sunshine or still can’t flip past an episode of Honey Boo Boo on television, than this book might be for you.

Average high-school girl, Lexi, with divorced parents lives with her total biotch of a mother and seven-year-old sister, Mackenzie, who gets all the attention because mom is living out her pageant fantasies vicariously through said seven year-old.

Honey boo boo mom

I can appreciate what the author was going for in this book, although she doesn’t quite hit the mark in my opinion. The humor is there but any satisfaction from revenge isn’t, which sucks because that’s what I was mostly looking forward to.

High-school romance is more of an after-thought in this story. I went into Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality thinking some kind of epically satisfying ”dork-girl-gets-a-makeover-and-wins-popular-guy’s-affections-who-secretly-has-a-heart-of-gold” was going to play out like in one of my fave films from the 90’s, She’s All That, and there’s a little bit of that in this book, but just not enough to give you butterflies.

The exploration of familial relationships and self-image are definitely the strong points in this book and I appreciate how the author shows the difficulties of divorce on a family. The author does a great (and comedic) job of characterizing the protagonist’s mother and little sister who are pulled straight from the pages of Toddlers and Tiaras or Dance Moms.

Overall, I was kind of entertained by the book. I was mostly bored in between comical scenes and the sporadically clever dialogue. My rating doesn’t reflect how I felt about the content of the book, just how I felt about the way in which it was delivered. I feel like it just plain should have been better. I’m guessing most people will either love or hate this book. It was mediocre for me and I can’t say that I felt strongly about it on either side of the the love/hate spectrum. I do love me a nice lipstick-y cover, though.

Here’s one of my favorite parts in the book that made me LOL because I have seen the Honey Boo Boo episode the author pulled her inspiration from:

Mackenzie starts getting antsy, which is completely understandable since she’s been sitting in that chair for over an hour. That’s difficult at any age. And it probably doesn’t help that she had a Cherry Coke and a chocolate donut for breakfast.

“You want your special juice?” Mom asks Mac.

I literally bite my tongue as Mom gives Mac an energy drink. I once decided to taste it and it was disgusting. There’s no way something that people drink at raves is good for a seven-year-old. But they practically sell the stuff in bulk on days like today. I guess I should be grateful Mom hasn’t busted out the sugar sticks. It’s only a little after eight in the morning, after all. Straight sugar is usually given right before the talent competition.

 

One StarOne StarHalf a Star
Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck: Review+Giveaway!Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck
Published by Penguin Books on March 4, 2014
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future.…

That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will.…

Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life.

“Lovers of the Jazz Age, literary enthusiasts, and general historic fiction readers will find much to love about Call Me Zelda. Highly recommended.” –Historical Novel Society, Editors’ Choice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first-fig

I was in a poetry rut. Shakespeare, Keats, Wordsworth and Wadsworth, Hesse, Byron, The Brownings: I was familiar with them all on a quotable level. I needed a new poetic fix and ended up running my index finger along the spines of paperback books in the poetry section at a Barnes and Noble store in Austin, Texas.

Edna St. Vincent Millay. It was that name that made me pause. There was just something about it. I tipped the book off of the shelf and opened to a random page. The poem I opened up to was The Philosopher. I read it quickly and was a voracious fan by the second verse. I wanted everything I could find by or on Millay.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I read Savage Beauty, a biography on Edna St.Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford next. Erica Robuck draws some of her inspiration and facts for Fallen Beauty from this source. I searched the internet for any fiction or films based on the Jazz-Age Bohemian poet but came up with nothing except the IMDB page for a documentary on Millay that was started a few years back. It has yet to be released.

When I saw an ad for Fallen Beauty on Goodreads I thought, “Finally! Some literary fiction starring Edna St. Vincent Millay!” I’m so happy that Erika Robuck filled the gap and gave all fans of the controversial poet a little piece of scandalous heaven in this book.

The story of Fallen Beauty is familiar enough: a small town girl named Laura gets pregnant, is unwed, and is socially crucified while forced to raise her baby alone. Soon Laura finds herself barely able to pay the bills or keep food on the table for her and her child. That is, until Millay discovers Laura and asks her to create her wardrobe for her upcoming poetry reading tours.

Dress worn by poet Edna St. Vincent Millay
Dress worn by poet Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

She placed her small hand on the book. “Laura, this is exquisite.”

“I wanted to conjure the recurring images of the moon and the night in this one,” I said, running my fingertips over the silver cape trimmed in pearls and lined in pale blue.”

