Thursday, July 31, 2014

Seduction (Reincarnationist ) by M.J. Rose

Seduction by M.J. Rose is a hard book to review.  There is a lot going on in this book—different story lines that cross, characters that have past and future lives, and many different locations.  At times, I was a bit bewildered with how the storylines fit together.  Add to that an over-the-top focus on séances, mysticism, and Druid ruins and what you have is sort of a mess. 
One story line is about Victor Hugo (yes, THAT Victor Hugo).   While he has experienced material success from the publishing of his novels, he is despondent over the death of his daughter.  Leopoldine, who is presumed dead in a yachting accident, was the light of Hugo’s life.  In his overwhelming grief, he decides to try to contact her through the use of a Ouija board.  When she appears, he is overjoyed, but he is unaware of the consequences of opening a door to the spirit world.
            A modern story line is about Jac L’Etoile.  She is invited to go to the island of Jersey to investigate Celtic ruins.  She is reunited with Theodore Gaspard, who was a fellow patient with her at a mental hospital.  The two of them were romantically involved at that hospital until Theodore’s unexpected departure.  While they look for the ruins, they are also faced with the intricacies of Theodore’s family:  his brother and his two aunts who add to the family intrigue.
            Finally, Jac is haunted by flashbacks to a life that she never lived—during the Celtic days.  She sees life through another’s eyes and she has to figure out how this information figures into her present circumstances.
            If this sounds like three different storylines that may not come together well, you feel the way I do.  Add to all of this a series of child abductions, an appearance by Satan himself offering a Faustian bargain, and a suicidal mistress, and you have the outline of Seduction.
            This book was just a jumble of storylines, plots, mystical mumbo jumbo, and a bit of historical fact.  It was a tedious and confusing read.  While the storylines do eventually overlap and make sense, it is a long time getting there.  Unless gothic mysticism is your cup of tea, I would skip Seduction.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana Gabaldon


In her now classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon told the story of Claire Randall, an English ex-combat nurse who walks through a stone circle in the Scottish Highlands in 1946, and disappears . . . into 1743. The story unfolded from there in seven bestselling novels, and CNN has called it “a grand adventure written on a canvas that probes the heart, weighs the soul and measures the human spirit across [centuries].” Now the story continues in Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. 

1778: France declares war on Great Britain, the British army leaves Philadelphia, and George Washington’s troops leave Valley Forge in pursuit. At this moment, Jamie Fraser returns from a presumed watery grave to discover that his best friend has married his wife, his illegitimate son has discovered (to his horror) who his father really is, and his beloved nephew, Ian, wants to marry a Quaker. Meanwhile, Jamie’s wife, Claire, and his sister, Jenny, are busy picking up the pieces. 

The Frasers can only be thankful that their daughter Brianna and her family are safe in twentieth-century Scotland. Or not. In fact, Brianna is  searching for her own son, who was kidnapped by a man determined to learn her family’s secrets. Her husband, Roger, has ventured into the past in search of the missing boy . . . never suspecting that the object of his quest has not left the present. Now, with Roger out of the way, the kidnapper can focus on his true target: Brianna herself. 

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is the brilliant next chapter in a masterpiece of the imagination unlike any other. 

If you have never read the Outlander Series of books, you should.  This sweeping story feels like coming home to family!  I started reading the series in 1999 and now 15 years later I love it even more!  I’ve read each of the books numerous times and with each reading I get something new out of the story. 

This book starts right where book 7 left off.  If you have not read any of the series I would suggest either going back and reading all the books, watch the upcoming TV series (yes I’m very excited about that), or finding summaries of the books on line.   

Jamie and Claire are in the midst of their latest adventure and are in trouble as usual.  Claire thought Jamie was dead and it takes a few chapters for them to reunite.  Of course during that time Claire gets madder and madder.  I always get a chuckle out of how one or the other jumps to conclusions and they end up in a fight (and then making up as usual).   

What I love about these two is that they might get mad at one another but they love each other passionately and are each other’s soul mates. Jamie is fiercely loyal and will do anything for his family.  Claire is the same.  She has gone back in time to be with the man she loves; and just as she had done when she travelled back to 1947, to protect their unborn child.  In the end she just can’t live without Jamie. 

Diana Gabaldon interweaves historical events and characters into all of her stories.  George Washington and Benedict Arnold both make appearances and even though Claire knows how important they are to the birth of America, she still is surprised by the people they are, not by how they are portrayed by history books.  Diana Gabaldon brings new light to people who we think we know.  Her attention to detail is amazing (and that is why we all wait 4-5 years between books).  

