[537]: The New Neighbor by Leah Stewart

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Simon & Schuster Canada | ARC paperback, 288 pages | Publication Date: July 7th, 2015 | Adult Fiction | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Although it took me a while to get into the swing of reading this book, The New Neighbor turned out to be one of those novels that had an uncanny ability to drive you crazy. Primarily because it was a very closed-book that didn’t show its true colours until towards the end. Reading this book felt like I had an itch buried subcutaneously that was hard to scratch.

The story follows two women at two opposing points of their lives. One is a 90-year-old woman who’d practically lived like a hermit all her life; and the other, a single parent looking for a fresh start with her son. In more ways than one, they are an unlikely pair. However, through their interactions, a fragile dynamic will be formed. In the nexus of their relationship is a mutual curiosity that would somehow assuage them of their guilt; a way to face the past. But were they really guilty? Or were they victims of their own circumstances? That’s the crux of this book, and Leah Stewart did a tremendous job in flaying her characters in such a way that would appeal to her empathy-deficient readers.

Admittedly, my issue with this book was that I thought the author forgave them easily, made excuses for them, even. The ending, in particular left a lot to be desired. No one was punished. No one repented simply because the characters were made to feel like they were within their rights. I supposed they were right. But in doing so, the story lacked the emotional pull required to feel satiated. I wasn’t enraged. At the end of the novel, all I felt was an “unfeeling” relief that it was over.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC. 

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[535]: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Bloomsbury Children | Hardcover, 416 pp. | May 15, 2015 | Adult Fiction | Fantasy | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Needless to say, I had a much better experience with this one than Throne of Glass. I could barely contain my temper with Caelena in that book. Fortunately, I managed to get over myself and had a change of opinion on whether or not Sarah J. Maas is as great as everyone proclaims her to be. Now, don’t be fooled by the 3-star rating. Three stars still means I enjoyed it. You must understand that I’m not partial to the genre. My ratings are based on how much I enjoyed/liked a book. So middle of the pack means I didn’t particularly hate it. That’s good, right?

The Beauty and the Beast

Feyre has been the hunter in the family ever since her father lost the will and capacity to be the sole provider. This particular winter has seen terrible poverty and hunger in her village that Feyre found herself hunting further than her normal jaunt. When she killed a rather large wolf that would see her family through the brutal winter months, she didn’t anticipate the events she’d helped set into motion.

They say fairies are hard to kill. But with Feyre’s efficient ash arrow, she took down a fae that she didn’t know was related to the High Lords. That is, until Tamlin came barging into their abode intent on exacting proper punishment for what she did. Feyre had no choice but to comply or her family would suffer the wrath of an immortal, powerful fae.

As most fairy tale-retellings go, the consequent events will involve animosity, mutual –  albeit – reluctant respect, romance and the revelation of a curse that our heroine would take part in breaking. The beast in the story is Tamlin. His kingdom is surrounded by mythical creatures, and masked courtiers. There is a blight spreading through the land and it’s about to spread over the human world if Tamlin and Feyre can’t stop it.

Thoughts, Regrets, and Apologies

I used to be such a fan of fairy tale retellings. I don’t know when I stopped. Though the more I think about it, the more I think that it coincided with the realization that I just don’t have the attention span required for reading fantasy books. I don’t have anything against this author or her work, I’m just not a reader. Which is a sad thing, because I feel like my brain gets a bit more exercise when I read these kind of novels.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Sarah J. Maas did not become an instant household name in the publishing world for no reason. She does have a gift for immortalizing  fantastical worlds through her words. She was also able to summon mythical creatures in a snap. I’m not that familiar with her ToG series, but ACoTaR gave us an impressive imagery, larger than life characters and creatures ripped from fabled lore.

I do feel like I need to apologize for not liking this as much as I should have. And I regret that my rating of this book looks deceiving. I’m not one to give high ratings for technical merits. My ratings have always been about how I felt while reading the book. So sometimes, I feel like I’m being unfair. I think this is one of those moments when I wish I could do away with book ratings.

 

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[530]: Deadline by Sandra Brown

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Grand Central Publishing | Paperback, 496 pp. | September 24, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Suspense | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Dawson Scott is a journalist recently back from a stint in Afghanistan. As most servicemen could attest to having these kind of assignments, a lot have come back a changed person.  Most of the time, they also bring back a souvenir no one wants: PTSD. Dawson is battling his own demons. Mostly a nightmare that wears heavily on him day in and day out.

