Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Release Date: June 11th 2013 by Delacorte Books
Genre: YA Historical fiction
Source: Author
Format: E-book
Goodreads Summary
When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new "friend" is the hired help, and Maude's very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.
My Review
For me, Belle Epoque, was quite a special book. What I loved about it the most, was just how emotionally intelligent it was. This book really tries to focus on how every person should pay attention to what they feel, and not pay attention to societal tenets of how a person should be. This book has a very willful and strong heroine, Maude, and an array of really interesting supporting characters; that were for me, really well developed.
The concept behind Belle Epoque was really interesting. In the book, you had an agency that hired young women who were considered unattractive in some form or another. These ladies were called repoussoirs. A word that means repulsive in French. Their sole goal was to make other women stand out when they stood next to them. In Belle Epoque the lead character, Maude, is hired as a repoussoir and through her journey, the reader gets to see how brutal it is on a persons psyche to be constantly undermined, ignored, and compared to others.
The characterization in this book was really good. Maude is an excellent heroine. She is strong of character, willful, and intelligent. And though it is tough on her to be a repoussoir, an ugly girl for hire, she is able to figure out who she is and what she needs to do in order to grow. Isabelle, who is the daughter of a countess who hires Maude, is the opposite of Maude in social status. She is rich, and beautiful, but secretly struggling because she wants to become go to college and study, and not marry. The fellow repoussoirs of Maude were also quite well-developed, each with a distinct personality. Characters like Durandeau who ran the repoussoir agency and the Countess, were excellent villains, who had a total disregard for the feelings of others and were experts at manipulation.
The setting of this book was perfection and interesting to read about. Belle Epoque takes place in Paris, during the Belle Epoque era - late 1800s, early 1900s - where art and literature thrived in Paris. I honestly felt like Paris was a character of its own in this book because the author did a great job at recreating the era. The clothing, the artists, the cafes and famous Parisian spots that were mentioned really make the reader feel like they are in Paris, during the belle epoque era. What also adds to recreating the era in this book is that the author tackles what wealthy people lived like and what very poor people went through in this era, so you get to see both sides of the coin, per se. It was also very interesting to me that the author made sure to include how controversial the making of the Eiffel Tower was during this time. What a surprise to me, that something that is so symbolic of Paris now, was once so rejected in its time.
I don't think it was an accident for the author to place her characters in Paris. For many, Paris seems like a city of dreams, maybe because it possesses so much culture and history, but there is something about the idea of Paris, that has been inspiring for many across the centuries. Especially those who seek academic freedom and who want to pursue art. Maude, the lead heroine in this book, left her really constricted life next to her father, to see if she could find more and not just become somebody's wife. Same with Isabelle, the daughter of her first client, who dreams of leaving debutante life and becoming a woman who studies and can support her own self.
There is also a cute romance that develops unexpectedly between Maude and Paul, a struggling musician, that was quite endearing.
I really liked this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to read about art, self discovery, Paris, and friendship. 
My Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: The Language of Souls by Lena Goldfinch

Release Date: November 9th 2012
Genre: YA Fantasy/Romance/Novella
Source: Won @ Tales of Whimsy
Format: E-Book
Goodreads Summary:
A fast-paced tale of adventure and soul-stirring romance that will leave you breathless.

Solena trespasses into hostile territory to search for a rare herb to cure the grandfather she loves. When a young enemy soldier captures her and she's accused of being a spy, she discovers just how much she’s risked.

As a soldier, Rundan struggles to please his father, a ruthless army commander. When his father orders him to take the beautiful trespasser to the royal courts, where she’ll surely be tried and executed, Rundan is plagued by an inconvenient desire to protect her.

The handsome young soldier confuses Solena. First, he cruelly captures her, and then treats her with uncommon kindness. When he risks his life to save hers, she fears she may have risked more than her life on her journey…she may have lost her heart.

