Review: Last Night with the Duke

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Last Night with the Duke
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: March 2017
Length: 297 pages
Series?: The Rakes of St. James #1
Genre: Historical Romance

Could finding love be his greatest scandal of all? 

The Duke of Griffin has never lived down his reputation as one of the Rakes of St. James. Now rumors are swirling that his twin sisters may bear the brunt of his past follies. Hiring a competent chaperone is the only thing Griffin has on his mind–until he meets the lovely and intriguing Miss Esmeralda Swift. In ways he could never have expected, she arouses more than just his curiosity.

Esmeralda Swift considered herself too sensible to ever fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met the irresistibly seductive Duke of Griffin. His employment offer proves too tempting for her to resist. She can’t afford to be distracted by his devilish charms because the stakes are so high for his sisters’ debut Season. . .unless one of London’s most notorious rakes has had a change of heart and is ready to make Esmeralda his bride?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Esmerelda Swift is an enterprising businesswoman who runs Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency for women. She has run the agency and cared for her younger sister for some time, but things are becoming extremely tight. They need incoming jobs for Miss Mamie’s to continue its employment services….and keep their home. She has everything to lose.

When the Duke of Griffin whirls in and demands Esmerelda chaperone his twin sisters for their introduction to the ton, he won’t take no for an answer. After earning his nickname as one of the “Rakes of St. James” for his own behavior with young ladies of the ton during his younger days, he is now concerned for his own sisters’ safety and protection during their debut as rumors swirl. Especially when “Miss Honor A Truth’s” weekly scandal sheet is released…and the Duke and his sisters find themselves the center of Society attention.

A strong but friendly chaperone is the perfect answer. Esmerelda throws up a myraid of excuses and finds herself, her sister, and their dog living at Griffin’s home and ushering the argumentative twins to events while keeping the peace.

 

The Players

Esmerelda (Esme) – disowned granddaughter of a noble, quietly operates a servicewomen agency and cares for her sister

Josephine – Esmerelda’s 12 year old sister

Griffin – Benedict Mercer, Duke of Griffin, named one of the Rakes of St. James

Lady Vera – the forceful and cantankerous twin

Lady Sara – the sweet twin

Rust Rathburne – Duke of Rathburne, Griffin’s friend and another of the Rakes of St. James

Sloan Knox -Duke of Hawksthorn, Griffin’s friend and another of the Rakes of St. James

The Quote

If there was a yelling and a shove when they both wanted to play the pianoforte, what would happen when they both started vying for the same young man’s attention?

The Highs and Lows

  • Esmerelda. Her past is important and often Essie turns to in her own thoughts. She is the granddaughter of a viscount, nobility in her own right. However, since her mother chose to love an Irish poet against the wishes of her father, Esmerelda’s mother was disowned. Both her mother and stepfather have since passed on, leaving Esmerelda to care for her 12-year-old sister who is a mix of bratty and sweet. Esmerelda’s life went from governesses to becoming one, and she worked her way up to now own Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency, a small company that places servicewomen with high society families. Essie is an enterprising, hard-working, independent, and stubborn woman. I admired and revered her for those qualities, but at times they also seemed like a facade. Essie is hired for her strong backbone, but at every turn in her new employ she is ready to rush and pack her bags, knowing she will be fired. Her independence and confidence were like the spikes and drops in a diabetic’s blood sugar.
  • The Attraction. I didn’t find there to be any romance in this “romance” novel. Benedict Mercer, the Duke of Griffin, is inexplicably attracted to Esmerelda the moment he hears her voice while eavesdropping on her reprimanding an employee. And again when he sets eyes on her. The insta-lust remains that throughout the entire book. There is no real development of their relationship, no growth. They spend very little time together, and their “romance” is some secretive kisses and make-out sessions in the library that can’t go too far. Essie’s commoner “miss” status draws Griffin like a moth to a flame, and ultimately what he also uses to push her away. A Duke can’t marry a mere commoner, but he can dally with one. Flirt, tease, bemoan the fact that he needs to settle down with a “proper” lady. It was a bit of a farce watching Griffin’s intentions completely change as soon as he learned of her family heritage and nobility status. It didn’t seem authentic or believable.
  •  The Goofs. Historically, this is not quite accurate. In no Regency world would a single, virginal employment agency administrator with a teenage sister and a rascally dog be a live-in partial chaperone. Essie doesn’t conduct the full duties of a chaperone, only the public facing ones. All of the planning and orchestrating has been done by Griffin’s aunt, who can’t go out due to a skin condition, which seemed engineered on her part to force Griffin toward a woman. Not to mention how a Duke would not be entering a women’s employment agency. No, there are servants for that – even the housekeeper at worst would have been sent.
  • The Twins. While the twins are quite snotty and catty, they show some development. They fight over everything left and right, and there seemed to even be a slight streak of malice in one of them, aimed at the other. They are high-spirited and high maintenance. However, their undying love for the same man is soon overcome and resolved, and Sara ends up finding her own love. Once the twins got past their tit-for-tat, I enjoyed their characters immensely and hope they make more than just cameos in the remainder of the series. In fact, I wonder if Rath or Hawk will wind up falling for Vera.
  • The Mysterious Revenge Plot. The entire plot of the story revolves around blind Sir Welby’s first-hand accounts of a group of young men bent on ruining Griffin’s sisters. Reputations and perceptions are the powerhouse of the ton, and even the slightest mar is a death threat for a young woman – just like the dozen women Griffin, Hawk, and Rath innocently damaged a decade prior when each young lady appeared at a clandestine location, unchaperoned, in the middle of the night to meet their secret admirers. While there are rumors continuing to abound, Griffin and Esmerelda are suspicious of every young man who shows too much attention or none at all! When the Season is half over with no attempt of harm, they begin to question the validity of Sir Welby’s claim. The mysterious revenge plot drug on…and then dissipated. It was quite anticlimactic.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.

Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.

Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norton Juster
Publisher: Random House Bullseye Books
Release Date: 1961
Length: 256 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Children’s, Fantasy

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . .

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

I had never read The Phantom Tollbooth as a child, and I had no idea what my students and I were about to embark on this past year while reading.

The Skinny

Milo is not your typical boy. No, he doesn’t find joy or even contentment in anything. Everything is boring and useless. What is this life even for? Until one day he arrives home to find a tollbooth waiting with a manual and coinage, ready to take him to the Kingdom of Wisdom. Through a series of adventures and characters along the way, Milo travels around the kingdom and is soon tasked with rescuing twin princesses Rhyme and Reason. Nothing has been the same in the kingdom since they were banished, and many want them to set things to rights.

 

The Players

Milo – a young boy who is utterly bored with everything in life, nothing satisfies him or even slightly makes him content

Tock – a “watch dog” – a dog with a clock that can fly

The Humbug – a bug who can never make up his mind and is in general disagreeable, sometimes a hindrance

The Quote

You must never feel badly about making mistakes … as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.

The Highs and Lows

  • Milo. He is a young boy, but his character grated on my nerves…at first. Milo doesn’t see the point in anything. He doesn’t see the point in learning at all. Words didn’t matter. Slowly, as Milo traipsed from place to place, he slowly morphed and changed and grew. By the end of the book, he was the exact opposite of the boy he was at the beginning, and I liked that. He learns to talk to people and mean things, too.
  • Abstractions. Each of the places Milo visits and all of his tasks are rather abstract, so they aren’t really for younger readers. I’d say 10-12 is the right age to read this for the first time, especially independently. I read this with a group of my sixth-grade students, and I will say they remembered more intricacies and nuances of characters, actions, or words from previous days’ readings than I did. They also understood the jokes, which is 70% or more of the book. The play on words, puns, deeper meanings, and overall abstract language about abstract concepts were cause for pause and thought.

  • Adventures. As Milo moves around the Kingdom of Wisdome (see map), he has pitfalls and lessons learned along the way to his ultimate goal: reaching the Castle in the Sky and saving Rhyme and Reason. As Milo and Tock travel, they meet other characters (Whether Man, the Mathemagician, Kakofonous Discord, King Azaz the Unabridged to name a few) who help teach Milo something, and a few characters depart certain magical items to Milo that he will need to accomplish his mission. For example, he learns there is an almost limitless number of words, but choosing the right words for every occasion is important. He ends up in some serious situations and some funny ones, like when everyone else was eating such tasty treats at the King Azaz’s feast.
  • Lack of engagement. This is a slow book to wade through. Yes, you have to wade. Slowly. You want to finish the book, but you also want to move on to different, more engaging and fun reads. It takes a while to get through, but I appreciated the growth Milo experienced.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Norton Juster is an architect and planner, professor emeritus of design at Hampshire College, and the author of a number of highly acclaimed children’s books, including The Dot and the Line, which was made into an Academy Award-winning animated film. He has collaborated with Sheldon Harnick on the libretto for an opera based on The Phantom Tollbooth. The musical adaptation, with a score by Arnold Black, premiered in 1995. An amateur cook and professional eater, Mr. Juster lives with his wife in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Review: The Piper’s Price

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Piper’s Price
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date: February 2017
Length: 309 pages
Series?: The Neverland Wars #2
Genre: Fairy Tale, Retelling, Fantasy, YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Peter is plotting his retaliation against the latest bombing. Neverland needs an army, and Peter Pan is certain children will join him once they know what is at stake. The lost boys and girls are planning an invasion in suburbia to recruit, but in order to deliver their message, they will need the help of an old and dangerous associate—the infamous Pied Piper.

Hunting him down will require a spy in the real world, and Gwen soon finds herself in charge of locating the Piper and cutting an uncertain deal with him. She isn’t sure if Peter trusts her that much, or if he’s just trying to keep her away from him in Neverland. Are they friends, or just allies? But Peter might not even matter now that she’s nearly home and meeting with Jay again.

The Piper isn’t the only one hiding from the adults’ war on magic though, and when Gwen goes back to reality, she’ll have to confront one of Peter’s oldest friends… and one of his earliest enemies.

my review

The Skinny

Peter Pan must save Neverland! Grown ups in Reality have upped their game, and these are no longer idle threats. The War is near, and Peter cannot win it without more children. In order to gain the following Neverland needs, Peter needs the Piper’s help. Except they are nearly arch enemies. Then there’s the problem of some puzzling tokens that must be found to summon the Piper.

Since Peter can’t go himself, he sends Gwen back to Reality to hide with an old Native American friend. Peter’s perfect pairing is no surprise – Tiger Lily will help Gwen along the way and keep her safe from the Anomalous Activity Department. While gathering intel, Gwen is reunited with a friend of her own. Once returning to Reality, Gwen has no one besides Tiger Lily. Except there’s Jay – the boy she is crushing on – and whose party she literally vanished from at the end of the first book. He can keep a secret, but her magic might give her away.

Gwen also meets an interesting group of ladies while waiting for her moment to meet and lure the dangerous Pied Piper into Peter’s plan. Once it arrives, Gwen is thrown for quite a loop. Luring the Piper is much more difficult than she ever imagined – and the stakes are high.

 

The Players

Gwen – 16 years old, struggling with growing up and remaining innocent

Peter Pan – 14 years old, struggling to find the Piper and protect Neverland

Lasiandra – the blonde mermaid who developed a friendship with Gwen, despite mermaids not being trustworthy

Tiger Lily – a grown woman now, living in a trailer

Jay – Gwen’s crush, good at keeping secrets

Dawn – Tiger Lily’s friend, she agrees to help Gwen find one of the puzzle items

Piper – the magical pipe-playing man who lures children away,

 

The Quote

“This isn’t about you or your children. It’s about the greater issue of children’s autonomy and Neverland’s right to exist.”

 

The Highs and Lows

  • Plot. Unlike the first book that had an unclear plot line, there is a clear and strong plot that pulls in many characters and presents new situations and new information for readers that continue to make the war Peter is fighting more real. This book picks up a short time after the end of the first book when Gwen and her sister fled Jay’s party with the black coats of the Anomalous Activity Department on their heels. They want to strip Neverland of magic forever. The bombings are becoming more frequent and dangerous in Neverland.
  • Overarching Conflict. To preserve Neverland and prevent the grown-ups in Reality from stealing Neverland’s magic, Peter needs to recruit an army of children. For once, Peter has a plan. Unfortunately, it involves dealing with the devil: the Piper. Peter and Gwen must solve a riddle and bring the required tokens for the Piper to appear. Solving the riddles proves quite difficult and requires the help of others.
  • Lasiandra. The blonde-haired mermaid is more than meets the eye. While mermaids are not to be trusted, she somehow gains a glimmer of trust from Gwen. She and Gwen develop a friendship that is mutually beneficial. While Lasiandra is helping Gwen in the short term, she will reap her rewards in the long run. She provides Gwen with important information and also gifts her a mermaid scale for future use to call her when Gwen should need her.
  • Gwen’s Dilemmas. Gwen experiences a series of dilemmas throughout this installment. It made her more real and believable as a character. First of them all is the fact that Gwen is now 16 – the oldest of the Lost Boys of Neverland. For her, it is harder to engage in Neverland. In fact, she is losing the ability to fly. It is becoming cumbersome to play along with the Lost Boys and their games. Then there is the fact that Peter sends her away – back to reality, hiding out in Tiger Lily’s trailer. While Peter claims she is helping and doing the important work to finding the Piper, Gwen can’t help but wonder why Peter wanted to send her away from Neverland. Was she the right person for this job? Was this mission even real? Does Peter trust her? Is he going to follow through? Her doubts are real and even more real for a teenage girl. She doesn’t feel that she belongs in either place – Neverland or Reality.
  • Tiger Lily. Who knew she’d been living in Reality all this time? She is living as an actual Native American, leading a relatively quiet life. Apparently she, along with her friends (princesses?), were part of the MRP, Magic Relocation Program, and have denounced all things magic since. Most of them want nothing to do with magic – or Peter – anymore after all these years. Tiger Lily and her friend Dawn are the most helpful to Gwen. While Gwen hides out at Tiger Lily’s, she acts sort of like a surrogate parent, but more like an older, wiser friend. And she’s the only one who openly will help Peter, causing me to question what Peter had done in the past to these Neverland migrants.
  • Peter. Again Peter seemed one-dimensional and elusive. I was expecting him to have greater exposure in this book and to show character growth. The closest he came was his reassurance to Gwen about choosing and trusting her above all.
  • The Piper. He is revered as notorious and sinister. After solving the token riddles and presenting the Piper with them, Gwen soon finds she is in over her head. Acquiring the Piper’s assistance is not as easy as handing over a pirate patch and other baubles. His price is much higher: the crown of Princess Charlotte of Wales, a root cutting from the Never Tree, and of course his pipe. Ultimately, the Piper wants to be finished with the mermaids, whose magic can always find him thanks to the stars. So he needs something more powerful than them from Neverland – the Never Tree cutting. It could be the most damaging thing of all to Neverland.
  • Jay. I thought we saw the last of Jay when Gwen fled his party at the end of the first book, but her crush on him seems to have a hold over her. While contacting him at all was extremely risky, Jay seemingly knows how to keep secrets – and big ones. I found it hard to believe that he wouldn’t spill the beans and give away her presence – especially to her parents – but I suppose that shows the distance and disconnect they had before she disappeared. What did Jay really know about Gwen anyway? They obviously weren’t that close. I did find it ironic though, that Gwen was the one with the crush on him, but anytime she told him to jump, he asked how high…or rather, what hour of the night and which remote location to meet at. There was more to Jay, though. He actually listened to and supported Gwen, unlike her parents or even Peter.

 

The last two-thirds of the book really rocketed the tension and the danger Gwen and Peter and all of their friends are in. While they secured the Piper, it comes at an additional cost, and the dark side of adulthood that Peter has pronounced all along is finally seen in itself. I hope this increased anxiety and action flows through into setting up another great plot line to come next.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

6545831Audrey Greathouse is a Seattle-based author of science-fiction and fantasy. Raised in the suburbs, she became a writer after being introduced to NaNoWriMo during her sophmore year of high school. Since then, she has drafted more than a dozen books, 100 sonnets, and 800 other poems, and a handful of short stories and one-act plays.

After dropping out of her university and beginning training as a circus performer on the aerial silks, she returned to school to study at Southern New Hampshire University College of Online and Continuing Education to earn her B.A. in English Language and Literature, with a minor in Computer Information Technologies.

Audrey Greathouse is a die-hard punk cabaret fan, and pianist of fourteen years. She’s usually somewhere along the west coast, and she is always writing.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: To Move the World

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: To Move the World
Author: Regina Sirois
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: October 2016
Length: 246 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #10
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Eve Brannon never had to bother planning out her future. In the Yorkshire dales where life is harder, it is also simpler. Next in line to inherit her family’s farm, she will raise another generation of children and sheep high in the uplands of England. Waiting until next year when she is 19 to marry her father’s handsome hired hand, Alan, is the detail she added herself.

But in 1939 even the most stalwart corners of the world are vibrating with the tremors of change. Eve’s long-anticipated proposal comes on the wings of losing Alan to the Royal Army and at the brink of the farm’s profitable war years the sheep herd is decimated by a mysterious illness. With her steady future suddenly in the clutches of a capricious fate, Eve is introduced to Jonathon Doran, a land manager anxious to prove himself in a crisis, and she discovers that the solid earth beneath her feet is moving after all.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Eve is a young woman living on a sheep farm with her father and brother. Eve and the farmhand her father hired plan to marry the following year. With the rumblings of war, everything is topsy-turvy. Her beloved enlists to earn more money for their own farm, and he is sent to fight. Worse still, a strange outbreak among the sheep threatens the livelihood and home of Eve and her family.

In Alan’s absence, she meets a wealthy landowner, Jonathon, who takes it upon himself to assist Eve and her family with the mysterious sheep attack.

The Players

Eve – a young girl responsible for the family farm; she yearns to write

William – Eve’s older brother; he attends university

Alan – the farmhand who works alongside Eve’s father on the farm; he plans to one day have his own farm

Theo Weller – Eve’s best friend;

Marion Doran – the youngest son of a wealthy family nearby; Eve’s girlhood crush

Jonathan Doran – a wealthy landowner and older brother of Marion; he lends aid to the family farm

The Quote

“You say a heart doesn’t move,” she said, “but that would mean it is dead. Love should always move us.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Pearl. The Power of the Matchmaker series is a series of stand-alone books with one common thread throughout. The character of matchmaker Pearl is the connection between all the books, but in this installment Pearl hardly appears at all. More than halfway through the book Pearl still had not surfaced, and when she did, it was quite minimal. I was disappointed with that and hoping Pearl made a  grand entry in this book, but that wasn’t the case.
  • Writing. I couldn’t put this story down! The imagery and language were poetic and detailed. I felt like I was there with Eve, like an invisible soul living alongside Eve and her life.
  • Eve. She was such an interesting character. Eve brought such expression to life with her typewriter. That was her outlet, the one thing on the farm that was hers. Eve is a bit of a mix. She is loyal and devoted to the family farm, but at the same time she regrets the lack of the opportunity to go to college like her brother. While she is grounded to the farm and level-headed, she also has a dreamy side.
  • Journal Entries. Since Eve has this typewriter and she records her daily life, the story is told through journal entries. At first this confused me but after the first two chapters I got used to it.
  • The Engagement. Alan is a wonderful, loyal, sweet but shy young man. He works as hard as Eve’s father on a farm that isn’t his, but he has hopes and dreams for his future – and Eve’s. It was a path Eve thought she wanted, and she is handling all these new emotions and feelings. When Jonathan shows up, it is obvious to everyone but Eve where her path should go – and who should walk it alongside her.
  • The Niggling Feeling. While it was obvious how Eve reacted to Jonathan from the start, I didn’t find that she really expressed any true emotion or feeling for him (or Alan for that matter). It was like she was swept up and just went along with things. The ambiguous ending also didn’t really satisfy me after this long-laid romance on Jonathan’s part.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Regina Sirois believes in intelligent books that challenge us to reach higher and be better. She believes in the powerful years of adolescence and loves to capture the raw moments when young adults begin to solidify into the people they were meant to be. She lives in Kansas with her high school sweetheart (also known as her husband), her two daughters, and their nearly hairless cat. She continues to write stories that won’t leave her alone.

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: King of the Friend Zone

ABOUT THE BOOK

31752357Title: King of the Friend Zone
Author: Sheralyn Pratt
Publisher: Wicked Sassy
Release Date: August 2016
Length: 351 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #9
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Esme Taylor has an amazing fiancé, a lifelong best friend, and a problem. The problem stems from the fact that her best friend is named Hunter and, well. . .he’s kind of (totally) hot. It’s hate at first sight when her fiancé, Jon, and Hunter meet. Jon’s convinced that Hunter is in love with Esme, and that Hunter must be out of the picture if their upcoming marriage is to succeed.

Esme thinks Jon is paranoid.

The truth is, Jon’s not that far off. Hunter is in love with his best friend and always has been. What Jon has wrong, however, is that Hunter never had any plans of ruining Esme’s happily ever after. Hunter wants what’s best for Esme, even if that’s not him.

When Jon pushes hard to end Esme and Hunter’s friendship, opposition comes from the most unlikely of places. It’s an eccentric lady with a cookie cart who suggests a different solution to Esme’s problem: Hunter and Esme should give each other a chance.

They’ve both thought of the possibility over the years—of course they have. But with a ring already on Esme’s finger and a heap of hurt feelings and broken trust in the mix, there hasn’t been a worse time to explore the depths of their feelings for each other.

Both Esme and Hunter think it’s time to move on and leave childhood crushes in the past. The question is: Can one woman and the taste of one cookie change their minds?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Hunter and Esme have grown up their whole lives with one another. Their mothers were best friends, so naturally they became best friends. Esme keeps up with all of the calls for service Hunter is dispatched to, competes with him for steps on her FitBit, and constantly keeps up by texts. They are integral parts of each other’s lives, which they quickly learn the hard way after being ripped apart by jealousy – Esme’s jealous fiancé, that is. Jon is a straight up douche that goes for the jugular and single-handedly cuts all communication between the lifelong best friends and manipulates Esme into making decisions she later regrets.

While Esme is figuring it out with Jon, Hunter is busy working with a street kid named Kenny. Shauna, his social worker, has brought several kids Hunter’s way before…usually the end of the line.

The Players

Hunter – a hot fireman

Esme – a crisis manager

Daryl – Hunter’s fireman coworker

Grace – Esme’s friend; she helped Grace out in a bad situation before

Luke – Hunter’s best friend; he flips houses

Kenny – a kid in the system; assigned to work with Hunter at his boxing gym

Shauna – Kenny’s social worker; in an abusive relationship

The Quote

He kept going, ignoring his phone when it buzzed yet again. But Andy didn’t. “Someone named, uh, NOT TODAY SATAN is blowing up your phone, Hunter.”

“Leave it,” Hunter said, still going strong.

“Another psycho?” Andy guessed, clearly trying to distract him.

“Basically,” Hunter said, earning an arched look from Daryl in his peripheral vision.

The Highs and Lows

  • Real. What I loved most about this story was so real. Hunter’s reactions and inner dialogue were so on point. He thought – and sometimes said – what everyone else was thinking. Sometimes it wasn’t the best time or place, but he was honest with himself. And with others, even when they were in denial. *cough* Esme *cough*
  • Jon the Jackass. Seriously, the guy had a major problem. He was the best worst guy ever. Right from the start he immediately hones in on Hunter and creates problems. He is very manipulative and selfish. I was hoping Esme would catch on, but the girl was blind. I thought he was going to slip up in front of other people, but he was always able to keep his cool. A master manipulator, knowing when to turn it on and turn it off.
  • Esme’s Stalking. Seriously, NOT TODAY SATAN. Esme asked for certain things from Hunter – demanded them – and then went against everything she asked him for. I could not wrap my brain around that, even as a woman. I tried feeling some sympathy for her, but I couldn’t. She was a character I didn’t really like. She abandoned all of her character and integrity and beliefs.
  • Shauna’s Story. While Shauna knows Hunter on a professional level due to her work, he and his firemen friend Daryl do their best to help her out in a sticky situation. She works with Kenny, a young rough and tough kid who doesn’t believe in Hunter’s methods. The change in Kenny is profound, and he and Hunter (and Esme) play an intregal part in Shauna’s story.
  • The Fun. I love how fun Hunter is. He is such a jokester. The conversation he has with Daryl and his girlfriend about if they were a TV show was quite humorous. As was the engagement party.
  • The Cookie. Miss Pearl’s cookie cart in the park was genius. No two cookies every taste the same, and she has incredible wisdom she imparts to Hunter and Esme.

The Take-Away

This was a fun read! I really like reading from Hunter’s perspective. Esme rubbed me after a while, but she still had a story to offer.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sheralyn was born at an early age, with 10 fingers and 10 toes. She is proud to report that she currently retains all 20 digits. Described by one reviewer as “the bomb dot com” (url already claimed… bummer), Sheralyn has been a karate instructor, musical theater performer, a beach bum, freelance writer, nomadic traveler, and, yes, a private investigator. At the moment she enjoys working with and training her dog to give the poor thing breaks from sitting and Sheralyn’s feet with the unbearable task of watching someone write a book.

Sheralyn currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, although as people who know her can attest to, that is subject to change at any time 😉

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Chasing Fireflies

ABOUT THE BOOK

30136490Title: Chasing Fireflies
Author: Taylor Dean
Publisher: Taylor Dean Books
Release Date: July 2016
Length: 311 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #7
Genre: Contemporary Romance

My sisters think I’m crazy.

But, I’ve never forgotten the mysterious woman from my childhood who told me Paul is the name of my one true love.
She told me to search far and wide for him.
I haven’t stopped looking ever since.

When I stumble across an article about a successful American entrepreneur named Paul who lives and works in China, I’m intrigued. When the opportunity to teach English in China presents itself on the same day, I know it’s not a coincidence.

It’s destiny.

My sisters say I’m chasing a dream.

Just like the fireflies we tried to catch on the warm summer evenings of our youth, the dream seems beyond my grasp. Will my quest for the elusive Paul always be just short of fulfillment?

My sisters tell me it’s a fool’s errand.

Until I remind them of the day we saw the Red Bird.
The memory silences them.
The Red Bird Incident remains inarguable—and proves my search for Paul is not a silly fantasy.

I will find Paul . . . I will.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Skinny

Savannah met Miss Pearl, the matchmaker, when she was 11. Miss Pearl told her three important things. The first two have come true, and now Savannah must fulfill the last thing: find Paul. Not just any one specific Paul, but the Paul that his her soulmate. How in the world does she do this? She ignores anyone (romantically) without the name Paul. After flipping through her university’s alumni magazine, she discovers Paul, a UT alumni businessman in China. So she signs up for a program teaching English in China in the same city as Paul.

The Players

Savannah – an extreme introvert on a mission

Dakota – Savannah’s read-headed roommate who is incredible intuitive

Hunter – a young, blond, goofy kid more interested in the food and the fun

Lori and _____ – the married couple leading the English teaching expedition

Julian – an American chef at Burger, Burger; former teacher in the same program at

Paul – UT graduate and businessman in China

The Quote

The Highs and Lows

  • Pearl and the Prophecies. The way Pearl showed up in this installment in the series was different than all the others. Savannah meets Pearl when she is 11 years old. Pearl is the next-door neighbor of one of Savannah’s friends, and when the two meet Pearl tells her three important events about her future. When these prophecies begin to be fulfilled, like the tragic news and The Red Bird incident, Savannah holds steadfast to Pearl’s last item: she will search far and wide for Paul.
  • Savannah. She is an introvert to the max, like me, so it was very easy to understand her character and can relate very much. It is something that is hard to explain to other people. Savannah keeps to herself and goes through life wearing an invisible cloak that lets her blend into the background and be forgotten or overlooked in social situations.

The truth of the matter is I like being invisible.

Social situations sometimes exhaust me. Not that I don’t enjoy them. I do. Absolutely. But afterwards I need space, time to regroup and recover from the effort.For some reason, social situations take a lot out of me and I can only handle them in small doses. But it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them or need them.

I don’t enjoy situations where I feel at a loss for words. Every once in a while, I find myself searching for words and not finding them. That’s when things get awkward.

I don’t enjoy being the center of attention. I like to observe and listen, it’s the niche where I feel most comfortable.

I hate the disconnect between my brain and my tongue. It’s an innate part of me that I can’t seem to fight, no matter how hard I try. The words stick in my throat.

  • Julian. He is an incredible individual, and I was impressed with his business skills to co-own Burger, Burger in China with Mr. Tang. He caters more to the American tourists, which the book made clear is where the group eats daily, preferring American fare over Chinese. The other thing that got me was his instant attachment to Savannah, and his brazen way of letting her know and calling attention to that fact as much as possible. He is also very obvious in his dislike for the group leader, Lori and her husband, and another girl in the group who hangs on his every word and is very fake. Overall, he’s a fun guy and I liked that in his character. Savannah did, too. Only problem is his name isn’t Paul. But all the things you’d want in a partner are there in Julian. Who cares if his name isn’t Paul?
  • Pina Coladas. Julian plays on this song quite a bit throughout the novel, and it is kind of like their “thing” he and Savannah share. They make light of others in the group only having half a brain. Comments about yoga and the taboo making love at midnight comes up.
  • Hiding Savannah’s Past. Since the first two chapters, “The Red Bird Incident” is referred to several times, but never explained in any kind of way except that it was the second item Miss Pearl foretold Savannah about. It drove me crazy! Savannah and all of her sisters gabbed on and on about these things, and it was like being left on the outside looking in – and not in a good way. It really made me want to stop reading entirely. I didn’t ever foresee being told what the hell was going on. There would be chapters that would flash back and the entire chapter would be about Savannah’s past. It would build up and build up and then just dropped. The book even started in this way. I was left wondering who the hell Paul was and why her sisters didn’t trash him or build him up as an individual. The reason was he didn’t exist – he, as a specific person. Paul is just any man named Paul, and Savannah set her sights on the UT alum in China.
  • Fundamental Drawbacks. As I read, I had some things I couldn’t get past some things at the end. Some of Savannah’s commentary about her relationship or responses to Julian.  It was weird. I did feel that Savannah and Julian had some sort of connection, but there were some things that didn’t mesh for me as a reader. For these reasons, I was disappointed in this installment in the series. Because of these things I felt it did not live up to the basic principles of romance and true – TRULY – true love. It was subpar and I feel like the last few chapters reinforced all the wrong things I think young girls and women today fall victim to in relationships.

 

The Take-Away

I didn’t really like this one. Developmentally a lot of things could have been different. I also don’t really see the swoony romance here. I see a connection that is then up in the air as both Savannah and Julian have different thoughts and make up their minds about things.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

6425797Taylor Dean lives in Texas and is the mother of four grown children. Upon finding herself with an empty nest, she began to write the stories that were always wandering around in her head, quickly finding she had a passion for writing, specifically romance. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, or suspense-you’ll find all sub-genres of CLEAN Romance in her line-up.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: Crows & Cards

ABOUT THE BOOK

4818478Title: Crows & Cards
Author: Joseph Helgerson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 2009
Length: 348 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Three warnings for readers who hate surprises: 1. Beware of slivers, 2. and gamblers, 3. and aces.

Zebulon Crabtree found all that out the hard way back in 1849 when his mother and father shipped him off to St. Louis to apprentice with a tanner. Too bad he had serious allergies to fur and advice from his parents.

Hearing the beat of a different drummer, Zeb takes up with a riverboat gambler who has some special plans for him, crosses paths with a slave who turns out to be a better friend than cook, and learns that some Indian medicine men can see even though blind.

And then there’s the Brotherhood—the one that Zeb can’t seem to get out of. . . . Lucky for us, the price of living in turbulent times is often a good story, and Zeb spins an unforgettable one.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: MacLeod Andrews
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: April 2009
Length: 6 hrs and 41 mins

The Highs and Lows

  • Zeb. He is a 12-year-old boy and the oldest of seven. His father scrapes together $70 to send him to his Uncle Seth to become a tanner’s apprentice. He is a very sheltered boy. He doesn’t know things about the world. The notion of not talking to strangers, let alone trusting one, isn’t a lesson Zeb has learned – but he will. The story is told from the perspective of Zeb.
  • Setting. It is 1849 in St. Louis. This was the year cholera hit a peak in St. Louis, and it was also the year of the infamous St. Louis Fire.
  • Other Characters. Zeb also learns from the slave, Ho-John, who burns all the food (on purpose) and a blind Native American chief whispered to be a “seer.” Zeb tries as much as he can not to endanger
  • Zeb’s Journey. During his travels to St. Louis via steamboat, Zeb meets a professional gambler and thief named Chilly. Through their escapades, Zeb believes they are going to be a modern-day Robin Hood crew and swindle money from the rich to give to the poor. Eventually Zeb wises up and decides to help the slave and the already swindled chief. But by now he has already become Chilly’s apprentice and magic key to his swindling gigs, pledged himself to the Brotherhood of the Gamblers, and resides in an inn with a gambling parlor,to which Chilly is secretly half-owner in. Eventually, Zeb turns the tables on Chilly with the help of the chief and his daughter, referred to as the princess.
  • Plot and Pacing. This wasn’t a particularly interesting book. In fact, it was particularly boring. I determined to finish listening to the audio so I could mark it for several of my challenges, especially my audiobook challenge. I wasn’t an invested reader in this slow-moving, woefully underdeveloped writing.
  • Imitation or Homage? I couldn’t really tell which angle the author was taking, whether it was an homage to Mark Twain or trying to imitate him. Either way, it feel far from the mark. This emulation of Twain is a cheap imitation and very obvious. While Twain was masterful at Mississippi dialect, this duplicate wannabe is merely bad grammar from the 1830s, and all the characters have the same dialect. The craft and skill that Twain used is not evident in this novel, but there is a great deal of figurative language. The book is also illustrated.
  • Historical Notations. There is an appendix of historical information and a dictionary at the back of the book. The information contained in the appendix is interesting and the dictionary is quite humorous. The appendix contained information about slavery and Native American issues, as well as the attitudes from the time.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

223894First of all, I blame my family for my becoming a writer. Scratch one of my relatives and often as not you’ll get a story, usually of the tall-tale variety. Though I’ve lived out West, I’ve spent most of my life in Minnesota, along the Mississippi River where such tales are a tradition.

As you can see, I’m a redhead, freckled, fry easily. Stories could be told. Stories have been told. I’m married with a son and daughter. Over the years we’ve shared our home with creatures who purr, chirp, bark, scuttle, and molt. It’s generally a happy house, though not always quiet.

I grew up playing sports like a fiend and during college bicycled from Minnesota to Arizona for the adventure. During that trip I kept a journal, which marks the official start of my writing career. My advice to would-be writers? Never turn down a chance to take a bike ride.

Find the author: Website | Goodreads