When an assignment falls on his lap, he didn’t think too much of it. But when his own godfather sought him out for this specific case, he knew all bets are off. It was a story that carry so much on the person that he considers a father figure  when his own died. It had a lot of history; years of violence and misplaced political beliefs. It will also answer one question that had plagued the former agent for many years now: the fate of an infant whose DNA was found forty years ago during a botched shoot out between FBI agents and known domestic terrorists. Years later, a connection will be established between Jeremy Wesson, a former soldier believed to be dead, and the terrorists’ leader, Carl Wingert.

Once again, Sandra Brown knows exactly what to do to wrangle all my devoted attention right down to the last page.  It was one of those reads that had me wanting to flip the pages as fast as humanly possible. I don’t know how many times I need to reiterate how well versed this woman is for creating new and thrilling story lines, but she somehow keeps giving birth to stories that are impossible until you read them in her books. I just can’t get enough. It’s kind of disturbing too, to have all those insane plot bunnies hopping around in her head. But hey, Ms. Brown, you just keep churning those stories and I’ll keep buying them.

I always look forward to the romance in her books, but I think this is one of those instances when it really took a backseat to the mystery. Dawson, the journalist, have met his match with the widow of Jeremy Wesson. But I like that there was veritable dynamic between Dawson and Amelia’s children.

I was fascinated with her antagonists as well. I wanted to know how anyone can believe in something so badly that they’ve come to consider it to be true and righteous; when in reality, their principles were rooted to nothing more than greed. These are a group of people who were so devious and amoral, and who didn’t have any qualms about killing innocent people.

If there’s one thing you can expect from a Sandra Brown book is its unpredictability. Sandra knows plot twists, but I have to admit that this one has one of the best amongst all the books of hers that I’ve read so far.

In conclusion, I have yet to read a book by her that I didn’t like. That says a lot about this woman’s talent and her ability to get me to scour old books shops for some of her older novels.

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[527]: Best Kept Secrets by Sandra Brown

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Grand Central Publishing | Paperback, 535 pp. | March 25, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Romantic Suspense | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Prosecutor, Alexandra Gaither has an axe to grind with the people of Purcell County. The murder of her mother twenty years ago may have been a solved case, but she knows in her heart of hearts that they punished the wrong man. Buddy Hicks was a mentally disabled man who took the fall for Celina’s death. He was found with the murder weapon covered with Celina’s blood. It was an open and shut case, but Alex knew there was conspiracy involved.

Her grandmother has held her mother in the highest regard, but Alexandra’s unexpected birth brought all her grandmother’s dreams of grandeur for her own daughter Celina to a crashing halt. Years of being blamed for her mother’s failures was what led to her curiosity about her death. Determined to get to the real truth about her murder, Alexandra wasn’t prepared for what she’ll discover.

Her arrival at Purcell County will wake up rivalries decades in the making. She will reopen wounds that had been left pestering for years. Amidst the storm she’s bringing to the place that held all the secrets of her mother’s former life, Alex is determined to find the real killer. At least, before the killer finds her first.

This book is a bit longer than normal, it seems. But it still only took me a couple of days to read it. That’s the beauty of Sandra’s work. It has that immersive quality that makes you want to shut the world out if only to devour her novel. She wasn’t very forthcoming with her clues as well. You will either be encumbered with frustration or be in awe with the intricacy of her mystery. I wasn’t annoyed by any means, not even impatient. I was completely vested in the novel.

I’ve always found that characterization is one of Sandra’s strengths. From the major players right down to the troublesome bar fly, I feel like she’s able to give them life even in not so many words.

What is Sandra’s book without romance? This is also one of her strengths. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of her books where she recycles story arches. This time around, the romance is a bit intriguing. There was quite an age gap between them. Also the man has a history with her mom. So some may find this a bit icky, like I did at first. Somehow, Sandra found a way to convince me otherwise. And boy, did she ever make me wait for it! But heck, it was worth it.

Best Kept Secrets is a signature Sandra Brown: romantic, suspensful, provocative. Reading this one makes me glad that  I’m working through a magnificent back list of her novels. And seriously glad this woman is a writing machine.

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[526]: Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | St. Martin’s Press | ARC paperback, 278 pp. | May 19th, 2015 | Adult Fiction | Paranormal Romance | Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


It was both a comfort and torture to be back in this world. Comfort because everything was so familiar, and torture because of the impending doom that’s been a few instalments in the making. It’s hard to believe how long it’d taken me to get to these books. I just discovered them in the latter part of February this year, and finished them off in the beginning of March.  It only took reading the first book to get me hooked. Charley’s sometimes, ill-timed humour is its major draw. And of course, there’s the son of Lucifer, Reyes whose dark sensuality is unparalleled, if I may say so, myself.

In this instalment, we see them ensconced in sacred grounds. The Twelve has been sniffing around ready to unleash holy hell on Earth. They’re after Charley and their unborn child, who’s believed to be the one prophecised  to bring forth the end of Lucifer (who happens to be her grandfather). No worries though, because she’s surrounded by a group of supernatural and human beings who are only too happy to give up their lives for her and Beep.

Charley is also worried about Reyes. He’s getting hotter and hotter in the literal sense, which leads her to believe that he’s sick. By the end of this book, some questions will be answered; most will not. You will laugh (lots) and cry (really). You will be frustrated due everyone’s tendency to hide things from Charley; secrets that more often hurt more than they help.

We’ve been given a clearer background on exactly what kind of being Charley is, but still no scope of the magnitude of her power. The next few books (I don’t know how many) will probably give us an exact picture. But like a well-seasoned author who knows exactly what would get her readers coming back for more, Jones will probably give it to us in small increments. I can’t freaking wait!

I have a feeling that the next few books will take on a darker tone based on how it ended. I don’t think Charley will ever be the same after what happened in this book. It was heartbreaking, and sad. I felt a little lost afterwards (that’s not ominous at all). I think that Ms. Jones will reinvent Charley in the coming books, but I do hope she’ll not lose her humour, because it’s what I love about her (among other things).

 

 

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[523]: A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Double Day Canada | Hardcover, 400 pp. | May 5, 2015 | Adult Fiction | Historical | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


I have to admit that this book seems much more complex than Life After Life. The plot didn’t have a deliberate destination at first, and readers may do well to bring an abundance of patience should you decide to pick this up.

If you’ll go into this thinking that it would be somewhat of a continuation of Life After Life, you would be mistaken. This companion novel makes the former look like an unrecognizable sibling. Apart from some mentions of characters from that book, it is not a sequel. It does not go back and give you a look at its predecessor. It is a whole new novel with a storyline that’s not at all different, but somehow not the same. It is still about the Todd’s family in the era of wartime Europe. But the telling difference is the absence of Ursula’s various incarnations.

For a time, I fully expected Teddy to have the same gift/curse. But as the languid tale crawls slowly along, it was quite clear that there will be no second chances for everyone here. It led me to believe that Teddy’s second lease at life in the first novel was all duly related to Ursula’s determination to keep him alive. Moreover, this book did not have the same whimsical characteristic as Ursula’s tale. It did, however share the same painfully candid account of the realities of life; unhappiness, reservations, the horrors of war and inevitable heartaches. While Life After Life provided hope of possible futures, A God in Ruins only spoke of a bleak tomorrow where death and decay were the only inescapable consequence.

Admittedly, the story took a while to find its rhythm. I scrambled to find purchase as the narrative flits from  different time periods accounting for Teddy’s life. Moreover, we were given a few perspectives. While I’ve never been a fan of taking notes whilst reading a book, I had to give in to the temptation this time around just to get my thoughts organized.

Despite some fumbling, I still found this book to be a brilliant companion novel to Life After Life. It gave me a different appreciation for complicated story telling that required infinite patience. It had me solving an intricate puzzle without knowing what the image was beforehand. And yet, in spite of it all, I was left with an imagery that’s nothing short of breathtaking.

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[520]: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Tor Books | Hardcover, 400 pp. | February 24th, 2015 | Adult Fiction | Fantasy | Rating 4 out of 5 Stars


Victoria Schwab is one of those authors who consistently makes book reviewing a difficult job. For one, I have a hard time explaining exactly what it was I just read. And two, I always fall short of adjectives; three, I have a tendency of repeating myself. More often, she confounds me. She has the gift of hypnosis; the kind that would make you fall in love with story elements that you normally wouldn’t. To be honest, the narrative is pretty dry. But I can’t help but enjoy her characters’ trains of thought. Or her train of thought, by extension. Also, I need romance, all right? I need it  like I need a semi colon in a sentence that I’m powerless to end.  This is her second book that didn’t offer a smidgeon of swoon. But for some asinine reason, I dug it.

For those of you who haven’t read this book yet, I will not bore you with what the story was about. Besides, I don’t freaking know where to start.

As you can tell from the title, this book is about magic. I know what you’re thinking. Magic is not exactly a novelty nowadays. But if you’ve ever considered reading this book with every expectations of applying what you’ve read about magic in the past, I’ll say, you’ll be sorely disappointed. More than likely, you’ll be lost. Because this magic is a different beast altogether. Schwab grabbed it by her hands and beat it like it owes her money.

In this world, London is a city that exists in parallel dimensions. They are classified according to colours: Red London, Grey London, White London, and Black London. Each dimension increasingly more perilous than the last. Not a lot of people can travel through these universes. Kell is one of the last Travelers. Because of this ability, he can smuggle goods from one London to another. It is during one of his missions that he was charged with treason.

Kell is one of those closed-off characters. You never really get to know him other than what the author tells us. I mean, I know that’s how characters are made, but in Kell’s case, it’s like you can feel he doesn’t want to tell you much. It’s almost like he resents Schwab for sharing pieces of himself. In a way, Lila is about the same, but where Kell is resolute, Lila at least  humours the readers.  They’re a quirky couple, but don’t get your hopes up. No floating hearts above their heads, I’m afraid.

A Darker Shade of Magic is probably not going to amuse the majority, but if you’re looking for an extraordinary novel about an extraordinary world, look no further than this book. Victoria Schwab  is a fantastic story spinner. Her characters are every bit as compelling as her intricate storyline.

 

 

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[518]: The Collector by Nora Roberts

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Berkeley | Paperback, 507 pp. | April 15,  2014 | Adult Fiction | Romantic Suspense | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


This is my first ever Nora Roberts book. I wanted to read it because for an author of her popularity, I haven’t been inclined to check out her work.  I’ve had this intolerable stigma that her books are purely romance, and in so, something to be read in the privacy of my bedroom. But I was wrong. I think I’ve always known I was wrong. I was just too stubborn to see reason. It just so happens that it was one of those weekends where I was between books. So when I saw this on my pile, I said, why not? A couple of chapters in, and I was hooked!

The Story.

Professional house-sitter, Lila Emerson was used to watching people live their lives. Through a pair of binoculars she sees them  and invents stories behind their glass windows. One night, she didn’t expect to witness the murder of a supermodel who fell to her death fourteen stories high. She’d always known that she was in one of those tumultuous, tempestuous relationships. So she knew it was only a matter of time before she befalls victim to her live-in lover. But the story is not as cut and dry. If at first, the suspects wanted the police to assume it was a murder/suicide, mounting evidence, however,  points to double murder.

Ashton Archer knew her brother wasn’t capable of hurting a fly. So when the police notified him that Oliver killed his lover, he was the first to defend him. He’s not going to rest until he finds out what happens to him. So he recruits the help of the only witness in the crime. Who would’ve known that gypsy writer, Lila Emerson could be as beautiful as she was insightful? Soon, their attraction starts to develop into something more. People also started dying; murdered by the same people who killed his brother.

Together, Lila and Ashton embarks to solve the mystery of what kind of trouble Oliver got himself into that led to his murder. Provided they don’t get killed first.

My Thoughts. 

That was really unexpected. Though I don’t know why I would think that. Nora Roberts hasn’t written 200 books because she was a mediocre writer. She has legions of fans who can attest to her story-telling prowess. I really am glad I finally broke through her world. I’ve become an instant fan!

Her characterizations are superb. Lila is one of those people who has this knack for getting you to talk. Soon, she’ll have your deepest secrets without you knowing how she did it. She’s also like a MacGyver of sorts. She fixes things – big and small with her handy-dandy switchblade of doom. She has the best job ever. She travels and for periods of time she lives in luxury as a professional house sitter for the rich. On her spare time, she’s a successful Young Adult novelist. She is funny, candid and she’s not scared of anything – not even the ruthless assassin who was hunting them. She’s spunky and delightful; truly a well-rounded character.

On the other hand, you’ve got Ashton, who was a study in control. Sometimes, you can feel his anger brimming to the surface, but he’s able to coral it in. I did wonder what it would be like for him to unleash all his temper, though. I imagine it would be spectacularly hot.

Over all, this book was a delightful mix of suspense and romance. It was a languid tale interspersed with burst of thrills that will get readers engrossed from start to finish. I can’t wait to read more from Ms. Roberts!

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Morsels [#16]: Laurel Heights by Kate Perry

15993039-1 GOODREADS SUMMARY
Laurel Heights, #2
Phoenix Publication
Published: February 22nd, 2012
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


This book was every bit as sweet as it was sad. It’s the story of a girl who can’t do anything right in her father’s eyes. But as most fathers out there, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his daughter. It’s tough love, but it’s love, nonetheless.

It’s also a story about a woman who couldn’t quite figure out what to do with her life. It’s been years since her husband passed, but she can’t seem to figure out how to live. It’s incredibly sad to see the lengths that she would go to preserve a business she no longer care for, just because that’s all she ever knew. Even to the point of losing her chance at love, and her son, who devoted his life caring for her.

I really enjoyed this one. It had just enough angst to balance out the sweet. It was funny and incredibly sad sometimes, but for me it was nearly perfect.  Eve and Treat is quite the couple.

SIDESTORY:  The villain gets her own romance, too. 


13562664 GOODREADS SUMMARY
Laurel Heights, #1
Phoenix Publication
Published: January 2nd, 2012
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Freya Godwin is a marketing wiz who has lost inspiration. Greg is a divorce lawyer who’s been hung up on his downstairs neighbour. Before Freya found out Greg’s line of work, she thought they could’ve been so good together. That’s basically the meat and potatoes of the story. Freya has a problem with Greg being a lawyer, and Greg simply wouldn’t quit.

In an attempt to entice her inner muse to come out, Freya decided she needs to get laid. So she puts out an ad. I’m not doing a very good job at summarizing this book, but take my word for it, this was fun. The conflict was a little thin, but that’s what makes romance novels frustratingly fun to read. Everyone makes a big deal out of something when it can all be solved over a little romp in the sheets.

Kidding.

SIDESTORY: Freya’s sister, Anna and the chef who lives in the downstairs apartment. 


 

 

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[514]: The Shadows by JR Ward

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GOODEADS SUMMARY | New American Library | Hardcover, 576 pp. | March 31st, 2015 | Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13 | Adult Fiction | Paranormal | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


I think I have come to a certain point of my JR Ward fangirl life, where I could no longer tolerate the lack of movement with the overall plot of this series as a whole. The last couple of books has been quite a disappointment, to be honest. JR Ward may have a particular knack for dangling the proverbial carrot in our faces, but she is nothing but a big tease. It’s a brilliant marketing ploy. Every instalment brings about a certain excitement for things to come. Albeit, most of the time, it’s the pounding beat of doom ringing ominously loud. Unfortunately, she hasn’t come through for me. Slowly, and as the years passed, my malcontent grows at a steady pace. So much so that I could no longer ignore it.

Standstill

Book number 13 may prove to be the one that pushes that “it’s over” button. As once again, none of the plot conflicts was resolved here: the Band of Bastards is still on the lam. Xcor and Layla are still circling/sniffing around each other. The only thing that have shown a glimmer of life is the resurgence of the Brothers’ original enemy, the Lessers. This is saying a lot, as I used to skip/skim parts where the lessers are mentioned. At this point, I’ll take anything that could get my heart rate pumping.

Wallowing in Suburbia

I don’t know about you, but just because the Brothers have found their respective shellans shouldn’t mean they go on to live in a suburban bliss. Come on now. It shouldn’t be allowed. Boring lives are for real people, not fictional characters. Not especially for powerful vampires who are supposed to be as bad as they come. I was bored. I miss the days when they go out on a slaying spree. When Rhage’s beast does a cameo (though, I think The Beast did for a blink or two here); when Vishous’ heritage as Bloodletter’s son comes out and play. I especially miss Zsadist’s growls and well, sadistic way of killing.

Written in stars

The Shadows is Trez and iAm’s book. I can’t recall which book they first showed up, but the short of it all is that they are Shadows. Beings that aside from being able to keep their invisible form, they are pretty much like vampires themselves. This book is about Trez’s destiny to mate with the heir to the S’Hisbe throne. Nothing is ever easy with these people, so of course, he goes and falls in love with the Chosen Selena – who in turn has a secret of her own that could devastate them both in the end.

In the meantime, iAm, in an attempt to help his brother, goes and gets himself imprisoned again. This time, though, with fruitful consequences. He meets maichen; a servant in the court of the Queen of Shadows. Everybody has secrets. And maichen has one of her own.

I will go down with this ship

As much as I’ve bemoaned the fact that I was bored with this book, I don’t think I see myself quitting. There are still good things to be had, I believe. I want to see what becomes of Xcor and Layla. I want to see what kind of evil plans Throe has up his sleeves. I want to see what’s doing with Rhage as he was a bit out of sorts in this book. And since they’ve found the lessers’ nest, I see a lot of bloodshed in the next book.

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