My Review:
So, The Language of Souls, is a little gem of a novella. It's not the full out length of a book, but it is doesn't need to be. This novella has so much to it. It is heart-warming, intense, complex, and a really fast pace read. And overall, despite the setting, which is not light hearted, it was really adorable, because the main characters were such lovely people. It felt like a fairy tale.
The world building in this novella is so impressive. I haven't read too many novella's so I always am concerned with the world building when I do read one, because I worry if the author has enough space to develop their world. As this story was set in a fantasy world, I wondered if I would get enough info on the world, in order to really see it in my mind. Here to inform you that I did. I loved the idea of having these enemy territories, Oden and Toranni, and their respective people not getting along at all, and the friction that is created between their people when they do encounter each other. Each territory had its intricate traditions and rituals and it had like an ancient feel to it. Like you were being taken to an ancient, secret world. And the clothing described on the characters, also kinda gave me that impression of ancient-ness with the characters walking around in armor or flowing tunics. THAT is the vibe in this story. It's very fantasy and fairy-tale-ish.
The main characters, Solena, a healer from Toranni, and Rundan, a young Oden soldier - were SO cute, you guys. Like, I can't. Solena had all the makings of a fairy tale princess with how sweet she was and her undying love for her grandpa. And poor Rundan was so dutiful and just dying to impress his commander/army dad who was a jerk. He was, like, a fairy tale prince. I mean, neither of Solena or Rundan were royalty per se, but they had that prince, princess vibe going on. Solena just has this beautiful soul and willingness to help, a selflessness, that is great. This naturally grabs Rundan's attention, a soldier from enemy territory. While Rundan, on the outside looks like this collected and stern soldier, but really is unlike his other Oden soldiers. He is super humane, intelligent, decent - despite - having a nasty father, who treats him poorly.
Their romance was ADORBS. Yes, I said, adorbs, but I had to, because they were beyond adorable, Solena and Rundan were so cute and sweet. Even amongst dangerous situations.
At it's core, this novella, is all about people finding the courage to be themselves, to go beyond stereotypes and managing to see the true essence of others. Rundan and Solena had a lot of hurdles to get over. They were from enemy territories, they didn't speak the same language, Rundan took Solena captive when she stepped in his territory. As you guys can imagine, the conditions for these two getting along were very bad, but they manage to overcome that and what ensues is really cute.
Now, I do have one complaint: This novella should have been longer. I wanted more. There should be a sequel to this. Something. BUT there is soo much more that can be developed from the Toranni and Oden world. Like, I wanted to see how Rundan and Solena would work together, being that they were from enemy territories. I wanted to see how Rundan would confront his ruthless dad and how Solena would further manage Rundan with her people. And I also wondered how the people  in each territory would react to Rundan and Solena coming together. As I said, there is a lot there, that can be further developed.
Overall, this novella was really good. Loved it!
My rating: 4/5


Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow

 In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
Release Date: June 3rd 2013 by Sapphire Star Publishing
Genre: New Adult Contemporary/Realistic fiction
Source: Publisher
Format: E-book

Goodreads Summary:
Gracie has just finished her freshman year of college in Memphis when she takes a job at a local pizza joint in her home town of McKenzie, Tennessee. She is the epitome of innocence when she meets Noah. Noah is unabashedly handsome, intriguingly reckless and just cocky enough to be sexy. Gracie’s instincts tell her to stay far away from him and based on the stories she hears from her co-workers he leaves broken hearts in his wake. But still, she can’t explain her fascination with him.

Noah puts aside his bad boy ways when what he thought was a summer crush has him unexpectedly falling in love. But soon after Gracie transfers to UT Knoxville to be with Noah, their unexpected love becomes riddled with anger, deceit and humiliation.

Jake, Noah’s former roommate and Gracie’s best friend, can no longer be a bystander. Gracie’s world falls out from beneath her and when she breaks she turns to Jake for strength. As Jake talks her through a decision she’s not yet strong enough to make, together they uncover a truth so ugly neither of them is prepared for its fallout. Will Jake pull her to the surface or is Gracie Jordan finally In Too Deep?

My Review:
If you are looking for a feel-good novel. Something light and airy and super romantic. Guess what? This is not it. As the title and cover of this book suggest, this story is about a girl who falls in too deep into the wrong relationship and loses herself. This book is about emotional abuse at its core and the toll it can take on a persons life. A subject - like depression - that is not tackled on enough, in my opinion. No worries, though, for those who love romance, there is a bit of that in the novel. It's not all suffering.

Most people are of the belief that what makes a book good or readable is that the main characters be likeable and relatable. But, to me, that is the wrong way to read. Like in life, not all characters are relatable or likeable. There is a lot of different people out there, with unique personalities and backgrounds. It's because people are so different from one another that makes life complex and the same goes for book characters. We learn the most, when we read, from characters who are different from us. We get to see a new view on things. That is what happens in this novel. Gracie and Noah are not likeable at all. I think Gracie is supposed to be, but I'll tackle more of my views on her, in the latter half of this review.

 What I took from this novel, is that Gracie and Noah (the main characters in this book) are the quintessential example of what not to be or how to act in a relationship. They are the poster children for toxicity and emotional abuse in a relationship. Why might you add? Well, because Noah is the most manipulative, insensitive and rotten male character you can find. He is a bad boy. But, like, a real one. He is just a horrible human being and boyfriend to Gracie, who in this novel is the victim of his emotional abuse. That boy messes with that girls mind like no one's business and it literally takes to the very end of this book for Gracie to dump him once and for all.

Which leads me to world building and the subject of emotional abuse. When it comes to both things, I think the author succeeds tremendously in portraying emotional abuse in a young couple who are in college. The college environment and the actions of the characters in this novel felt authentic to the way people act in college, when they are young. We get a bit of life in a fraternity house, and get to learn through Noah, all of the many ways in which a person can manipulate another until they lose all sense of self. Which Gracie did, thanks to Noah. He gets her to essentially become his puppet. Through what you might add? By making her think that she was too much of a good girl, uptight, controlling and demanding. And naturally in her belief, that she can change him and that he is different with her, she always falls into all of his traps and demands.

Now, as much as I hated Noah, because he was awful and well that was his role, to be awful as the master manipulator of Gracie's emotions. I was equally annoyed with Gracie. I know that if they were real, I would've wanted to smack them both. Kudos to the author, because I think that books should do that, they should provoke strong emotions in the reader and boy did I feel a lot of frustration with these two. Noah was just sick. The things he did to manipulate Gracie, especially when it came to sex. That guy was just sad. He had a girlfriend who loved him, and it didn't matter, he just treated her like dirt.

Gracie. Oh, Gracie. Maybe the reader was meant to sympathize with her. I did on some levels. No doubt, her boyfriend treated her horribly. BUT, I wasn't completely on her side. First off, everyone in the book, to Gracie's mom, to her friends, and especially her best guy friend Jake, and even herself, in her head, kept talking on and on about how she was so special and beautiful and had this light about her soul that was going dim because of this abusive relationship and I'm sorry, I just never saw it. Scratch that, I never felt it. Just because other characters tell me how a character is doesn't mean I'm gonna buy it. The author has to show me, through the characters actions who they are. Not tell me. And that's what I got for Gracie. All this high praise but I never once felt like Gracie was this incredibly special person that everyone claimed she was. Not even in her flashbacks. She did have good feelings and there were several moments where she was gracious and respectful with others. But I honestly, never got a true feel for who she was.

Another thing, all the good girl talk that went in Gracie's mind about how she was not a good girl anymore or how some action she did took her good girl status away, was a bit too much for me. At the beginning, I was like, "yea, I get you girl. You fell for a bad boy and he messed you up." But after a while, that line just didn't make me sympathize with her anymore. Noah did manipulate Gracie through that, through her being a good girl, but there came a point when that was all she would reference to. The "good girl" label. Or she would often talk about Noah being a "bad boy" and that's all she would do. It's like she lived her life within the confines of those two labels. It was a bit too much and fell a little into cliché land for me. Have to be honest.

Oh, and what irritated me the most about Gracie is here she would be, crying her heart out to her best guy friend Jake, and supposedly devastated over another one of her fights or epic break ups with Noah that shattered her soul because he treated her like dirt, but then she would be, like, checking Jake out? Excuse me. I don't care how hot he is, if your boyfriend Noah is your everything and defines you, why are you checking out this guy who has a girlfriend? How is your mind going there in the first place, Gracie? She did it way too much for comfort. I gave her some passes on the excuse that she was young, but it was a bit out of place for me. Thank God, she did respect Jake and his relationship, but I was a bit afraid there for a bit.

Overall, my fave part of this novel was Gracie's best guy friend, Jake. He was gorgeous and a beautiful soul. He treated Gracie with so much gentleness and understanding. He really was just a beautiful character with all the right words to say. Thanks to him, she gets to learn about how to be treated by a guy, in the right way. And their moments were cute because Jake was just so amazing. I can't even. I definitely think that this book would be great for any fan of New Adult fiction, who likes realistic settings. And if you want to learn more about emotional abuse, this book is on target. You definitely can learn all the warning signs of what it is, and definitely learn from Gracie's mistakes on how to avoid it. When she FINALLY dumped Noah once and for all. I almost did a happy dance. Noah was just foul, y'all. Really foul.

My rating: 3/5

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard

The Forgotten Ones (The Danaan Trilogy #1) by Laura Howard
Release Date: April 28th 2013
Genre: NA or YA Paranormal/Supernatural/Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Format: E-book
Goodreads Summary:
Allison O'Malley's plan is to go to grad school so she can get a good job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She has carefully closed herself off from everything else, including a relationship with Ethan, who she's been in love with for as long as she can remember.

What is definitely not part of the plan is the return of her long-lost father, who claims he can bring Allison's mother back from the dark place her mind has gone. Allison doesn't trust her father, so why would she believe his stories about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan? But truths have a way of revealing themselves. Secrets will eventually surface. And Allison must learn to set aside her plan and work with her father if there is even a small chance it could restore her mother's sanity.
My Review:
If this book was a person, I would so give it a hug. As a book that falls under the New Adult genre since it's main characters are in their very early 20s, this book hits it out of the ball park. First of all, it's a book that has fantasy, something that is still not too common in the New Adult genre that is governed by realistic fiction. What does this book focus on you might ask? I'm here to tell you that it's about Faeries. Another thing that sets The Forgotten Ones apart is that even though the female heroine of this book has a love interest, her life does not revolve around him. I know. It surprised me as well and in such a good way. People in their early 20s struggle with so much more than romance; like finding out who they are, family drama, adjusting to adulthood, money troubles etc.
The thing I liked the most about this novel is the writing. This book is just really easy to get into and though it's subjects are not light, it felt like a light read. There is just this immediate comfort that you get while reading this book because though it has fantasy in it, the fantasy doesn't overwhelm the story, which is something that often happens with books that have a contemporary/realistic setting (which this one does) that later transitions into fantasy (which in this book is the fae world).
The characterization in this novel is really great. I thought Allison was a really great female lead. She felt like a real person. As a girl who has had to take care of her schizophrenic mother her whole life, she is extremely mature and dedicated to not only her family, but to her job and studies as well. Yes, this does present a problem in her life in the sense that she does forget to focus on her personal life (friends, romance) but that's what's great about her. We get to see her struggle with that and learning to balance that out, which rings so very true to what a lot of people her age (early 20s) are struggling with. Her love interest, Ethan, was great. He was a very good guy, so very sweet and understanding of Allison and her troubles, but even though he was sweet, it didn't make him a pushover or a too-good-to-be-true type of guy. He had a charisma to him and a spark to his personality; he too felt like a real person like Allison did.
The fantasy elements in this book were great. My first exposure to faeries. Believe it or not, I had not read a book about them before. I liked the world-building for them. The world seemed so magical, full of mystique and danger. The fae people have quite an interesting hierarchy in this novel. They are beautiful and dangerous and powerful and complex. That queen and king and their kids were something else. My only struggle with the fae mythology in this book were the names. I mean, you do get used to it eventually, and props to the author for creativity because there were some names there that were quite unique, but they are a bit of a challenge in the beginning.
Overall, this book is a really great read and the romance is so sweet that I can see why this book is also classified as a young adult novel because the romance in this book is more focused on the characters emotions and the female lead trying to come to grips that she is in love, amongst so much drama with her ailing mother, her connection to the complex fae world, and her trying to figure out just how to manage her life.
Oh, and there are two major cliffhangers in this book. Plot wise and romantically. At the end of this book, I wanted to know more and BAM it ended. So, YES, a sequel is needed - asap.
My rating: 4/5

Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: For Everly by Raine Thomas

For Everly by Raine Thomas
Release date: May 27th 2013
Iambe Books
Source: Author

**Mature Content Warning** This is a New Adult novel recommended for ages 17+ due to language, sexual content, and mature subject matter.

Determined to overcome a dark and tragic past, college student Everly Wallace is only months away from earning her degree in physical therapy. She’s consumed with school, caring for her ailing grandfather, and figuring out how to pay the next bill. The last thing she wants is a relationship, but it just might be the one thing she needs.

Major League pitcher Cole Parker hasn’t fought for anything in his life. He went from a privileged upbringing to a multimillion dollar All-Star career. But when his pitching shoulder starts to give him trouble at only twenty-four years old, he faces the possibility of his injury becoming public knowledge and costing him everything.

In a desperate bid to save his career, Cole decides to hire someone to treat his injury, someone who will keep things off the record and out of the media. He finds the perfect solution in Everly. As mysterious as she is beautiful, she provides an enticing distraction from his pain. Soon, physical therapy is the last thing on his mind.

When an act of betrayal brings the truths they both fear to light, Cole will have to fight for the first time in his life…not just for his career, but for Everly’s love.

Buy Links :   Barnes & Noble | Amazon


Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of a bestselling series of YA fantasy/romance novels about the Estilorian plane, including the Daughters of Saraqael trilogy and the Firstborn trilogy. Her latest book is a New Adult Contemporary Romance titled For Everly. She is a proud member of Romance Writers of America and is a contributing blogger to The Writer's Voice. When she isn’t planning weddings, writing, or glued to social networking sites, she can usually be found on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches with her husband and daughter or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

My Review:  
So, Raine Thomas is known for writing Young Adult novels that tend fall under the paranormal romance genre. When I heard she was writing a New Adult romance that was realistic fiction, I became really curious. I wondered how that transition would go. And I'm here to inform you all that it went extremely well. For Everly is a book that is jam-packed with romance, intrigue, and great character development. I always felt like I was seeing a movie. There is never a dull moment in this book.

What shines in this book, to me, is the characterization. The characters in this book are extremely well thought out and layered. Our female lead, Everly, is a girl in her early 20s who is not only studying but has a tremendous amount of responsibility as the caretaker for her ailing grandfather. Cole, our male lead, is a pitcher in the Major League with a lot of wealth and fame, who is also in his early 20s. As different as these characters are in terms of background and personality, they both face the same dilemma which is: trust issues. Through each other, they learn to overcome these issues. Granted, Everly has a much darker past than Cole. Cole had a great upbringing and great family. Everly didn't. Because of this, she always keeps people at arm's length. She has been hurt too much. Cole on the other hand struggles with the issues that all famous people deal with: Is this person who is approaching me doing it for me or do they want to get something out of knowing me because of my fame?

What I loved about Everly, the female lead of this book, is just how real she was.  She tackles on so much and I think many people could relate to her struggles because there are many young people out there with really tough lives. Through her journey and story, we get to learn more about topics such as depression, suicide, post traumatic stress disorder, stress, stalking, emotional abuse, abandonment, and poverty. It was not only enlightening, but so interesting. Furthermore, what was really a highlight of the novel, was seeing Cole, the male lead, learning to deal with these issues that are so foreign to his life as he got to know Everly. 

As challenging as the topics are in this novel, it also has a very light hearted feel to it because both main characters are really good people who desire to live the best life possible. Cole especially helps Everly a lot in breaking out of her shell. She is so stuck on solving problems, she forgets to be young.

The romance in this novel is not only really cute, but intense as well. This is a new adult novel, so both main characters are in their early 20s and there is definitely mature content in this book. In my opinion, I thought that all of the scenes that were relevant to sex were tastefully done. Some New Adult novels tend to get carried away and forget about the literature aspect of the book. Not this one. Eveyrthing in this book is well balanced. The writing is great. The pacing. And the dialogue felt very real and authentic to what people in their early 20s sound like. Oh, and the secondary characters in this novel are awesome. I thought the cast of characters in this book were really well-developed and that they had a lot of layers and charisma.

Oh, and another highlight of this book. The intrigue. The story of the main character, Everly, unravels throughout the book. The reader doesn't get everything upfront. That was really a nice touch. Oh, and the villains in this book. Were so manipulative and deceitful. All I can say, is that there was this one scene that reminded me of Fatal Attraction. I was surprised at the people that turned out to be the instigators in this story. It was a huge surprise.

Overall, this is an amazing book. It's psychological, romantic, and real. If you are a fan of the New Adult genre, read it. It is good!

My rating: 5/5


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Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Intangible by J. Meyers

Intangible by J. Meyers
Release Date:  January 31st 2012
Genre: YA Paranormal/Supernatural/Fantasy
Source: Author
Format: E-book
Goodreads Summary:
Twins Sera and Luke Raine have a well-kept secret—she heals with a touch of her hand, he sees the future. All their lives they’ve helped those in need on the sly. They’ve always thought of their abilities as being a gift. 

Then Luke has a vision that Sera is killed. That gift they’ve always cherished begins to feel an awful lot like a curse. Because the thing about Luke’s ability? He’s always right. And he can’t do anything about it.
My Review:
Intangible is definitely a great book for fans of young adult fantasy and paranormal novels. I thought that it had an interesting cast of supernatural characters, plot twists, and definitely a lot of mystery. What makes Intangible stand out amongst the array of YA paranormal novels is that it is a story that is told from multiple point-of-view's instead of the typical first person account of the protagonist that is the prevalent form of narration in young adult novels today. And the story is heavily centered on the story of a brother and sister that are twins and who have supernatural abilities.

The fact that this book was anchored by the relationship between a brother and sister was quite refreshing. Usually, romance is at the forefront of every young adult novel right now; but not with this one. With Intangible, we get to see how united twins Sera and Luke are, and how they support each other through their difficulties. Thing is, Luke and Sera have supernatural abilities. One twin can heal; while the other twin can see the future. Because they are so gifted, many people seem to be after them. And through that plot-line the reader gets to learn about another realm of sorts where there are other type of supernatural beings in existence, which include vampires and elves, to name a few.

I personally love it when there is this whole secret magical or fantastical world co-existing with the human world. The observations from the supernatural beings on the human world are always quite fascinating. To see what the author comes up with in that respect is always interesting to me. And we do get that with some characters in this book, especially the vampire ones. Vamps live for so long that they get to observe human life more than anyone.

There was quite a unique cast of characters in this book besides the gifted twins. But again, they were always the most important relationship in this story and it's always cool to see a young adult novel that focuses more on family. And poor Sera and Luke have to rely heavily upon one another because of their supernatural gifts. It leaves them a bit isolated from people around them because they feel like they have to hide who they are and their own nature is a bit of a mystery onto themselves. They don't know people like them, so you tend to see how Sera and Luke kinda tend to keep themselves far from developing many friendships or romantic relationships.

Overall, Intangible is a fun read. This book is jam packed with supernatural/magical/paranormal elements. I think the world building is really creative in this book and that fans of the young adult genre could really enjoy this one.

My Rating: 4/5