[658]: 738 Days by Stacey Kade

DSC00769


Forge Books | July 7th, 2016 | 4 out of 5 Stars


738 Days, for the most part, is a stereotypical new adult novel: girl and boy with broken pasts save each other from their own demons. It also has one of those impossible romances: celebrity actor falls in love with a commoner. And yet, even with these clichèd tropes, I ended up enjoying this book. At 432 pages, it’s also a bit heftier than your average romance novels. But you’ll never notice the pages flipping by because you’re so ensconced in Amanda Grace’s and Chase Henry’s plights.

The beginning of the novel was a little tough to get through. We see Amanda Grace in captivity, beaten and bloody, and talking to an imaginary Chase Henry in her head. He was the voice she clung to in her months of torture. He was the one that told her to hold on and had kept her fighting through darkness and hopelessness. They’d never met. He was an actor in a show that her sister loved. But he was the face that kept her going in that dark basement where her captor had kept her. Years after she was freed, she’s in a different prison that she’s created for herself: anxiety and fear. At twenty years old, she has no life to speak of. Her family life is in shambles and some days, she can’t even bear the thought of leaving her house. So when Chase Henry shows up at her place of employment, her reaction was severe and instantaneous. She ran away.

Chase Henry’s career has taken a nose dive over the years after a few bad decisions. Given the chance to save what’s left of it, he’ll grab at any opportunity that comes his way. Even if it would mean playing a small part in an indie film and taking advantage of his hero status to a girl whom he indirectly saved all those years ago. But upon meeting Amanda Grace, he saw himself for what he was: an opportunistic leech ready to put another person through what was the most traumatic memories of her life if only to garner a spotlight in the media once again.

 738 Days is a story about redemption and courage. And while Chase’s reasons for helping Amanda Grace was selfish in the beginning, he immediately saw that he was well on his way to repeating the same mistakes he did in the past. Courage comes in many forms. For Amanda Grace, it was being with Chase even if it brings about many memories of her time chained to the wall in the basement of her captor. It was putting herself back in the spotlight again and unearthing all the things she wished she could forget. In a way, it was also admitting her role in the demise of her crumbling family relationships. It hasn’t been easy for her, and no one could blame her. She was only 15 when she was abducted – hard to recover from that.

[657]: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

11447921 Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Stand Alone
Harper | June 12th, 2012
Adult Fiction | Historical
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.


Beautiful Ruins opens in a small coastal town in Italy with an innkeeper who dreams of great things for his tiny hotel and his equally small town. One day, while he was busy creating a sandy beach for his potential guests to sunbathe on, a mysterious American actress in need of rest checks in. He finds out that this actress is sick and maybe even dying. Her name is Dee Moray; she just finished filming her small role in an Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton saga, Cleopatra. Dee Moray’s beauty and elegance captured the attention of Pasquale Tursi. Over time, he becomes her champion. He falls in love but he knew Dee Moray is never going to love him the way he loves her. He’s no stranger to heartbreaks and so he would remain forever in love with her until the end of time.

This is their story; decades of parallel lives connected only through their history of what ifs and could’ve been’s. It may seem pointless, as most of these missed-connections stories go, but it’s not. The beauty of this book lies in the stories of characters in the past and the present. Imbued with the rich landscape of old Italy and Hollywood’s retro glamour, Beautiful Ruins was the perfect escapist dream.

There’d been a lot of tales about the disaster that was Cleopatra. At the time of production, it was plagued with over budget issues and cantankerous lead actors. Michael Deane, a Hollywood lackey was sent to Italy to save the movie somehow. He did so by taking advantage of Elizabeth Taylor’s inability to be loyal to her current beau. At the time, she’s being branded as a Jezebel for leaving her husband and stealing Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds. While filming Cleopatra, she has an affair with Richard Burton. And the American people are not looking too kindly on her. So Michael Deane, in a burst of inspiration, decided that capitalize on the very thing that the world was hating her for. His role in Dee Moray’s life is important, and by association, in Pasquale’s life.