I’m torn with the pace of this book.  It’s definitely a page turner and I can’t get enough of it.  But then for me I want to slow down and absorb each word, but I can’t because I need to know what is going on!!! In the end I found that I had to back track to remember a few of the side-stories.  There is a lot going on with a lot of different characters, so for a while I was confused.  I know in the end I will remember everything, but it might take a few readings over the next few years as I wait for the next book. 

I love how Diana Gabaldon brings to life what could be stale, boring history.  The Battle of Monmouth is an example of this.  She writes not just the historic facts but what our favorite characters did during this Battle.  How they reacted to each event and how in the end not only is George Washington a hero for America, so is Jamie Fraser!    

There are so many sub-characters to this story that a lot of people don’t get much attention this go around.  But the ones that do are well thought out and at times it is like you know them personally.   
William, Briana, Roger, Jem, Amanda, Ian, Rachel, Rollo, Fergus, Marsali, Jenny and many more all make up the central stories of this book.  We get to know more about each of them and how they react to different situations. 

We find out that William is just like his father(s); Jamie and Lord John.  He is stubborn, loyal, protective and very perceptive.  He knows what he wants but is confused by the events that led up to finding out that Jamie is his father.  At times he feels abandoned, angry and relieved to know the truth of who he is.  I can’t wait until the next book to see what happens to him. 

Briana and Roger must face losing their son and each other in order to get back to one another.  Through fighting to get back to the same time period they learn a lot about themselves and about their family.  Bree meeting her grandfather is one of the greatest scenes in the book.  He believes he is seeing his wife and dead son, when he is really meeting his granddaughter and great-grandson.  The emotion and love that is brought out in this part of the book was wonderful. 
As for the other characters I could go on forever about them.  But know that each one holds a special place in the book.  They are richly written and well thought out people.  Not just characters, they do come to life once you get to know them. 

This book is long 814 pages and might take a while to read.  But once you get past how big it is, just jump in and enjoy the ride. I have never been disappointed in any of Diana Gabaldon’s stories! 
There are sex scenes in this book (it is a Romance after all) so if you don’t like reading those just skip ahead.  This book is really a great read! 

Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.” 
Diana’s current writing projects include the ninth major novel in the OUTLANDER series, as yet untitled, and a second volume of THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION. She is also serving as a Co-Producer and advisor for the Outlander TV series produced by the Starz network and Tall Ship Productions, which is based on her novels.  

Dr. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, (plus an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters, which entitles her to be “Diana Gabaldon, Ph.D., D.H.L.”  She supposes this is better than “Diana Gabaldon, Phd.X,”) and spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation before beginning to write fiction.  She has written scientific articles and textbooks, worked as a contributing editor on the MacMillan ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMPUTERS, founded the scientific-computation journal SCIENCE SOFTWARE QUARTERLY, and has written numerous comic-book scripts for Walt Disney.  None of this has anything whatever to do with her novels, but there it is. 
Diana and her husband, Douglas Watkins, have three adult children and live mostly in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

 *I purchased a copy of this book.  All opinions are my own. Stephanie

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

Josephine Hurst has her family under control. With two beautiful daughters, a brilliantly intelligent son, a tech-guru of a husband and a historical landmark home, her life is picture perfect. She has everything she wants; all she has to do is keep it that way. But living in this matriarch’s determinedly cheerful, yet subtly controlling domain hasn’t been easy for her family, and when her oldest daughter, Rose, runs off with a mysterious boyfriend, Josephine tightens her grip, gradually turning her flawless home into a darker sort of prison. 

Resentful of her sister’s newfound freedom, Violet turns to eastern philosophy, hallucinogenic drugs, and extreme fasting, eventually landing herself in the psych ward. Meanwhile, her brother Will shrinks further into a world of self-doubt. Recently diagnosed with Aspergers and epilepsy, he’s separated from the other kids around town and is homeschooled to ensure his safety. Their father, Douglas, finds resolve in the bottom of the bottle—an addict craving his own chance to escape. Josephine struggles to maintain the family’s impeccable façade, but when a violent incident leads to a visit from child protective services, the truth about the Hursts might finally be revealed.