Laura takes a risk accepting the patronage of a poetess that the town refers to as a witch and a wanton. But Laura has already been living on the fringes of society since having a child out of wedlock, and feels like she’s doing what she must to provide for her child. Laura begins to visit the poet on her hill top manor, away from the judging eyes of the town.

“Their eyes never leave,” said the poet. “Their eyes are your eyes, your conscience reflected back at you. They never leave, but down there you can blame them. You can live with it. Up here you can blame only yourself.”

The plot unfolds like the best kind of opera. It’s a sometimes troubling but fully engaging run of things after Laura lets herself enter Millay’s fold. Erika Robuck cleverly shows how some people do their scandalous living on the outside while some do it on the inside. Entertaining parallels are drawn between Laura, the poet, and other townsfolk. The characters are like a concentrated dose of poetry themselves. They are beautifully fleshed out with relevant emotions and show us the best and worst of the human spirit. The author’s writing poured life force into the psychology and physicality of all the characters featured in this book.

Eve has long been crucified for her great folly, for showing us what sin was, but without it, could we know beauty? Can we fully appreciate the summer without the winter? No, I am glad to suffer so I can feel the fullness of our time in the light.

Robuck’s prose is alluring and potent, much like Millay was. After reading about Edna in Savage Beauty, I was conflicted about how I felt about the poet as a person.  Some people might find Edna St.Vincent Millay a hard person to like in fact and fiction. She lived her life in a way that seemed utterly self-serving. She devoured people, men and women alike, for creative fuel and inspiration for her writing. I’m still torn on how I feel about Edna after reading Fallen Beauty but Erika Robuck put into words perfectly the conflicted, obsessive swell of emotions that made Millay who she was. She painted a detailed picture of the bad and good qualities that transfixed so many of Millay’s contemporaries, friends and lovers. I was completely absorbed in how Erika played the fictional character, Laura, off of the real character, Edna, and gave them both something to love and despise in each other.

Even readers who are not familiar with Edna St. Vincent Millay will be able to enjoy this story. It has the same sentimental, sienna-toned feeling that Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife has. While reading Fallen Beauty, I kept thinking about how well it would translate into a made for television movie or a mini-series. It would be pure magic to see Edna and all her fire-y, consuming glory come to life on film, and Laura’s seamstress shop and sewing creations on screen. After reading Fallen Beauty, I purchased Hemingway’s Girl and Call Me Zelda, also by Erika Robuck. She’s just that kind of story teller- you’ll want to own everything she writes.

April may be designated Poetry Month but you can enjoy poetry all year long with these cool FREE phone apps provided by the Poetry FoundationInstant Poetry and Poetry Daily. In honor of Poetry month, I’m giving away a copy of Fallen Beauty and a books of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay to ONE LUCKY WINNER. Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
The Distance Between Us by Kasie WestThe Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Published by Harper Teen, HarperCollins on July 2, 2013
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed From A Friend
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

There’s nothing like meeting the man of your dreams…. at a doll store.

Caymen Meyers lives above and works in a porcelain-doll store owned by her mother, tucked away in quiet, wealthy town. In RL we all know that anyone that lives and works with creepy dolls would be possessed or psychotic, but this is fiction so Caymen is a smart, down-to-earth, functional young lady. She has an extremely dry and sarcastic sense of humor. I connected with that trait and found Caymen to be an immensely entertaining character.  Caymen has never known her father and her and her mother have been struggling to make ends meet. Their seriously niche business isn’t bringing in enough to pay the bills every month but it’s definitely bringing in the boys.

 

creepy ass dolls
Creepy-ass dolls. I could have gone scarier but didn’t for my sake.

 

Cue the Meet-Cute.

The story starts out with a handsome rich guy named Xander Spence wandering into Dolls and More with his ear glued to his cell phone.  I found this to be humorous and Caymen did as well. I mean sure, it might sound sexist, but put a guy in the middle of a doll store by himself and it looks funny. Tangents aside, this is where the magic begins.

After their unique first meeting, what unfolds between Caymen and Xander is warm and sweet like Godiva chocolate melted down for hot cocoa….plus marsh mellows. I really, really, really enjoyed the time spent in the novel between Caymen and Xander getting to know each other. It brought back the kind of butterflies that you only get when you’re in high-school and are in the delicious purgatory of ”not sure if you’re just friends or something more.”  The romantic tension that builds between these two from supposedly different worlds was spot on. The author gives us enough back story to make the reader care about the two main characters but I wish it would have went a little deeper on Xander’s side. I will admit that there were a couple of times that I found Caymen’s thought process on the annoying side but thankfully the author resolves those issues in the story.