Decades into the present, all their lives will collide in the most tender and more often, heartbreaking way possible. I love untangling all the threads in this novel. It was expansive, but not too complicated. The writing is exquisite in such a way that it’s not pretending to be something it’s not; simple and every bit as beautiful as the stories it convey. The setting is so perfect – dramatic, outlandish at times, and romantic. Even the short stint in Europe that showed the novel’s dark side evoked the right emotions even for a moment. The thing about Beautiful Ruins is that it’s tough to relate to the characters sometimes. And it’s not because they’re so unlikable. It’s because the story moved so fast that readers aren’t given the chance to get comfortable. But I enjoyed it immensely. Because the thing about this book is that you’re not supposed to savour it. You’re supposed to take a step back and see the big picture. After the reader connected all the dots and tied all the knots the way they’re supposed to be done, the end result is pure magnificence. I’m glad I got to read it and with the movie now in the works, I’m excited to see it in the big screen.

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 187

DSC00791


Dark Matter by Black Crouch | Half A King by Joe Abercrombie | Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick | Roses and Rot by Kat Howard | The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey | The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra | Luck, Love & Lemon by Amy E. Reichert | A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


Hello.

Another week, another bout of tragedies all over the world. Is this the new normal? I pray not. This is the worst it’s been for as long as I can remember. It’s a dangerous time we live in.

Anyway, I’ll keep it short today. My reading mojo all but disappeared on me last week. I’m currently listening to the audio of A Court of Mist and Fury while reading The Sunlight Pilgrim and Dark Matter. I’m all over the place this week. I can’t find my groove and can’t decide which book to concentrate on.

I’ve got four more days of work then I’m on vacation for a week. So excited for the days off. I don’t think we’re going anywhere so I’ll be taking advantage of my break by reading and hopefully making some headway on the blog.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for my review copies of Dark Matter and The Sunlight Pilgrim.

Have a great week, y’all.

[656]: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

23355896 The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings, #1
NAL | July 28th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 420 pp.
Adult Fiction | Family Drama
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the iron-fisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.


After almost a year of ignoring this book, I finally succumbed and read it. Perfect timing too, considering the next book comes out at the end of the month. You see? Sometimes, procrastination is a good thing.

Dysfunction is an Art Form.

This brand new series by JR Ward is a take off from her usual Urban Fantasy fare. Fashioned after the 80s tv series, Dallas, it has family drama, scandal, murder mystery, skeletons, and romance. It features a prominent Kentucky family who owned the monopoly on Bourbon in America. The patriarch and matriarch of the Bradford Family are in a what you could consider as a stereotypical marriage of convenience amongst rich people. For appearance’s sake, they live in the same mansion but sleep in different beds. He sleeps around, controls the family’s finances, and treats his family like shit. In short, a perennial Father of the Year candidate. The mother is no better. You don’t even see her through the entire novel. She’s in her room all the time – apparently hooked on whatever painkillers she could get her hands on. But I’m willing to bet that in the end, she will save the entire family from ruin, therefore giving this series the mother of a plot twist. Don’t quote me on that, though.

The Prodigal Son Returns.

So this story is about Jonathan Tulane Baldwine and his return to the family after receiving some bad news. Lane hasn’t lived in Kentucky for years for two reasons: one, he can’t stand his family. And two, because of Lizzie King – aka, the one that got away. Lizzie King is the girl who broke his heart but she’ll tell you that he trampled on her’s first by getting another woman pregnant.  And since she still works for the family, the reunion will be spectacularly bad. While the focus of the book is how they get over themselves and realize they belong together, this book is also an introduction to the rest of the family.

The Bradford Brood.

It’s implied that Max, the second oldest is out of the picture for –  perhaps the same reason Lane has for leaving; Edward the oldest, left after he was rescued from a kidnapping for ransom in South America. He is scarred beyond recognition. Gin was the only one who stayed because the woman loves luxury too much to have any sense of pride. Later, Lane will find out that the family is well on their way to financial ruin all thanks to father dearest. So it’s up to him to figure out how to save the family from everything else.

In Retrospect

This series is turning out to be one for the ages. The kind that will incite a fervor devotion from her already loyal fanbase. It is enthralling, in as much as a soap opera or a reality tv show devotees follow their beloved shows religiously. We may have gotten a resolution to Lane and Lizzie’s relationship in this first installment, but it left a number of plot arches wide open for speculation. As it stands, there are a few that has me anxiously waiting for the next books: I’m curious about the death of one character; Edward’s relationship to the daughter of a rival family; Sam and Gin’s toxic love affair over the years, and of course, Max’s whereabouts and eventual return.