Mother, Mother is a psychological thriller that has several unexpected plot twists. It's told from two different perspectives. Young Will, who is home schooled and believed to be Autistic and teenage Violet, expressing herself with religion and drugs. Their older sister, Rose, left a few years earlier and it's between Will and Violet that what transpired to the point Rose left and what is happening in the present is revealed. 

The mother, Josephine, is a controlling freak and the father is seldom seen or heard - busy with business and drinking. But when Violet has a drug induced episode one evening at dinner, which she says she saw Rose in the hallway and her brother ends up hurt, is when the family starts spiraling even further out of control. Violet is put into a psych ward by her mother, and from there she starts investigating, along with Child Protection Services and the local Police, into the whereabouts of Rose.

I felt sorry for the kids raised by such a narcissistic mother and a pretty much absent father. I was worried about how far Josephine had gone, or would go to keep her perfect family the way the wanted it to be. Zailckas does an impeccable job of maintaining the suspense and tying up the answers to all the raised questions. The characters are well-developed with many layers that were slowly revealed until the final conclusion. If you enjoy psychological thrillers with a family dynamic that may disturb you on many levels, you may enjoy Mother, Mother. I certainly did.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Wendy

Monday, July 28, 2014

Safe in the Tycoon's Arms by Jennifer Faye

Growing up, I thought Harlequin romances were great.  In a way, they were my gateway to many different genres:  romance, historical fiction, and contemporary.  However, it has been a long time since I read one.  So, when I was offered the opportunity to read Safe In the Tycoon’s Arms by Jennifer Faye, I thought I would check out how Harlequins have changed and whether they have stood the test of time for me.

            Kate needs help:  she is divorced and her daughter is suffering from a tumor.  With few financial resources, she is relieved to be offered a place to stay by a kindly hospital volunteer.  The vacant, sprawling house seems like a perfect place to stay as it is close to the hospital.  What Kate is not prepared for is the appearance of a man in the middle of the night!  It turns out that his aunt is the one who offered Kate the use of the house, and he is unexpectedly back to stay at the house.

            Lucas is a busy businessman and does not have time for the complications of Kate living in his house.  But, Kate has nowhere else to go.  She offers to help him remodel his crumbling home if he will assist her in creating a fundraiser for her daughter.
            Lucas is a complicated character—and for me, not totally likeable.  While he does understand Kate and her devotion to her daughter, he has a daughter as well.  He has not seen her for four years, since his divorce.  The reason for his distance is that when he was a child, he witnessed his parents fighting all the time, and he did not want to create that tug of war for his daughter.  So, he does not see her at all.  Umm, WHAT?  I had such a hard time rooting for Lucas, knowing that he abandoned his own daughter.  And when he showed care and concern for Kate’s daughter, I wanted to yell at him to get over himself and take care of his own kid.

            There is a bit of “the big misunderstanding” but Safe in the Tycoon’s Arms is an easy read with a happy ending.  Kate is a likeable character, as are the supporting characters.  Lucas was a speed bump in my enjoyment of this book, but for a quick summer read, I enjoyed it.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Best friends since childhood, Casey and Rachel couldn’t lead more different lives. While workaholic Casey rubs elbows with celebrities daily as the host of Gossip TV and comes home nightly to an empty apartment, stay-at-home mom Rachel juggles an “oops” baby, two fiery teenagers, and a husband who barely seems the man she fell in love with two decades before. After an argument at their twentieth high school reunion, Casey and Rachel throw back shots to get the night back on track. Instead, they get a life-changing hangover.

Waking up in each other’s bodies the next morning, they must figure out how to navigate their altered realities. Rachel is forced to confront the reason she gave up her broadcasting dreams when she got pregnant in college, and Casey finally steps out of the spotlight to face the truth about why she’s alone. And they soon discover that they don’t know themselves—or their best friend—nearly as well as they thought they did.

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke bring humor and heart to every page of this novel that is sure to please fans of In Her Shoes and The Opposite of Me. Your Perfect Life is a story about two very different women, what they didn’t know about each other, and how, by switching lives, they each learn to appreciate their own.

Once I saw the title of this book my first thought was that it would be a story about someone being jealous of another person’s life and how the main character tries to deal with his/her jealousy of the other character. Once I received the book and read the summary I found out I was wrong and that the story more closely resembled the movie Freaky Friday but involving friends instead of a mother and daughter.    

