Monday, October 31, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

by:  Laini Taylor
published by:  Little, Brown and Co.
publish date:  September 27, 2011

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Autumn's Thoughts: One of my first impressions of this book is that it wasn't dumbed down.  I authors that make use of unique and interesting vocabulary.  Laini Taylor uses her SAT words and thankfully they weren't edited for more everyday words. 

Secondly, Daughter gives a great sense of setting.  I've never been to Prague, but I didn't need to the city came alive in my head from the descriptions in this book.  Elsewhere, the land of the Chimera, was vividly portrayed and became this dark and wickedly beautiful place through Taylor's words.

Laini Taylor was one of the authors I got to meet at ALA.  I hadn't heard much about the book then, but then the buzz got started in the last few months and I got nervous.  Usually when everybody loves the book, I don't.  Happily, that wasn't the case this time.  I truly enjoyed this book.  It was all I had hoped for when I got my ARC from the cool chick with the awesome pink hair.

Today we're introducing a guest reviewer at From the TBR Pile, Alex!  She's going to be popping in from time to time to give her opinion and a teen perspective.

Alex's Thoughts:  When I first saw this book in the store, I never thought it would be the way it turned out to be. This novel turned out to be exotic and completely different from other novels I have read. There is nothing cliché about this story. Laini Taylor showed her talent and extraordinary imagination very well. With the cultures, and knowledge of Angels and Demons sewn throughout this story, you will be pulled in as soon as you read the first page. This novel is equally dark, sensual, a little twisted, and at some points unsettling. Every bit of imagery is stunning. The language is beautifully written and the love between the two beings pushes unbreakable boundaries. What if the love between an angel and a demon is forbidden? What if angels and demons are not what is traditionally accepted? Find out in this imaginative and vivid YA novel.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

by:  Vanessa Diffenbaugh
published by:  Ballentine Books
publish date:  August 23, 2011

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. "The Language of Flowers" is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.

This was one of those strange books that I liked, but disliked at the same time.  At times, I really didn't like Victoria, but I couldn't help but forgive her transgressions because on some level I kept thinking "It's ok, look at everything she's been through". 

I also didn't particularly buy into the relationship between Grant and Victoria.  What was Grant getting out of it?  It was all give on his part it seemed like and he got a cold, selfish, hungry partner in return.  More could have been explained about him I guess. 

I did like the story.  I liked Victoria "aging out" of the foster care system and struggling to make it on her own.  I was frustrated with her decisions at times, but she was a fighter and kept scrapping to make it.  I found the language of flowers to be very interesting.  I loved the idea and think it's one that should probably have a resurgence.  (Valentine's Day gift idea...Flower Dictionary and a lovely bouquet of assorted flowers to dictate your feelings)

Bottom line, there was a lot I liked about this book, but I had some issues with it too, particularly on this topic of motherhood, but you'd have to read the book first to understand.  I don't want to spoil the book, but there were some thoughts and ideas that Victoria had that made my eyebrows go so high they probably disappeared into my hairline. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Books We Didn't Finish

Autumn's Books:  I rarely give up on books.  It makes me feel bad, like I should have tried harder or something.  I'm trying to learn to let it go, that it's ok to not finish a book. 

I gave up on Burnt Mountain.  I listened to the audiobook.  From the get go I wasn't thrilled with the reader.  I guess Anne Rivers Siddon would fall into the category of Southern Gothic and her prose purple.  The narrator seemed to really get into it with the Georgia accents straight out of Gone With the Wind. 

The time line was all over the place.  The beginning was basically an establishing of who's who in the family and it was getting confusing and I really didn't care.  The main character's mother is bitter over her lack of establishment in Atlanta's social scene and Thayer is flashing back over her mother's life in order to understand her better.   When she gets to her mother's honeymoon, I grossed out.  Thayer is narrating her MOTHER'S honeymoon with graphic detail.  EWW!!!  I listened a little beyond that, then I went to Goodreads and read the reviews and found out it doesn't get much better and decided it wasn't worth my time.

I didn't really have any issues with Crooked Letter Crooked Letter.   I just got bored with it.  It could not hold my interest and that was a big disappointment.  I had been looking forward to this book for quite awhile.  I also listened to the audiobook for CLCL and I was extremely impressed with the narrator.  He shifted voices throughout the book with great skill.  This might be a book I'll go back to sometime, but for now I'm putting it away.

The last book for me is The Mistress Contract.  I thought the premise was interesting.  It's written by two anonymous people who entered into a contract, basically she would provide him sex on demand and he would provide for her monetarily.  The book was their retelling of how they entered into it and what it entailed, etc.  I read maybe 30 or 40 pages of it and decided I didn't like it. 

My biggest issue with it was the way they talked to each other.  It didn't feel like it was real.  The book is suppposedly based off of their recorded conversations, but to me it felt like they made themselves sound way smarter than normal people.  Like they were these great intellectuals that had profound conversations all the time.  Maybe I'm just being stupid or maybe I just have a lot of really stupid conversations in my daily life.
- Autumn

Kari's Books: I, as well, hate to give up on books, but recently I gave up on 3:

I got about halfway through Snakewoman of Little Egypt when I just had to stop listening.  I found myself wanting to turn it off more than usual and actually listening the radio in the car instead of the book.  I was bored and even the narrator couldn't hold my interest enough. I just didn't like that characters or really care about them.  I had a hard time believing that Jackson would want to research Sunny's abusive soon to be ex-husband' religion. I also had a hard time believing that she would continue to sleep with him after he told her he was spending time handling snakes.  I had to give up. Sometimes I can give the characters the benefit of the doubt and believe in the author, but I just couldn't here.