[655]: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

DSC00763


Knopf Canada | June 21st, 2016 | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


The latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare series is Anne Tyler’s interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew. I’ve looked forward to reading this book ever since I’ve heard of this all-star endeavour. The Taming of the Shrew is a personal favourite of mine because of Katherine. To me, she’s the queen of ball-busting sarcasm and witty repertoire. And even if it took me several tries before I got her zings due to Bill’s usage of the old language, I know that for every Elizabeth Bennetts in the literary world, there lives a version of Katherine Minola underneath.
Vinegar Girl is loosely based on this Shakespeare comedy. There was no bet to get Kate to go out with Pyotr. Instead, we have her father trying to marry her off so he could keep working with him for the good of Science. Bunny is as superficial as Bianca was but still somehow managed to show some sister love in her own way. Kate’s family (which consists of her father and Bunny) are two of the most selfish creatures I’ve ever known who can’t function without Kate’s coddling. Their father is one of those poor clueless characters whose life’s primary focus is to Science. His knowledge of raising two daughters is severely lacking which left the burden of  keeping house to the older Baptista. Despite the way he underappreciated Kate’s value, I like their father-daughter dynamics. It was endearing with an underlying sadness attributable to the missing mother who died or disappeared or left (I can’t remember. Sorry.).
Kate, for the most part, was an interesting character. She’s stuck taking care of everybody; a push-over who hates her job (she’s a teacher’s assistant) but loves being with the children. Because in some way, they understood her. She goes with the flow and is easily accepting of her family’s failures. She wasn’t the admirable version of Katherine Minola for the majority of the book for sure. She grew a backbone eventually once she realizes she can’t always set aside her wants for the sake of her family.
As far as the romance goes, it’s barely there and I didn’t mind it a bit. Pyotr is a Russian Scientist who got to know Kate through her father’s – for lack of a better word – “pimping”. I found him adorable in his own way. He turns his less than stellar command of the English language into a comedic schtick.
I didn’t see the development of their relationship, to be honest. Anne Tyler doesn’t like showing too much, and while it wasn’t a sudden thing, I would’ve appreciated knowing  the exact moment when Kate realizes Pyotr could be the man for her (not that she was looking. She was forced into it – kind of.).
Vinegar Girl is a far cry from the original, for sure. But I like that Anne Tyler retold the story that it came off a bit more realistic and modern than the original. She gave Vinegar Girl her voice, her stamp, as it were. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I appreciate it, nonetheless.

[654]: The Truth About Him by Molly O’Keefe

25387182 The Truth About Him by Molly O’Keefe
Series: Everything I Left Unsaid, #2
Loveswept | November 24th, 2015
Adult Fiction | Romance | Suspense
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


We played our roles, told each other lies.

But now Dylan is no longer just a mysterious deep voice on the other end of the line. We’re face-to-face and our relationship is very, very real.

We still have secrets—but so much is crystal clear:

The thrilling danger.

The raw, naked desire.

The need to keep feeling the way he makes me feel. Forever.

Dylan is putting up walls, trying to keep me safe, but he can’t shut me out. He has seen my darkness and rescued me. Now it’s my turn, if only he will let me.


The end of Everything I Left Unsaid just about killed me. I can’t even imagine the pain of reading this book the first time it came out. To have to wait just to find out what happened next is a torture I’m lucky enough not to have endured. Sometimes, it pays to be unaware and I’m glad I was a latecomer to this series. Like I mentioned in my review of the first book, I had to fight the urge to pull an all-nighter because Ms. O’Keefe’s ending was torturous, to say the least. And so, I devoured this installment with the same fervor I did with the Everything I Left Unsaid.

In here, we find Dylan and Annie coming to terms with what they need from each other and what they have to do to move forward. Annie’s past will thankfully be behind her at the beginning of this novel. Dylan, however, still had a lot of shit to deal with. First and foremost, the burden of his missing brother that will threaten everything he cared for. And he’s yet to reconcile the fact that he can’t see himself ever forgiving his father who’s practically near death. The past is rushing up to collide with his present in possibly the most devastating way. Unless he can somehow stop it. 

This felt like a prolonged ending of the first book and an introduction to the third  (Burn Down the Night), which is Max’s story. He’s Dylan’s older brother who, unfortunately, couldn’t escape the life their father forged for him. But we’ll learn that Max did everything he could to give Dylan a fighting chance at a better life. Though it would seem that Dylan has succeeded, he’s never fully escaped. Because the criminal clutches of that motorcycle club Max belonged to is far-reaching, revengeful, and they never forget.

Annie and Dylan’s relationship finally moved forward in this book. Dylan had a few moments of self-flagellation and pity party which drove me insane. The martyrdom didn’t suit him, which made me want to kick his ass every time he thought Annie deserves better (I’m sure she did, but come on.). I’m also happy that Annie stood her ground. She wanted Dylan to have a semblance of a relationship with his father regardless of how tumultuous it had been in the past.  So she made sure he understood how important it was for her to stay put so she can care for him.

I’m happy with the resolution of Annie and Dylan’s story. I’m ready to move on to Max. I’m not gonna lie, I’m terrified too because Max’s story sounds like a road trip to Angstville. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m really glad I found these books. It made me realize that not all NA are created equal. This series is definitely one of the good ones!

[653]: Opportunity Knocks by Alison Sweeney

26033642 Opportunity Knocks by Alison Sweeney
Stand Alone
Source: Publisher
Hachette Books | April 5th, 2016
Contemporary Fiction | Romance
Rating 2 out of 5 Stars


Alex Cleary has 48 hours to resolve the nightmare her dream job has become…and the clock is ticking.

Alex Cleary has careened from one dead-end position to another. But suddenly the ingenious makeup artist finds her distinct talents are valued by none other than lifestyle-empire mogul Hillary P.–renowned for her golden touch in broadcast and print media, as well as for her hair-trigger temper. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the daytime television scene that Alex is determined not to screw up.

Then a frank word in the wrong ear puts Alex’s job on the line. Alex anticipates Hillary’s rage, but she can’t believe that this multimillionaire is holding her newest staffer to a nondisclosure agreement that demands reparation of 5 million dollars.

Alex has only 48 hours to repair the damage. And with a vengeful Hillary P. watching the clock, the devil will have her due…


So I remember now why I don’t enjoy reading celebrity-written novels. I mean, don’t get me wrong. There are actually talented celebrity writers out there, but you can tell this one was written by an amateur because it shows. She was fond of telling instead of showing and the characters are nothing but cardboard cutouts possessing the personalities of bland gruel. Let’s not even talk about the plot. If you think Hollywood is far out of realism, this book blows that perception out into outer space.

Alex Cleary is a fledgling makeup artist who hasn’t made it to Hollywood. She knows what she wants to do but just hadn’t quite caught a break. For now, she’s taking small time gigs while helping out in her family’s pool business along with her on-again, off again boyfriend. Who, by the way, seems to be only interested in her for the career her family name can afford him. On the other hand, hers wasn’t going anywhere, and her life is at a standstill.  Until she finally snags the opportunity of a lifetime: working as Hillary P.’s (even her name sounds pretentious *gag* ) makeup artist.

Lauded as a Devil Wears Prada wannabe, Opportunity Knocks tells the story about how easily it is for Hollywood to squash your dreams. Actor or not, it’s a shark infested water and you’re a bleeding, flailing bait. Alex Cleary finds herself on the cusp of a breakthrough but when she trusted the wrong people, it was all over even before it begins. Hillary P. is your typical egomaniacal villain bent on showing off her influence and power. She’s rude, a devil of a diva, and she makes sure everyone knows just how big her head is.

The writing is barely passable; the only good thing it had going for it was the fact that you’ll fly through this book. Though, now that I’ve thought about it, I think I skimmed a lot of nonsense. The characters are what you see what you get – no depths, no charms. They are just there to play their parts. You don’t get to know them any deeper than what’s there on the pages. Overall, I’m just happy I gave her work a chance. At least I know now to avoid them in the future.

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 186

DSC00789


Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley | Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch | The Rook by Daniel O’Malley | Saga, Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples | And I Darken by Kiersten White


Good Morning.

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty uneventful. I’d planned on tackling the backyard but it was too hot and muggy. I decided to stay indoors and design what I want to do instead. Lots of work to be done, starting with staining my deck. So hopefully, in two weeks’ time, when my husband is on his vacation leave, he’d be able to start on this project.

It has been such a heartbreaking, awful week. It seems like there’s always something happening in the States lately. I’m filled with anger and frustration. It has happened one too many times already that I fear the country is heading into civil war. How do you bridge the gap? I hope all the families’ victims will find peace and comfort during these trying times.

Read this Week:

23127048 25293695 25494343

26114333       28862528

Air Awakens by Elise Kova was so-so. I don’t know if I’m going to pursue the series.

The Beast by JR Ward was amazing. I can’t wait to read Xcor and Layla’s book!

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare was awesome. Gah. I am bound for heartache, I just know it!

738 Days by Stacey Kade was surprisingly good. I really enjoyed it.

Saga, Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples is so freaking awesome! I can’t wait to read the rest.

Reading This Week:

22399997 22840421

I hope you’ll enjoy your books this week, everyone. Love each other fiercely.

[652]: The Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay Dimon

29966804
The Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay Dimon
Series: End of the Line, #2
Source: Publisher via Net Galley
Loveswept | September 13th, 2016
Adult Fiction | M/M Romance | Suspense
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


As the son of an international crime lord, Will Rivers only inherited one thing after his father died: trouble. The Pentasus organization deals in kidnapping and murder, and Will wants no part of the power grab that’s tearing leadership apart. But the only way he’ll be able to escape is with some help from his former bodyguard, Hunter Cain, whose sculpted body and brooding looks keep Will awake at night. Somehow, Hunter has resisted the tension between them . . . until, suddenly, he gives in.

As a German intelligence officer working deep undercover, Hunter has a very good reason to keep Will in the dark about his identity and his intentions. Although the sex is hot, Hunter’s true feelings are a growing liability. Now the only way to save Will from his old life is to push him deeper into danger. But when two strong men are each determined to protect the other, the heat isn’t just combustible—it’s a firestorm.


I couldn’t be happier to get an email notification from Loveswept that this book was available for request on Net Galley. I became an instant fan of Ms. Dimon after reading the first book of this series, Mr. and Mr. Smith. I was easily swept away by her suspenseful and sexy spy novel filled with the type of he-man characters I love reading about in an M/M romance. I knew I had to get my hands on Will Rivers’ story as soon as it became available because the glimpse of what was to come at the end of the first book was nowhere near enough. This book will not be out until September 13th, but heck, letting it sit in my iPad unread is just too much a temptation for someone like me.

We met Will Rivers and Hunter Cain in the first book. Hunter is a member of a German secret agency working with the CIA to stop The Pentasus organization from selling more weapons and secret agents to terrorists. In the first book, Hunter was playing Will’s bodyguard. Being the heir to a dangerous family who has enemies left and right puts will in a constant precarious situation at all times. He needed someone to keep his ass on the line and Hunter was more than happy to provide that for him.  Will and Hunter’s interactions, though, limited was explosive in the first book. And at the end of Mr. and Mr. Smith, Will and Hunter got separated. I was dying to see the reunion between the two.

So we opened this book with Hunter tracking the elusive Mr. Rivers. The reunion was as heated as I’d expected it to be. I knew that they were bound for a head on collision. The sexual tension that has followed them from the first book exploded in the most glorious way! But with the organization still on Will’s heels, and with another weapons group vying to marry into the family, the danger was far from over. And even though Hunter can protect him to the best of his ability, he would do everything to give Will a chance to get his old life back as a carefree student in the States. More than anything, he wanted Will out of the life and the legacy of his family. The couple has a lot of problems to work through, but it was fun seeing them face the issues together. In some way, they’re like the pairing from the first book: tormented with the decisions they’ve made with regards to their relationship.

We also see the return of the CIA motley crew – to my delight. They are as every bit sarcastic and hilarious as I remembered them to be. Ms. Dimon was so efficient in bringing these characters to life. Their personalities clash and meld in perfect synchronicity. This installment was pleasurably fun, sinfully sexy, romantic, and suspenseful in every sense of the word. As much as I’d loved reading this installment way ahead of its release, I’m a little sad I have to wait forever and a day for the next one.