I have a peeve about character names that sound pretentious or weird for the sake of wanting to be ”original”. I thought I was going to have that issue with this book but to my relief, I didn’t. I warmed up to the characters immediately and we get a story behind Xander’s name that makes it all better. I do not recall hearing what Caymen’s namesake was but I just rolled with it because the author addresses Caymen’s name with some jokes and funny dialogue.

I was able to get a clear image of the town the story was set in and all the places the characters spent time in. This book was like watching a Nicholas Sparks movie….but better….and not as sad. I would recommend this book to any fan of contemporary romance done in a very easy-going way. Witty dialogue,  great build up, and a really sweet connection left me wanting more from Caymen and Xander’s story after the novel ended.

This book was a nice pallet cleanser as my friend Kristen would say. It’s light, smart, and sweet. A great in-between if you are in a reading rut or have been reading heavier books. This book explores the stereotypical thoughts we may have about people that are different than us-people that come from a different social class- thus exploring the distance between not just Caymen and Xander, but Caymen and her family as well. I could definitely see myself reading this book again just for the fun of it.

 

I hope this isn’t what Caymen has to come home to after a night out with her friends…

Hi, Caymen. Mamma has me now.
Hi, Caymen. Mamma has me now.
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
After Eden by Helen DouglasAfter Eden by Helen Douglas
Published by Bloomsbury on November 7, 2013
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Add to your Goodreads TBR shelf.
Purchase Links: Amazon
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she's hooked. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So why doesn't he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he's taking in her.

As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.

 

 

 

 

 

I have reddish-brown hair and the palest skin that blushes fiercely, all the way from my chest to my forehead.

Eden is our main chick and she shares her name with a couple of other things besides the title in this tale of time travel and romance.  I found her to be a sensible and likable character; a fair skinned beauty who makes the same mistake most  high school girls make by underestimating herself. She’s observant and thoughtful, and these qualities resonated with me.

The Eden Project
The Eden Project

 

I looked at his eyes: brown. Not muddy brown or coffee brown or dirty brown. His eyes were all-the-colors-of-autumn-leaves brown. They were the most beautiful eyes I had ever looked at, and they were looking at me with amusement.

Ryan, the male MC, is our boy from the future and I’m not gonna lie; I have a crush on him. Helen Douglas describes his breezy good looks and charm in a way that evoked memories of my high school crush (one of the many). I enjoyed Ry’s interactions with Eden and was frustrated that this first book (in what I’m assuming is a trilogy/series from its Goodreads page) didn’t contain more one-on-one action between these high school hotties.

Bella and Edward

Do me. “How old are you?”

I have a problem with comparing things to Twilight. This is no exception.

Eden pieces together clues about Ryan in Twilight-esque fashion until she figures him out.  Eden confronts Ryan like Bella confronts Edward, but instead of asking How old are you?, she asks When are you from?

Eden: You’ve already left school. No wonder you keep getting top marks in all of your English assignments.

Ryan: Brilliant. I tell you I’m from the future and you’re annoyed that I’m better than you at English.

This story has elements that reminded me of All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, but it’s written like one of those long short stories you find in Vogue or Cosmo. After Eden left me wanting more, so that’s a compliment to the author. It was a fun and interesting idea that would have been served well by a hundred extra pages. To make a long story short,  Helen Douglas impressed me with what she presented .  Her writing style is clear and concise without any flowery words or cluttered sentences. There were some thoughts and emotions conveyed by Ryan and Eden in this story that struck a chord with me despite their simplicity:

Falling in love had changed everything. […] My old life seemed like a whisper in the face of a roar. I couldn’t live my old life anymore. I picked up the pieces and shoved them back in the box.

This story has great fan fiction possibilities and I’m tempted to write some. Helen Douglas did her characters justice within the 279 pages of this novel. I got a strong sense of their personalities and backgrounds and what each character’s motivations were. The true antagonist cleverly remains elusive until near the end of this book and adds an exciting twist to the plot. I would rec’ this book to any Sci-Fi lover that needs a mental vacay. I’m eager to see how Helen will continue Eden and Ryan’s story.

I like this cover better.
I like this cover better.

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star