I only got into disc 2 of All Cry Chaos.  I know it got rave reviews, but  I thought it was just too heavy and depressing.  I also was having a hard time keeping the characters straight. Maybe because the names sounded the same to me.  Also, the author kept calling  the main character by different names. This was confusing and I found myself rewinding the MP3 to relisten to parts.  There was too much in the way of politics. The main character wasn't interesting to me and I just didn't care about him or his family.  Personally, if I thought  hit man was after my family, I would make them move into hiding until the guy was caught.  I would not rely on the police to "guard" them in plain sight.  It wasn't hard to see where the book was heading regarding the family and I had to shut it off after that.  I read to be entertained, not depressed.

I got halfway through The Unwanteds and I just had to give up.  I really liked the beginning and was intrigued by the premise of the story, but by the middle of the book, I was so bored.  I just didn't care about any of the characters.  I felt like the story was all over the place. The dialogue for the kids was boring and felt forced.  I felt like the writing got worse as the book went along. I know this one got great reviews and many are looking for it to be a Harry Potter replacement, but I can't agree.  There are better middle grade books.


Blog Tour: Interview with author Stacy Eaton

Today we have an interview with author, Stacy Eaton, who is on tour promoting her book, My Blood Runs Blue.

Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc (April 2011)

Officer Kristin Greene has always felt that something was missing from her life. Although her job with the Fawn Hollow Township Police Department keeps her busy, she still feels like there is something else out there for her. 

She soon finds herself investigating a homicide where a young woman has had her throat ripped out. When she has to give the death notification to the family, her investigative nature comes out fast and strong when the parents seem too accepting of their daughter's death and make comments that just don't fit.
When the family requests the assistance of the VMF Securities, Kristin is confused that they would think a security company could assist with the murder investigation. When Julian and Alexander arrive she quickly finds herself being pulled into a love triangle that has been going on longer then she has been alive. Why do they look at her as if they know her? And why do they keep talking about Calista? 

Join Kristin as she fights to learn the truth about the recent murder, the seductive and blood drinking men that have entered into her life and the real truth about herself. 

Welcome Stacy!

Kari: What inspired you to become a writer?

Stacy: Until October 2010, I idea of writing a book had never really entered my mind.  People have told me many times over the years that I am very creative, some of said I should put my stories into words on a page, but I had never really taken it seriously.  When the idea came to me for My Blood Runs Blue, I just went with it.  I sat down and I started writing. About half way through I realized that I wanted to not only keep writing, but to write a series. Since then the ideas just keep coming and I just keep writing.

Kari: Where did you come up with the idea for your book?

Stacy: As you might have heard, I am a police officer.  I spend a lot of time on patrol, driving around a large country township.  Some nights we run from one call to another, other nights it is like you are the only person awake and everything is silent and still.  It was on one of these nights that I found myself outside of my patrol car, standing in the park stretching my legs.

There is a line of trees along the side of the part, and as I stood there I saw eyes looking back at me.  They were higher up off the ground then a normal animal would be. I watched them, they watched me.  Soon after they disappeared and I will never know what stood there and held my attention, but as I got back in my patrol car and drove my streets my imagination brought to life the thought that maybe it was a vampire.  With that in my mind, the plot began and I wondered how vampires could work in the world of law enforcement.  I would spend my quiet night shifts driving my dark roads and work through my plot as I drove, always looking for those eyes to find me from the tree line again.

Kari: What is your favorite part of the book?

Stacy:  Wow… That’s a hard one; there is a couple actually.  The memory Julian has of Calista the first night they are together is one of favorites.  I liked writing about the instant attraction, the intense chemistry they felt for one another.  One of my other favorites was near the end, when Kristin is dealing with Damon. I enjoyed writing the action scene in that. 

Kari: What exciting projects are waiting in the wings?

Stacy: As I just published book 2 in the series, Blue Blood for Life, I will soon be starting on the third book.  I am hoping to have this completed early next year. 

I am also currently working on three other projects.  One of those projects digs deeply into the world of Domestic Violence, something that is very close to my heart.  In “Whether I’ll Live or Die”, you will follow a young woman through her trials of dealing with Domestic Violence.  You will also see how it is handled through the eyes of law enforcement.  I am hoping to have this book released in early 2012.

The second project I am working on is a contemporary romance where a detective is force to go undercover to protect a movie star during the filming of his latest production. I am hoping to have “Liveon” out mid-2012. 

The last project that I am working on is collaboration with another author.  “Blue Haze” is a series that I am writing with author John Walker.  It is a dark intense series dealing with the addictions of life.  The first book in the series is digging into one that people know best, drugs. We aren’t sure how many books will be in this series, but we do know that we will touch on sex, money, technology and several other types of addiction while we write it. At this time, we are projecting a publication for the first book late next year.
Kari: Just for fun, if you could be any animal, what would it be and why? 

Stacy:  lol… that’s easy.  Anyone that knows me would know this answer.  A wolf.  They are smart intelligent and very protective of their pack. They have instincts better than most humans I know.  I love wolves. I have several pictures of them in my home.  I wear a custom made wolf pendant around my neck, and my leather jacket has one painted on it. 
I also have a tattoo of a wolf on my shoulder.  When I went to get the ink down, I thought long and hard about where I wanted to put it.  I decided that it would go on my left shoulder and there is a reason behind it. Wolves are strong and steady, so as I raise my arms to fire my duty weapon, as I stand there and look down the sights of the gun, I know that my wolf is there holding my shoulder steady, keeping me solid, giving me strength and guidance I need.
I also have two dogs at home that are Shiloh Shepherds.  If you saw my dog Garda, you would see why I love them.  He has a very intense wolfie look about him that I absolutely love.

And here is an  excerpt from My Blood Runs Blue: 

Chapter 4 - Julian's Memory
We turned to look at one another meaning to only say a polite goodbye.  We were eye to eye, almost exactly the same height, so close I could smell her without trying.  The current was soaring through me and she parted her lips, staring into my eyes.
“Jewels,” she said so quietly I could barely hear her over the noise of the bar.  She looked at my lips and I wanted to move closer to her and touch mine to hers.  She looked back up into my eyes then and said, “The two stones that are within my soul, sapphires for the dark of the sky and aquamarines for my dreams of the beautiful blue oceans in the heat of the summer.”
I started into her eyes; they were a liquid blue, bright and warm.  I couldn’t keep myself from saying, “Calista… you don’t know how much I want to take you in my arms right now and run away with you.” 
Her eyes widened then, and a smile crept along her face. “Then let’s run,” she said…

About the Author:

 The author Stacy Eaton is a police officer and business owner. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two children and her dogs, Dakota and Garda. She is an avid photographer and enjoys reading and charity work.
Visit my Blog:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sanctus by Simon Toyne

by:  Simon Toyne
published by:  Harper Collins
publish date:  March 31, 2011

The certainties of the modern world are about to be blown apart by a three thousand year-old conspiracy nurtured by blood and lies …

A man throws himself to his death from the oldest inhabited place on the face of the earth, a mountainous citadel in the historic Turkish city of Ruin. This is no ordinary suicide but a symbolic act. And thanks to the media, it is witnessed by the entire world.
But few understand it. For charity worker Kathryn Mann and a handful of others in the know, it is what they have been waiting for. The cowled and secretive fanatics that live in the Citadel suspect it could mean the end of everything they have built – and they will kill, torture and break every law to stop that. For Liv Adamsen, New York crime reporter, it begins the next stage of a journey into the heart of her own identity.

And at that journey's end lies a discovery that will change EVERYTHING

I got an ARC of this book and it kept getting overlooked.  Other books seemed more interesting, more exciting.  I was wrong and I'm really disappointed in myself for not reading this one sooner.  I actually ended up getting the audiobook from the library.  It was REALLY GOOD!

Simon Vance was the audiobook reader.  He does a fantastic job.  I first encountered his work on the audiobook for Mr. Toppit and I was very impressed with that one.  This just confirmed my opinion. 

In terms of the story, it was a thriller of the highest caliber.  You couldn't ask for anything more.  I would find myself sitting in the car in the driveway listening to it because I didn't want to stop for the day.  I never listen to audiobooks at home because the kids would interrupt me, but this one I did. 

It looks like this is the start of a series or trilogy.  It didn't end in such a way that you felt like you HAVE to read the next book, you're going to want to know what happens with the characters next.  The story of Liv Adamsen seems like it's going to get very interesting in the future.

Blog Tour: Leeann Burke

Today we have author, Leeann Burke, who is promting her book, Deadly Secrets.  Welcome, Leeann!

Author: Leeann Burke
Publisher: LBF Books
Philippe Lafrance is a well-known reclusive writer whose life is suddenly thrown upside down when the grandfather he never knew existed, dies. He investigates the reason and learns that his family has kept secrets from him. Deep, ugly secrets. Worse, a killer is murdering the men in his family. He discovers that his father, then his grandfather, were murdered by someone desperate to keep secrets buried.
Bereft, Roxanne St-Clair is left to manage a restaurant when the only person who ever mattered to her, her foster parent and mentor, is murdered. She puts her life on hold to find his killer and bring him to justice.
Thrown together by circumstance and a mutual goal, Philippe and Roxanne fight their attraction and team up to find the killer, bring him to justice and unearth the truth. To stay alive, they must keep one step ahead of the assassin in order to prevent him from killing his next target, Philippe.
Will they succeed in bringing to justice this killer before Philippe becomes his next victim? Will they be able to deal with the truth behind the deadly secrets?

Ms. Burke has shared an excerpt from her book with us:

A cold September breeze whipped at the fallen leaves near where she stood in front of the mahogany coffin. Roxanne St-Clair’s curly long strands of hair were blown into her eyes. Unconsciously, she tucked them behind her ear as she glanced over at the lone man standing across the coffin from her. She turned her attention back to Father Joe, who was completing prayers for the final farewell of George Lafrance.

From his dark well-cut suit to his cold green eyes, this stranger, who resembled George, had to be the estranged grandson, Philippe Lafrance. The grandson no one knew existed until a few days ago.

Father Joe closed his bible and lowered his head in silent prayer. Roxanne took this moment to caress George’s mahogany coffin in her own final private farewell. She would forever be grateful and indebted to the compassionate man.

Ten years ago, he’d given her a chance at a better life when he took her in, becoming her last foster parent, her only family.

Father Joe straightened and cleared his throat. “Before we leave, I wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of George’s family, to invite everyone back to Rock Heaven, and toast George one last time.” He gave a curt nod to the stranger, then to Roxanne.

People nodded, mumbled and began to scatter. Roxanne accepted the odd condolence but from the corner of her eye she watched Philippe linger by his grandfather’s coffin. It looked as if he were saying his own farewell.

He raised his head, and their eyes connected for a fleeting moment. Was it sadness she saw in their depths? Quickly, he masked his angry jade eyes with aloofness. He acknowledged her with a curt nod, turned around and left without a backward glance.

Her best friend, Vanessa, leaned towards her. “You know Roxanne, in all the years I’ve known George, I never heard him mention a word about a grandson. He talked about losing his son to a heart attack and his wife to breast cancer, but not a word about a grandson. It’s kind of weird, don’t you think?”

Against her own better judgment, Roxanne wondered as well.

The grandson had inherited George’s build, from his broad shoulders and trim waist to chiseled face. The only difference was, George never made her heart flutter with a fleeting eye contact; his grandson did. She tore her gaze from Philippe’s retreating back and turned her attention back to Vanessa. “He must have had his reasons.”

As if reading Roxanne’s mind, Vanessa acknowledged her. “He does resemble George, don’t you think?”
“I bet that’s the only thing he has in common with George.” Roxanne couldn’t help but stare at Philippe crossing between the cemetery gates. He reached a blue Toyota, unlocked the driver’s door and slipped in.

A police cruiser crawled by, blocking her view of Philippe’s car. The police officers openly stared at the remaining mourners.

* * * *  For more of the excerpt visit her webpage.

About the Author:

At the age of 12 Leeann put pen to paper and created stories. She finished her first and only short story within weeks. She kept on writing through high school, university and her first few dead end jobs. To this day she still has a pen and paper handy.
After 22 years of writing she finally got “the call”. The owner of LBF Books called to let me know she wanted to purchase DEADLY SECRETS. Her dream was finally coming true. She decided to give her dream more purpose by donating funds to the American Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF) and to a Canadian organization that does Breast Cancer Research. DEADLY SECRETS is also a proud sponsor for ABCF. THE BOOK

Contact Leann:  Website / Facebook / Twitter

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Throwback Thursday - The Littlest Cowboy by Maggie Shayne

Author: Maggie Shayne
First published in 1996 by Harlequin Silhouette

Sheriff Garrett Brand finds a baby on his doorstep.

While his siblings joked that maybe he wasn't such a responsible guy after all. Garrett knew he was nobody's daddy. But the Texan was intent on discovering the identity of the little cowboy's mama.

All Chelsea Brenna wanted when she arrived at the Brand ranch was her nephew...and answers about her sister's mysterious death. But she never expected a rough and rugged lawman to act like a proud father and lavish the baby with love.

This is the first book by Maggie Shayne that I have ever read.  I know she writes romantic suspense and paranormal books now.  That being said, I enjoyed this early work by her.  It was a nice set up for a series of books featuring the Brand family, 4 brothers and 1 sister all raised by the oldest, Garrett after their parents were killed in an accident.  Being Texas, they live on a cattle ranch outside of a small town.

"The littlest cowboy" refers to baby Ethan who is left on the Brand's doorstep one night.  His aunt shows up looking for the baby and danger follows her.  I liked Garrett's character.  He was very sweet and such a gentleman.  It was amusing watching his siblings try to get him to make moves on Chelsea to get her to stay.  I'm not all that sure I liked Chelsea in the beginning as she was pretty cold to Garrett.  But I warmed to her by the end.  I loved their HEA.  Being the first in the series, you can see where the author sets up for future books involving the rest of the Brands finding their own HEAs.  I look forward to reading them all.  I think I will also look for some of her more recent works as well.  Give this throwback a shot, I think you will enjoy it.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Last Blind Date by Linda Yellin (Interview and review)

Today we have an interview with author, Linda Yellin, who is promoting her book, The Last Blind Date.

Welcome Linda!

Author: Linda Yellin
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (October 4, 2011)

A fun, charming memoir about a woman who falls in love, packs her bags, and starts over in the city that eats its young.

My thoughts:

I'm not usually one to read non-fiction, especially memoirs.  I just really don't find them interesting.  I am so glad that I decided to step outside of my reading comfort zone and give The Last Blind Date a chance.  I loved this book!  It was full of humor, honesty, and insight.  From the first page, I couldn't put it down and devoured it. 

I won't give too much away, but the author writes about her long distance courtship with her husband and her decision to move to New York to marry him.  The book is more than a love story, it is a glimpse into one woman's chance to start over and re-invent herself.  The author gives us a peek into her anxieties and insecurities as she adjusts to a new city as well as adjusting to the new role of step-mother.  I think the thing that appealed to me most about this book was that I could really identify with the author in so many ways.  Who hasn't had to start over in a new job or new neighborhood and tried to make new friends?  The Last Blind Date will be moving to my keeper pile.  I definitely recommend this one and think that it will end up in your keeper pile as well!

Ms. Yellin was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions for From the TBR Pile:

Kari: What inspired you to write this memoir?

Linda:   I wrote a novel eons ago called Such A Lovely Couple that’s really the prequel to my memoir. (served up as a novel because I was too much of a coward to label it a memoir…plus I made up a kid brother - but only because I’ve always wanted one.) What with my name at the end of the alphabet down on the bottom shelf of the book stores along with the dust bunnies, Such A Lovely Couple officially became the world’s most unread novel. I decided that if I ever wanted it discovered, I’d have to write something else that people liked, hopefully inspiring them to read Such A Lovely Couple. Which another lovely couple, Mr. Simon and Mr. Schuster, were kind enough to reissue as an e-book. The Last Blind Date picks up the story from there. 

Kari: What was the most difficult thing about writing a memoir? Which was harder fiction or real-life? 

Linda:  With memoir there’s always that little voice saying: Geez, will Cousin So-and-So be mad if she recognizes herself? Come to think of it, that same little voice kept popping up while writing the novel – so I’ll go with: It’s a tie. 

Kari: What is your favorite part of the book?

Linda: Randy.

Kari: If they ever made your book into a movie, and you had some say, who would you pick to play yourself and Randy?   

Linda: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. I think Randy kinda looks like Tom Hanks and I’ve always wanted Rita Wilson’s hair. 

Kari: What exciting project do you have waiting in the wings for us?

Linda: The publishing process takes so long that the next book isn’t in the wings; it’s close to stepping out on the stage. Three and a half chapters left to go. The Last Blind Date was sold over a year ago so I had plenty of time to write. It’s a novel. And I just hope Cousin So-and-So will like it.

Thank you!

About the author:

Linda Yellin spent most of her responsible adult years writing advertising in Chicago for shampoos, cheese, yogurt and burgers. Then she fell in love, got married, and moved to New York, going through as many changes as a person possibly can without entering the Federal Witness Protection Program. Along the way she published short stories in Redbook and a sad-funny novel, Such A Lovely Couple. Her first reply letter ever came from an editor at Good Housekeeping who said she writes in “much the same style as Dorothy Parker.” Publishers Weekly said she has the “wit and verve of Susan Isaacs.” She now writes humor pieces for More magazine and is being called “The Midwest Nora Ephron.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Prey by Linda Howard

Author: Linda Howard
Published:  Random House Audio Publishing Group (September 6th 2011)

Thirty-two-year-old Angie Powell has always spoken her mind, but in the presence of Dare Callahan she nurses a simmering rage. After all, why give Dare the satisfaction of knowing he can push her buttons and push her to the edge?

Three years ago, Dare returned home to rural western Montana and opened a hunting business to rival Angie’s. Complicating matters is the fact that Dare has asked Angie out (not once but twice) and has given her a gift of butterflies in the process. Angie has no patience for butterflies. They only lead to foolish decisions. And now the infuriatingly handsome Iraq war vet has siphoned away Angie’s livelihood, forcing her to close up shop. 

Before Angie is to leave town, she organizes one last trip into the wilderness with a client and his guest, who wants to bag a black bear. But the adrenaline-fueled adventure turns deadly when Angie witnesses a cold-blooded murder and finds herself on the wrong side of a loaded gun. Before the killer can tie up this attractive loose end, a bear comes crashing through the woods—changing the dark game completely.

Luckily, Dare is camping nearby and hears the shots. Forced together for their very survival, Angie and Dare must confront hard feelings, a blinding storm, and a growing attraction—while being stalked by a desperate killer and a ferocious five-hundred-pound beast. And neither will stop until they reach their prey.

Prey is the latest from Linda Howard.  Being one of my favorite authors, I couldn't wait to listen to this one.  While I liked it, I didn't love it. As far as the romance goes,  Angie and Dare are great characters and I loved their relationship.  I enjoyed watching Angie realize that she does love Dare.  For once it is the woman who is unsure and not the man.  The banter between the two was enjoyable.  One thing that was missing for me was more back story on Dare.  The reader doesn't really get to know a whole lot about him. The other thing that was missing was a really great love scene that I know she is capable of writing.  The only one in this book was missing a lot of steam.

As for the rest of the story, you know who the killer is right away.  I found the scenes from the killer's point of view to be annoying and not really necessary.  I didn't really care who he killed and why.   I also didn't care for the scenes from the bear's perspective.  I thought that was pushing it a little.  The suspense could have been better had the bear remained an unknown entity until the end. There were some fast paced action scenes that I enjoyed, but beyond that it fell flat for me.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Spooktacular Blog Hop October 24 - 31st

Welcome the the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop.  You are at stop #296.  The full list of participating blogs can be found here.

The Rules: We are keeping this to US only this time around.  All you have to do is leave a comment with a VALID e-mail address.  Tell us your preference if you have one.  For an extra entry, post this giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else and let us know the link.

 Pack #1 - *Perfect for Halloweeen*:

1 Hardcover copy of Damned by Chuck Palahniuk & Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Pack #2 - *Romance for the Lighter side*

1 ARC of Wedlocked by Bonnie Trachtenberg and 1 ARC of The Time  in Between by Maria Duenas

Good Luck!

--Kari & Autumn.

Blog Tour - Taken Away

Author: Patty Friedman
Published: Tiny Satchel Press (November 2010)

In the midst of the biggest natural disaster in American history—Hurricane Katrina—15-year-old Summer "Sumbie" Elmwood's two-year-old sister disappears from the hospital after open-heart surgery and Sumbie is the prime suspect. But in the chaos of New Orleans after the storm, no one is looking for just one little girl. Sumbie must find her missing sister and enlists her two would-be boyfriends to help her, hoping against hope that it's not too late.

Taken Away takes you inside the days preceding and post Hurricane Katrina as seen through the eyes of a fifteen year old girl.  Along with her anxieties about the disaster, she also faces a devastating blow to her family unit.  Her baby sister is kidnapped from the hospital sometime during the evacuation chaos.

I liked the concept for this book.  The author did a great job of conveying the desperation that the family felt as they realize their loved one is gone. I also got a good sense of the chaos that surrounded city in the aftermath of the hurricane.  But, I just didn't like any of the characters.  I really did not like the parents or the decisions that they made. I had a hard time believing that any mother would allow herself to be denied access to her child in the ICU.  That just doesn't happen.  Then, they don't seem to be very proactive in trying to search for their missing child.  The way they treat Sumbie was just atrocious. Imagine actually accusing your daughter of killing her baby sister.  That didn't wash with me. I also wasn't left with the sense that anything had changed within the dynamic of the family in the end. So, as I said, I loved the concept, but not the characters.


About the Author:  

 PATTY FRIEDMANN is the author of the novels Taken Away, Too Jewish, A Little Bit Ruined, Side Effects, Secondhand Smoke, Eleanor Rushing, and Odds, all currently in print, and of The Exact Image of Mother (Viking 1991) and Too Smart to Be Rich (New Chapter 1988). Her novels have been Discover Great New Writers, Original Voices, and BookSense 76 selections. In 2011 Taken Away was a finalist for Book of the Year for small presses. In 2001–2002, she was writer-in-residence at Tulane University. Patty has reviewed for Publishers Weekly, Brightleaf, Short Story, and the Times-Picayune; her short stories have appeared in Horn Gallery, Short Story, LaLit, Xavier Review, Life in the Wake, New Orleans Noir, and elsewhere; and she has had essays in Oxford American, Speakeasy, and New Orleans Review. Stage productions under the direction of Carl Walker are The Accidental Jew and Lovely Rita. She was included in The Great American Writers Cookbook and Christmas Stories from Louisiana in 2003, as well as in the collections My New Orleans in 2005 and Intersections in 2006. She was the subject of the feature interview in the 2009 issue of Riverbend Review. Patty is technically married until she gets Medicare. She is the mother of Esme Roberson and Werner Friedmann II and the crazed grandmother of Summer Roberson, Kennedy Friedmann, and Carmine Friedmann. She lives in New Orleans.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Where Demons Fear to Tread

Author: Stephanie Chong
Publisher: Mira Books (August 2011)

 Fledging guardian angel and yoga teacher Serena St. Clair dares enter Devil's Paradise nightclub on a mission—to retrieve the wayward Hollywood "It Boy" she's assigned to protect. But she's ambushed by the club's owner, arch demon Julian Ascher. The most powerful demonic entity in Los Angeles, Julian is handsome as sin, a master of temptation who loves nothing more than corrupting pleasure–seeking humans. He won't release the lost soul Serena is supposed to guard. Unless she accepts his dangerous wager…

After the disastrous way his human life ended, Julian vowed that no woman would get the better of him again. Yet this sexy–sweet angel, smelling of fresh ocean air and happiness, triggers centuries–old feelings. Now, their high–stakes game of seduction, where angels fall from grace and where demons fear to tread, will lead them either to an eternity in hell.or a deliciously hot heaven.

Debut author, Stephaine Chong, has given us a fresh take on angels vs. demons in Where Demons Fear to Tread.  Serena is a new guardian angel who meets Julian.  The attraction is immediate.  There is one catch...Julian is an archedemon.  As Serena fights her growing attraction for Julian, she begins to see that there may be a good side hidden within him.  Is redemption possible for him or will Serena become a fallen angel by falling for Julian? I really liked their love story.  It was slow and they take their time getting to know each other.  Julian starts out wanting to corrupt her, but her angelic and peaceful ways slowly work their way into his heart. Their love scenes are pretty steamy and well written.

There is so much more packed into this story.  I'm talking demons, evil and betrayal.  The other characters are well written and tie into the story well. The demons are temptation at its best and I'm not sure I would be able to resist them. The ending was satisfying, but it leaves a lot of room for more story.  I look forward to the next one in the series.  I hope Meredith and Arielle get their own stories.  Ms. Chong has a bright future and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Teen Reads Week: Unearthly

Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen (January 2011)

In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

I wasn't sure what to expect with Unearthly...maybe just an YA angel  book that would inevitably have a love triangle and would be a trilogy.  I must say, that I was very pleasantly surprised.  I really enjoyed this book and I couldn't put it down.  I had to find out if Clara was going to carry out her purpose or not.  I also had to know who she would chose, Christian or Tucker.  Would she follow destiny or her heart?

I really liked Clara.  She has known she is a quarter angel for 2 years.  Her mother is half angel.  There was no surprise as to her identity, so there was not the usual, "what is happening to me" angst.  Clara is a strong willed teen who does has a sense of responsibility as to her "purpose". The thing that appealed to me most about this book is that the boy she falls for isn't who you expect her to.  The one she must save isn't someone that she is hopelessly in love with.  That was refreshing. Between you and me, I'm team Tucker!

While there is some resolution, the ending of the book leaves a lot of unanswered questions, that I hope will be addressed in the next book. I think this is a great book for YA's, maybe 14 and up.  There is some kissing, but other than that, nothing serious.  I look forward to the next book, Hallowed, which is projected to come out in January 2012.


Teen Reads Week: Dark Eden

by:  Patrick Carman
published by:  HarperCollins Childrens
publish date:  November 1, 2011

Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night's experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?

I was reading this book thinking it was sorta ok until the end.  For me, at that point, it took a serious nosedive.  It went from like a 3 star book to around a 1 and a half star book.   I'll just say there are certain elements in YA that are overdone and it's time to move on.

I will say that until the end, I did think that this was a fairly interesting book.  I was really interested in what each person's fear was.  How those fears came about and whether or not it was done purposefully was also an intriguing idea.

In the book description up there it mentions that each person suffers aches and pains after coming out of the chamber.  The reason for that is revealed at the end of the book.  I did like that little twist.  I thought that was a clever concept.

There's nothing I saw inappropriate for older or younger teens in this book.  It was on the dark side, a little creepy, but nothing horribly gory or violent.  There was the slightest hint of romance and I don't remember any language at all.  Overall, well suited to the age group.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Teen Reads Week: Shatter Me

by:  Tahereh Mafi
published by:  Harper Collins
publish date:  November 15th, 2011

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

See that strike-through writing on the cover?  That's throughout the book.  It's a writing technique the author uses to show all the thoughts going through Juliette's mind.  It got old fast, but it was more prevalent in the beginning of the book.  It did seem to taper off towards the end.   That's my main criticism of this book.  It's a clever idea, but a tad bit over done.

I liked this book, it was very X-Men like, but more sinister.  I've seen it mentioned places as a cross between The Hunger Games and X-Men and that's pretty accurate.  It deals with some of the same supernatural aspects as X-Men, but has the atmosphere of The Hunger Games. 

This is the first book in a series.  The film rights have already been optioned for this book, so it'll be interesting to see what the future brings for this debut author.

Teen Reads Week: Die For Me

Author: Amy Plum
Publisher: HarperTeen

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life--and memories--behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate's guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he's a revenant--an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

As with any debut author, you never know what you are going to get when you open to the first page.  Ms. Plum has written an engaging first novel that sucked me right in from the start.  Kate and her sister, Georgia, have moved to Paris to live with their grandparents after the death of their parents.  There, Kate meets Vincent and his friends.  The attraction is strong from the start, yet Kate has her reservations about Vincent.  He almost seems too good to be true.  What she learns about him and his friends changes her whole life.

I really liked Kate's character.  She is almost 17, yet she has a maturity that a lot of teens in YA novels don't have today.  I liked that she was cautious about starting a relationship with Vincent, especially once she finds out the truth about him and his life.  Instead of taking everything at face value and rushing into something with him, she admits that she has reservations and steps back for a while.  That really sat well with me.  

Die For Me has a unique take on the risen dead.  The kin joke about being zombies, but they aren't really. They can age, but once they die again they "reset" back to the original age they were when they first died.  They also don't eat human flesh or brains. (Thankfully!) I look forward to knowing more about the revenants and what causes them.  I also hope that the next books explores why Vincent and Kate seem to have a unique bond that hasn't been seen in other revenants and their human loves.  This is the first in a trilogy, so I hope these themes are expanded on in future books.

I really enjoyed this book.  I think it would be fine for any YA reader.  There is really nothing graphic and the romance is pretty mild.  There is even talk about waiting for the "main event" and just taking the time to get to know and enjoy one another.  Given the age of the main characters, I thought this was a plus.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Teen Reads Week:Throwback Thursday Edition- Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack

Author: M. E. Kerr
First published in 1972 by LauraLeaf

When Tucker Woolf needs to find a new home for his cat he only gets one call..  It's from Dinky Hacker, the strongest girl he has ever met. She doesn't shoot smack, but she sure could tell you a lot about kids who do. And once the cat moves in with Dinky, visiting it means visiting the Hocker home, which turns out to be more than Tucker ever bargained for...

I read so much in the 80s when I was a "YA" that I had a hard time choosing a Throwback Thursday edition book.  So, I enlisted the help of my local children's librarian to point me toward a good YA book from the 70s or 80s that screamed "Teen Read".  She immediately pulled Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack off the shelf and said it was a must read.

While I won't say it is the best teen read that I have ever read, I think that it is an honest look at the life of a teen trying to navigate his or her way into adulthood.    It is also a  story of a troubled teen who is failing miserably at trying to connect with her parents. Even though it was written in 1972, I think that this is very relevant to today.  When Tucker Woolf must find a new home for his cat, he meets Susan "Dinky" Hocker and her cousin Natalia.  He develops an unlikely friendship with Dinky and finds his first girlfriend in Natalia.  

The one thing that really struck me about this book is that unlike a lot of YA books of today, the parents play very big roles in the book.  The contrast between all of the parents in this book was really interesting.  You have Tucker's parents who are very in touch with their son and have painfully honest conversations with him.  P. John's father is a liberal who often gives away all of his possessions at the expense of his son. Finally. Dinky's parents who are so involved in the problems of the community around them that they can't see the problems they have right in their own home.  In the end, it is Tucker who sees the truth about what is going on with Dinky.

This is a quick read and I think would be an asset to any YA library.  Some of the slang is a big dated, but I think teens of today would be able to understand what they are talking about.  There is no sex, but there is discussion of drugs and sex.  I'd say OK for any kid 14 and up.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Teen Reads Week: If I Tell

                                                                      by:  Janet Gurtler
published by:  Source Books
publish date:  October 1, 2011

Jasmine Evans knows one thing for sure... people make mistakes. After all, she is one. Jaz is the result of a one night stand between a black football player and a blonde princess. Having a young mother who didn't raise her, a father who wants nothing to do with her and living in a small-minded town where she's never fit in hasn't been easy. But she's been surviving. Until she sees her mom's new boyfriend making out with her own best friend. When do you forgive people for being human or give up on them forever?

This book was just ok for me.  Jasmine apparently is the only biracial person in her small town.  She's being raised by her grandmother and the kids at school basically ignore her.  Her only friends are a slutty alcoholic and the school's only openly lesbian student.

From all that you can gather that this is an "issues" book.  Jaz's mother (white) is pregnant with her (black) boyfriend's baby.  Jaz sees the mother's boyfriend kissing her slutty alcoholic best friend at a party the night before she finds out her mother is pregnant.  Jasmine's life gets thrown into all kinds of turmoil, add in a recovering drug addict, bad boy new to town and you have this book.

Personally, I felt like this book weighed too heavily on the race issues, but I'm not black or biracial and I don't know the difficulties that may or may not present.   I can see where it might appeal more to other readers than it did to me. 

I found this book to be teen appropriate.  No sex, no drugs, only a little rock and roll...and that consisted of Neil Diamond of all people.  The was some language but it wasn't pervasive.

Teen Reads Week: Hereafter

Author: Tara Hudson
Publisher: HarperCollins (June 2011)

Can there truly be love after death? 

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive. 

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever. 

 Hereafter is a well written, very interesting book.  I was sucked in right from the first page.  I liked the premise of the book.  Amelia is a ghost with no idea why she is dead and what she looks like. Daily, she is drawn to a dark river underneath a mysterious bridge. One night, she sees Joshua drowning and is able to help him get back to shore.  Joshua is a Seer and is the only one that can see and touch Amelia. As Joshua helps Amelia learn who she is and why she died, they form a friendship that quickly turns into love.  It was refreshing to read a YA book that didn't have any of the teen angst that goes along with boy/girl relationship...or boy/ghost girl in this case.  The two of them actually talk and become friends as they fall for each other.  The romance was sweet and easy.  There is also no love triangle. I'm not a fan of those.

Ms. Hudson has created a unique take on the afterlife.  There is a heaven and hell, but there are also several places in between where evil souls try to trap other souls forever by luring them to their deaths.  Amelia meets Eli who tries to recruit her to help him do this. While she feels she is good, she also fights a lure to the stark and grey afterlife that he shows her.  That is all of the plot that I will give away.  Any more and I think I would ruin it.  The characters are strong and interesting. Despite the fact the Joshua's grandmother would like to exorcise Amelia, I liked her.   

As with most YA novels these days, Hereafter is the first in a trilogy.   I loved the ending as it had no cliffhanger.  It only left room for more secrets to be revealed in the next book. I want to know more about Joshua's grandmother and how she became a seer.  I also want to know more about the other sides and how they are created.  I definitely recommend this one as a teen read. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teen Reads Week: Clarity

by:  Kim Harrington
published by:  Scholastic Point
publish date:  March 1, 2011

Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It's a gift.

And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case - but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare's brother - who has supernatural gifts of his own - becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

I thought this book was going to be a paranormal book, but it wasn't really.  It was more of a YA murder mystery with a little bit of the supernatural thrown in.  In that way it surprised me, but in a good way. 

I thought this was a great book for teens.  It had a little bit of sex drama, but nothing worse than they would see on network television.  Other than that it was well written and well laid out.  I thought the writer captured the teen vernacular well without getting too ridiculous as some writers tend to do.

I can't wait to read more from Kim Harrington in the future.