As soon as I started this story I was instantly hooked, to the story and the two female characters. I found that I could relate a little more to “Rachel” than I could with “Casey”; I think it’s because “Rachel” is a stay-at-home mom and “Casey” is the workaholic ruthless career woman. I loved the situations each woman dealt with prior to the “switch” and especially after the “switch.” I enjoyed reading and getting to see how each woman dealt with each others situations and by the end of the book it taught both Rachel and Casey that not only is the grass not always greener on the other side, but that you don’t have to just settle for the way your life is; that you can always make changes in your life that will make you happy.   

I believe that Ms. Fenton and Ms. Steinke wrote a wonderful book. I think this story is funny but at the same time the reader can learn a little lesson from these women. I think most women would love this story especially stay-at-home mothers. I would love to read more stories like this and it's my opinion that these two authors would write some more wonderful stories together. I give this book an “A+” and Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke an “A.”

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tiffany

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reckless Disregard: A Parker Stern Novel (Parker Stern #2) by Robert Rotstein

Former topnotch attorney Parker Stern, still crippled by courtroom stage fright, takes on a dicey case for an elusive video game designer known to the world only by the name of "Poniard."  In Poniard's blockbuster online video game, Abduction!, a real-life movie mogul is charged with kidnapping and murdering a beautiful actress who disappeared in the 1980s. Predictably, the mogul--William "the Conqueror" Bishop--has responded with a libel lawsuit. Now it's up to Parker to defend the game designer in the suit.

In defending Poniard, Parker discovers that people aren't who they claim to be and that nothing is as it seems. At one point, his client resorts to blackmail, threatening to expose a dark secret about Parker. Then, many of the potential witnesses who could have helped the case die prematurely, and the survivors are too frightened to talk. Parker begins to feel as if he's merely a character in a video game, fighting malevolent Level Bosses who appear out of nowhere and threaten to destroy him.

Rotstein is back with a second book/installment in what seems to be the beginning of a series featuring Parker Stern. Stern is a lawyer who just recently started suffering from debilitating stage fright whenever he’s in a courtroom. This time around, Stern is working in a mediators office which affords him the opportunity to practice law without stepping foot in a courthouse. 

Unfortunately, trouble seems to find him wherever he goes. Poniard, an anonymous game designer, debuts a video game where one of the most powerful men in Hollywood kills off an actress who in real life disappeared years ago. Poniard contacts Stern online and asks him to represent him after he is subsequently sued by the media mogul. Stern agrees to take on the case even though he never meets Poniard in person because it gives him a chance to go up against his former lover, Lovely Diamond. 

Describing the story can get complicated but Rotstein does a great job of creating a seamless story that grips you as you try to figure out all the angles right along with Stern. The city of L.A. once again makes a guest appearance. You don’t have to read his first book, Corrupt Practices, but it was nice knowing the whole picture whenever Stern referred to his past. I am definitely looking forward to the next Parker Stern installment. 

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.  Roberta

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

 Jace Wilson is an ordinary kid.  When he is dared to jump from the top of a rock quarry, he foolishly agrees.  But, he is not at all sure that he is capable of it.  In order to test his mettle, Jace goes to the spot alone and jumps off.  His descent is not the most terrifying part of his experience, however.  The dead body he finds is.  In this opening chapter of Those Who Wish Me Dead, Michael Koryta, sets the pace for a thrilling ride through Jace’s fight for his life.
            As if the dead body was not enough, Jace hears the Blackwell brothers, the murderers, trying to find him.  He is fortunate to escape with his life.  The Blackwell brothers know who Jace is, however, and are ready to kill him.  Jace needs protection, so he goes “off the grid” at a wilderness camp for troubled young men.  Jace, who has always been well behaved, has to find a way to fit in with the other campers. He also builds a relationship with Ethan, the man in charge of the camp who will teach Jace survival skills.
            The Blackwell brothers are not giving up on finding Jace.  They trace him to the wilderness program and in order to get Ethan to bring the boy back, they burn down Ethan’s house and attack his wife.  From there, it is a race to see if the Blackwell brothers can succeed in their mission to kill Jace or whether Jace can manage to survive.
            Fast paced and thrilling, Those Who Wish Me Dead was a great read.  The characters were well drawn and the little survival lessons in the book were great.  Ethan was a strong character and he was well matched to the task of fighting the Blackwells.
            My only criticism is that the bad guys seem just a little too evil and omnipresent.  In some ways, they were not just thugs, but rather like preternatural assassins coming to get this young witness.
            Full of interesting plot twists (including a major one at the end that I did not see coming), Those Who Wish Me Dead, was an action-packed page-turner.  I loved it.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina