Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Review: Life After Life

“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” – Edward Beresford Todd

The quotes that preface Life After Life by Kate Atkinson set the stage for an epic, heart wrenching, beautifully written novel. Seriously, there are a bevy of superlatives I can use here. The book is that good.

Life After Life revolves around Ursula and follows her from birth as she lives, breathes and dies again and again and again. For Ursula, dying is a reboot and her chance to make corrections. At the beginning, this concept is a bit confusing for the reader (and for Ursula, as well) but Atkinson lets you learn and understand the loopy life of Ursula’s just as Ursula learns and understands.

The reader is privy to the many causes and consequences that shape a person’s life and also the different outcomes of change. It’s an amazing way to pose the question, “If you knew then what you know now, what would you change?”

The story begins in 1910 with Ursula’s birth and spans decades. Ursula and her family deal with the many changes that occur during that time in England, the most prominent of which is WWII, which is perhaps the second major character in Life After Life.

In truth, so many changes were happening in Europe, and England had a front row seat in the beginning, then declaring war as Hitler invaded Poland. What I appreciated here is Atkinson’s skill to infuse so much historical fact but it’s done so sneakily the reader is none the wiser. It’s all told as Ursula lives out her lives in various places of Europe. Her experiences and roles are as varied as the imagination. What an amazing ability to give the reader multiple assessments of the same horrible war and all told from the same person so there are no variances of opinion! Ursula is Ursula, through and through no matter where she is and what situation she’s in this lifetime.

My only complaint is one that would spoil the book so I won’t write it. Let’s just say that I wish the book was longer than its 529 pages so we can get a bit more lives out of this brave girl.

Ursula and her story together are unforgettable. I’d like to say that her character was unforgettable on her own, but without her rebirths she would not be as interesting as other characters I’ve read. She definitely has depth and as a reader I empathized with her over and over again but of course, her lives are told repeatedly so I couldn’t get too wrapped up in a good or bad lifetime. There’ll be another.

Atkinson has created a real gem here and I would love to give this book 5 stars, but again, the emotional connection was a bit lacking. Therefore, I am giving Life After Life a very strong 4 stars. Please read this book!

For more on Kate Atkinson, check her website here.

This book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and most retail stores. If you’re lucky, you can score one from your library like I did

Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Review: Relentless by Cassia Leo


Book One in the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling series.

"Sometimes letting someone go is the ultimate act of love."

Claire Nixon is a college student with a past full of secrets and heartbreak.

 At seven years old, the death of her mother by drug overdose destroys her faith in humanity and herself as she is tossed from one foster home to another. Feeling unwanted and disposable, she fights to keep herself safe in the system. Until, at the age of fifteen, she is saved by her first love, and soon-to-be rock star, Chris Knight and his mother, who quickly becomes the mother she always wanted. 

When Claire encourages Chris to leave town to pursue his dreams of musical stardom, both Claire and Chris don't realize this will be the biggest mistake of their lives.

One year after Chris leaves on tour, Claire has carved out a new life for herself in a new city far away from the life she left behind with Chris. On a fateful morning, she meets sexy surfer Adam Parker. 

To Claire, Adam is just another flirty customer at the cafe, until a chance encounter and seemingly innocent comment spurs a bet between them. The bet is simple: If Adam can get Claire to reveal the secret that made her drop out of college and leave her life behind, she has to re-enroll. If he doesn't succeed, she gets to keep her secret and he has to stop stalking her at the cafe.

Claire thinks she has this one in the bag. She's perfected the art of forgetting her past. But she isn't prepared for Adam's relentless pursuit or for him to share his own secrets. And she's definitely not prepared for the love of her life, Chris Knight, and her secret, to come banging down her door one year later.

Jenny's Review: started Relentless by Cassia Leo on my way to work. I finished it by the time I got home. Sneaking in time during work, reading on my lunch, taking longer than usual breaks.To say that this book was a page turner is an understatement. So many twist and turns. And when you think that you have something figured out, it throws you for a complete loop.At times, I could literally feel Claire's pain.  The writing was beautifully done.

Claire is a complicated character. She breakup with the love of her life, Chris, so he can fulfill her dream of being a musician. Plagued my guilt, she uses meditation as a coping mechanism. At time I wondered what was the horrible thing that she did that caused her so much pain. And let me tell, what happened between her and Chris comes out of left field. Of all the possible scenarios that I thought of, that was not one of them. I l literally gasped when I found out Claire's secret. Claire also finds out something from her mother's past, that left me in tears. It makes you wonder how someone can deal with so much hurt.

I absolutely loved Adam. He's also dealing with his own guilt but he somehow manages to break Claire from her shell and help her learn how to love and trust again. He was funny, witty, and amusing. Despite his own pain, he's willing to understand Claire and patient with her, which I loved. You still have a  feeling
that there is a lot more beneath Adam's surface, especially in regards to his relationship with his father.

And Chris, I mean, whoa, is he intense. He only makes a brief appearance in the book, but already you can tell that he will be a lot of the drama in the second book.

The novel didn't exactly leave with a cliffhanger, put it did leave you with a lot of questions, I can't wait to start book 2.

 About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she's not writing, she spends way too much time watching old reruns of Friends and Sex and the City. When she's not watching reruns, she's usually enjoying the California sunshine or reading--sometimes both.

Connect with the Author:

Facebook   Twitter  Blog    Goodreads

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review: Call Me Zelda

Call me Zelda by Erika Robuck is a moving story about Anna, a psychiatric nurse who becomes engrossed in the lives and family of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald as she tries to help Zelda with her emerging mental illnesses. It touches on many elements including marriage inequality, family dynamics, friendship and love as well as dementia. Anna’s role in Zelda and the Fitzgerald’s life is ever changing and somehow, she has to learn to heal their wounds while battling her own demons.

Robuck has done an excellent job of educating the reader about the Fitzgeralds and their fame and notoriety from its peak of the 1930’s to the late 1940’s. They are depicted as artistically gifted while completely dysfunctional in their marriage.

Zelda’s character is forced to deal with her husband’s demands while trying to create a more mature role instead of just Scott’s “flapper wife.” Unfortunately, her unstable and overexcited mind can’t marry her independant thinking with her reality of being married to Scott, whom she believes only wants her to have an identity related to him.

At the core of the book is the relationship of Zelda and Anna. They feed off of each other in a very parasitic-host way. Zelda needs affirmations while Anna needs a project to take her mind off of her own problems. Her brother, Peter, warns her throughout the story to not get sucked into the Fitzgerald’s madness but their cause is one she doesn’t want to escape from, and she knows it.

I really felt for Zelda in this book as much as she did to make those around her cringe, the reader is privy to her softer moments as seen through Anna’s eyes. Her lucid moments seem to make Anna’s day but her low points can make you loathe her. I wondered why Anna would take the abuse but Robuck sets up Anna in an compassionate light and it’s understandable why she would wish to sublimate her own life for someone else’s.

My main gripe with this book is that Anna is so obsessed with Zelda that there’s not much mention of anything else. The time period being the 1930’s to the 1940’s and so many other things were going on in the world. Prohibition gets a mention only when related to the Fitzgerald’s. There is reference to WWI and Anna serving as a nurse at the time. The later parts of the book during 1948 and there’s really slight mentions of WWII at all. The story is supposed to be based somewhat on reality so a bit more world history (or any other history than the Fitzgerald’s) would have been refreshing.

Also, Zelda’s psychoses is a huge part of the book but aside from painting and writing, Anna doesn’t really do much to help Zelda’s mental health. Again, she gets sucked into their world and loses sight of what her main role is in the household. She becomes more of a babysitter / confidant than a healer.

Overall, I appreciated this book and the literature lesson hidden in the story. It’s apparent that Robuck has done her homework here and really researched her subjects to the point that the book feels very autobiographical, rather than fiction. Of course, she has had prior knowledge on her subjects. Her last book, Hemingway’s Girl, revolves around Ernest Hemingway, another famous writer of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Hemingway is referenced several times in Zelda, as well.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and rate this book a 3 / 5 stars.

To purchase this book, here's an Amazon and Barnes and Nobles link.

Check here for more information about Erika Robuck and her other works.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Notable Free e-Books

Hello Fellow Fiction Fans!  Here’s a roundup of some free e-books that have at least a 4 star rating and are over 300 pages.  I’ve listed books from several genres so hopefully you all go out an download at least one of these freebies. 

Misery Loves Company by Rene Gutteridge

Don’t tell me it’s terrifying. Terrify me.
Filled with grief, Jules Belleno rarely leaves the house since her husband’s death while on duty as a police officer. Other than the reviews Jules writes on her blog, she has little contact with the outside world.

But one day when she ventures out to the local grocery store, Jules bumps into a fellow customer . . . and recognizes him as her favorite author, Patrick Reagan. Jules gushes and thoroughly embarrasses herself before Regan graciously talks with her.

And that’s the last thing she remembers—until she wakes up in a strange room with a splitting headache. She’s been kidnapped. And what she discovers will change everything she believed about her husband’s death . . . her career . . . and her faith.

Kiss of Fire (Imdalind Series # 1) by Rebecca Ethington

Joclyn Despain has been marred by a brand on her skin. She doesn't know why the mark appeared on her neck, but she doesn't want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won't let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.

The scar is the reason she is being hunted.

If only she knew that she was.

If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air.

Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; only he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.

Kiss of Fire is a Clean Young-Adult Paranormal Romance
Language: Low to None
Violence: Mild to Moderate
Sexual Content: Low to None

India, the beautiful and headstrong sister of Come the Night's hero, Luc Delamere, fell in love with the rakish Devlyn Carlisle when they were just children. Innocent love bloomed into deepest passion when they reconnected as adults. But soon after the two are joined in a secret wedding bond, the Napoleonic Wars tear them apart. Then, betrayed by a comrade-in-arms, Devlyn is pronounced dead.

India swears to continue her life alone, without the only love she's ever known. But now he's back -- with the cold eyes of a stranger. Plunged deep into the mystery to discover who betrayed Devlyn, India vows to make the lost earl remember all they once shared, no matter how dangerous to her reputation -- and her heart.

Come the Dawn is of notable mention because there are links to other free books available and though the date says August 26, 2013 as the last day to download for free, they are still $0.00 at the time of posting!  Of the four listed, only Savage Deception is over 300 pages.   If you’re into shorter works, check out the others, as well.

THE WARRIOR'S MAIDEN by Denise Domning (medieval)
KNIGHT'S CARESS by Lynette Vinet (medieval) 
SAVAGE DECEPTION by Lynette Vinet (revolutionary war) -
BRIDE OF A STRANGER by Jennifer Blake (gothic; 1800s) -

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

I had the pleasure of renting Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen from my local library.  I was on a waitlist so it took over a week but it was well worth it.  Bad Monkey is a funny crime drama about an ex-cop, a severed arm, Medicare fraud, voodoo, deranged love and a really bad monkey. 

Synopsis from the Front Cover:

Andrew Yancy—late of the Miami Police and soon-to-be-late of the Monroe County sheriff’s office—has a human arm in his freezer. There’s a logical (Hiaasenian) explanation for that, but not for how and why it parted from its shadowy owner. Yancy thinks the boating-accident/shark-luncheon explanation is full of holes, and if he can prove murder, the sheriff might rescue him from his grisly Health Inspector gig (it’s not called the roach patrol for nothing). But first—this being Hiaasen country—Yancy must negotiate an obstacle course of wildly unpredictable events with a crew of even more wildly unpredictable characters, including his just-ex lover, a hot-blooded fugitive from Kansas; the twitchy widow of the frozen arm; two avariciously optimistic real-estate speculators; the Bahamian voodoo witch known as the Dragon Queen, whose suitors are blinded unto death by her peculiar charms; Yancy’s new true love, a kinky coroner; and the eponymous bad monkey, who with hilarious aplomb earns his place among Carl Hiaasen’s greatest characters.

Here is Hiaasen doing what he does better than anyone else: spinning a tale at once fiercely pointed and wickedly funny in which the greedy, the corrupt, and the degraders of what’s left of pristine Florida—now, of the Bahamas as well—get their comeuppance in mordantly ingenious, diabolically entertaining fashion.

Tiffany's Review 
Yancy is smart and witty with a great right hook and the connections to actually see justice to the end.   As a protagonist, he’s almost perfect, having integrity, heart with just enough of a wild side.  He’s the kind of man you’d want in your corner though he does have a knack for getting into trouble.  Whether it's from plain curiosity or bad judgment, this man is a walking calamity.
There are several sub-plots in the book as each character has a story and Hiaasen gives just enough background so that it relates to the story.  It’s definitely not Larsonian levels.  Hiaasen’s sub plots are all in the context of the story and serve a nice aside to the main plot of Yancy and the severed arm mystery.
The story is not very linear.  Hiaasen will take pages to set up an amazing punch line with Yancy and the other characters.  It’s truly a work of art and the shenanigans will have you laughing out loud. 
There is also a lot of cop lingo used and if you’re interested in all the abbreviations you can look them up but none of it takes away from the story so I just retained my ignorance and kept reading. 
I’ve never been into crime genre before but Hiaasen’s work is done so well, I may look into other books like this.  I also now have a great urge to travel to Key West and sip on Barbancourt rum.
Hiaasen is a seasoned writer with many fiction novels, some children’s books and a column in Miami Herald under his belt.  Check here for more work and info on Carl Hiaasen.
I give Bad Monkey 4/5 stars.

Whiskey Lullaby Cover Reveal, Synopsis and Giveaway

Book: Whiskey Lulllaby (Love Songs #1)
Author(s): Dawn Marten and Emily Minton

Expected Publication Date: September 30, 2013


Julie Walker thought she found true love with Jase. Until he betrayed her in the worst way, with one of her best friends. Devastated and heartbroken she runs away, leaving behind her family and friends. She starts a new life filled with secrets.
When Julie meets Dean, she thinks he is the answer to all her prayers, but Dean isn’t who she thinks he is.
Jase Gibson is a player. Even when he had the girl of his dreams, he still played. When he lost Julie, his life fell apart. He turned to whiskey and women, to fill the void. But, only Julie will ever make him whole.
Nine years later, Julie's back home, but she’s not alone. What will happen when all of Julie's secrets are uncovered?
Jase vowed that if he ever got her back, he would do right by her and never let her go. Will he let Julie's secret keep them apart?

When Julie's ex-husband refuses to be her ex, Jase must choose to help her or hang on to his anger.
Jase and Julie have to find a way to give their whiskey lullaby a happy ending.

About The Authors:

Author Bio:  Dawn Martens: I'm Dawn. I co-wrote a two books (Chase and Kade) with fellow author Chantal Fernando, in the Resisting Love. We went solo on three of the books, she wrote Ryder, and she is writing James, and I'm writing Derek.

Also working on a book currently with my friend Isabella Bearden, called A Second Chance!

AND I'm currently writing a book with good friend Emily Minton called Whiskey Lullaby.

I drink too much, Swear too much, and Read too much. Yes I read too much. I don't have a filter, and I tend to speak before I think.

I'm a beta reader for many authors, I'm on a few authors ARC list, because apparently I'm THAT awesome. ;) And I also edit. Not a professional, but I do help a few with that.

I have two children, 5&2, and have another on the way. They bug the shit outta me, but hey, that's what kids are supposed to do. ;) Married since 2007. He's amazing, but he's also a bigger pain in my ass than my kids are.

I love to read, and I love being able to write stories that *I* want to read!

I couldn't do this without the help of some very special friends!

Author Social Media Links:


About the Author:

I'm Emily.  I am the proud mother of two lovable but irritating teenagers. I have been married for over twenty years, but I would gladly trade my husband for Tatumn Jackson any day!

If you are wondering who that is, you need to read Sweet Dreams by KA now. Kristen Ashley is my queen!

I love to read.  I am a complete mommy porn junkie!  I have more books on my kindle than most people could read in a lifetime, but I will get to them all eventually!

I am also an avid blogger.  I love to share my favorite books and pimp my favorite authors.

I hope you all enjoy Whiskey Lullaby!


Link to Giveaway: