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Recommendation: A Court Of Thorns And Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses

by Sarah J. Maas

” Be glad of your human heart, Feyre.

Pity those who don’t feel anything at all. ”

Feyre knows nothing but survival.

Since the financial collapse of her family’s fortune and livelihood, she has had to step up — especially as no one else in her family has risen to the challenge.  Week after week and month after month, she has taken to the dense woods surrounding the meager cottage she and her family lives in, set to forage and hunt for food and anything that can garner a coin. Pelts she can sell for a premium price to the right vendor and meat they can dry or cook immediately, although there never seems to be enough to a sate the hunger that permanently resides in her belly. Feyre knows nothing but hard work and the burden of supporting three other people. Her sisters, the quiet Elain and opinionated Nesta, consider themselves too gentile and fragile for such common work as hunting, preferring instead to tend gardens and clean the interior of the shack they call home.

Feyre’s dreams are full of color. Sunny yellows and rich blues, vibrant reds and soft-as-petal pinks. If she had it her way, the golden-haired beauty would spend her days painting every surface in her home and beyond, creating an imaginary cocoon full of the whimsy and the fantastic. But if it wasn’t for her arduous struggles within the depths of the forest almost every day, her sisters simply wouldn’t eat. And as there is never any money left over to buy paint anyway, she must be content with putting her dreams on the back burner, allowing them to fester and build only in the recesses of her imagination.

” Once it had been second nature to savor the contrast of new grass against dark, tilled soil, or an amethyst brooch nestled in folds of emerald silk; once I’d dreamed and breathed and thought in color and light and shape. Sometimes I would even indulge in envisioning a day when my sisters were married and it was only me and Father, with enough food to go around, enough money to buy some paint, and enough time to put those colors and shapes down on canvas or the cottage walls. 

Not likely to happen anytime soon — perhaps ever. So I was left with moments like this, admiring the glint of pale winter light on snow. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done it — bothered to notice anything, lovely or interesting. “

One day while on the hunt, she spots something out of place. The  huge and hulking beast before her would mean food on the table for days, possibly even weeks. But there is something in the beast’s eyes that gives her pause. . . something, not quite human — but also not completely animalistic. Drawing on her suspicions and well-regulated fear, Feyre draws a special arrow from her quiver. This arrow is made from ash wood and is carefully crafted, it’s only purpose is to kill a very specific target — that of the fairy persuasion.

The Fae have lived on their side of the wall for as long as Feyre has walked the human side of their world. The treaty that included creating the wall was signed centuries before she was even born, and she has grown up hearing the tales of the evil and maniacal Fae —  how they sneak in through cracks in that wall to prey on human flesh, satisfying their disgusting and vengeful appetites via murder and mayhem. Coming face to face with one in the human territory results in her making a choice that will have consequences that stretch over her entire life, and those lives around her; spreading out like a thick web of sticky silk.

” Our territory was too small and poor to maintain a standing army to monitor the wall with Prythian, and we villagers could not rely only on the strength of the Treaty forged five hundred years ago. But the upper class could afford hired swords, like this woman, to guard their lands bordering the immortal realm. It was an illusion of comfort, just as the markings on our threshold were. We all knew, deep down, that there was nothing to be done against he faeries. We’d all been told it, regardless of class of rank, from the moment we were born, the warnings sung to us while we rocked in cradles, the rhymes chanted in schoolyards. One of the High Fae could turn your bones to dust from a hundred yards away. Not that my sisters or I had ever seen it. “

Days after her kill in the woods, her world is shattered. A second beast comes barreling into her home, demanding retribution for the Fae he believes to have been murdered in cold blood, breaking the rules of the treaty. Feyre steps up and takes responsibility, bidding her sisters and father a hastily made farewell. In killing one of the Fae, her life has become forfeit, and she must journey to the other side of the wall with the beast of a man who is calling in the bargain of her human predecessors.

The Spring Court is an eerily quiet place, full of bountiful gardens full of beautiful blooms and greenery, but there is an umistakable shadow that lingers upon the land. Upon arrival, Feyre spends her time struggling to come to grips with her new situation and the somewhat convoluted navigation around the lavish mansion’s inhabitants. Tamlin, the beast who procured her from the human side of the wall, is the High Lord of the Spring Court and as such, intent upon cultivating his lands in the midst of a tenuous political situation between the counts in the land of Fae. Lucian, his emissary and transplant from the Autumn Court, is wily and mischievous, and while Feyre chooses to view him as a potential ally, she must tread carefully as she begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse while trying to garner information about her captor.

” I’d be better off persuading Lucien to speak to Tamlin on my behalf — and soon, before any of the others whom they’d mentioned appeared, or this blight of theirs grew. Tomorrow — I’d speak to Lucien then, test him out a bit. 

In my room, I found a small satchel in the armoire and filled it with a spare set of clothes, along with my stolen knife. It was a pitiful blade, but a piece of cutlery was better than nothing. Just in case I was ever allowed to go — and had to leave at a moment’s notice. 

Just in case. “

While Tamlin suggests that Feyre is not his prisoner, but rather a means to an end in regards to satisfaction within the treaty, she is physically bound to the lands of the Spring Court. Curiosity pushes her to test these boundaries and exploration of the woods and gardens lends itself to meetings with lesser fairies and creatures that have deviant intentions, putting her into danger that is the stuff nightmares are made of. But Feyre is able to gather some information about the world she is now living in, and does her best to use it to her advantage – ever on the offensive.

Despite her best efforts to the contrary, Feyre finds herself drawn to the brooding and handsome Tamlin. Moody and temperamental he may be, she is also privy to a quiet kindness that remains hidden behind a mysterious mask of propriety and ancient custom. The mansion is all but deserted, and as Feyre continues to ferret information from the remaining inhabitants, she learns of a curse put upon the lands and it’s High Lord. Little does she know, she plays a large part in that curse, but the breaking of it will require skills Feyre may not possess in her arsenal.

When  a chance meeting with a peculiar and sharp-tongued stranger leaves Feyre unnerved, she chooses to withdraw into Tamlin’s embrace rather than go with her instincts and push for more information. The stranger, however, continues to plague her thoughts and when he shows up again with clear news of an immediate threat, Feyre is haunted. The blight upon the Spring Court’s lands is spreading and the only way to break the curse is to go to its source — to a wicked queen named Amarantha, who resides Under the Mountain, in the bowels of darkness and despair. To protect the woman he now cares for, Tamlin spirits Feyre back across the wall to her abandoned family, attempting to hide her among her own people so that she may be shielded from the fight that is sure to come. But soon after arriving back home, Feyre realizes that her feelings for Tamlin have shifted from soft affection and instinctual lust into something more akin to . . . love.

After rushing back to the Spring Court to declare her newfound feelings, Feyre is dismayed to find the mansion deserted and torn apart. With the aid of a friend, she makes her way Under the Mountain to confront the evil temptress and retrieve what has been stolen from her.

” ‘Take me to her,’ I insisted.

If Amarantha ripped out my throat, at least I would die doing something for him — at least I would die trying to fix the destruction I hadn’t prevented, trying to save the people I’d doomed. At least Tamlin would know it was for him, and that I loved him. 

Alis studied me for a moment before her eyes softened. ‘As you wish.’ “

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first installment of a series of books by New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas. There are currently three Court books in publication. While these three are centered around Feyre and her adventures within the High Courts, her story is assumed to be wrapped up at the end of the third book. The series will continue next year with spin-off stories from other beloved characters featured in the books. Maas earned renown for her epic Throne of Glass series set in a fantasy world that runs parallel to the Court’s Fae-ruled society, and the fandoms surrounding both series are extensive and seriously supportive. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a modern-day take on Beauty and the Beast, but with a lot of clever twists and turns.

While the age of the main character often dictates the genre of the book and A Court of Thorns and Roses is typically classified as a Young Adult novel, I do not recommend this series to anyone under the age of 16, due to the nature of hot-hot-hot graphic sex and some violence. I give A Court of Thorns and Roses 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I have to tell you — if you even remotely like this book, you must read the sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury. The sequel is one of the best fantasy books I have ever read and kept me neatly enthralled for days. I highly recommend it. The latest book, A Court of Wings and Ruin recently came to bookshelves and fans going crazy for it.

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Recommendation: Along Came A Spider

Along Came a Spider

by James Patterson

” One of the techies handed me a report to sign as I left the Sanders house. 

I signed it my usual way — with a †.

Cross. 

Tough guy from the tough part of town. Right. “

I love getting swept up in a good mystery.

As a patron of James Patterson’s elite brand of twisting and turning mysteries for years, I have developed a familiar affection for Detective Alex Cross. A few movies have been made portraying the strong, male character, but I’ve never felt that they truly capture the essence that is the notoriously persistent and skilled detective and Washington D.C. native. Alex is sexy and empathetic. He feels things, especially the victims he is fighting for and for the residents of the city he has chosen to live in. . . he is attune to their pain and he won’t quit until he’s done them justice. He’s an exemplary father, and takes cares of those in his immediate family with as much tender-loving-care as any man could. He is a loyal best friend who will, quite literally, take a bullet for his partner if need be. He’s just the sort of man I love to read about. He’s the sort of man that we should have more of.

The life and times of Detective Alex Cross have been chronicled by mystery-master James Patterson over the course of 27 (and counting) novels. But the first – the introduction – is Along Came a Spider.

School is a place that’s supposed to be unwaveringly safe. And as a parent in an affluent community, there should be zero question that  you should be able to drop your children off and go on your merry way; with zero question as to if your child will be protected or not. Money can buy anything, right? With money comes power and with such things, security and well-being become  a given. When you spend thousands of dollars a year on your child’s private education. . .a fancy building in a well-to-do neighborhood with teachers who are specially chosen for their innumerable talents in each subject, you have paid for the best and as such, shall receive it — right?

Wrong.

When the unthinkable happens – two children kidnapped right from school – the prominent and wealthy niche of Washington D.C. is shocked. Especially when the news coming across the waves is accusing a teacher of being the criminal culprit.

” Soneji climbed into the front and fired up the blue van. As he drove from the parking area, he sang “Magic Bus” by The Who. He was in an awfully good mood today. He was planning to be America’s first serial kidnapper, among other things. “

Alex Cross, a local homicide investigator and forensic psychologist, is called in to take over the case. He’s currently in the field working a string of the recent brutally violent murders of black prostitutes in the poorer part of D.C. He’s not particularly thrilled when he’s forced to abandon his ongoing case, especially when he sees how much media attention the kidnappings are garnering. Why is the snatch and grab of a couple of white kids more newsworthy than the murders of black women in the wrong part of D.C.? Irritated and angry, Alex struggles to switch gears and quickly partners up  with blonde and ambitious Secret Service agent Jezzie Flannagan. As head of the detail that was assigned to keep the children safe, she is having  hard time accepting her failure. With the other case reluctantly put on the back-burner, Alex enlists Jezzie’s help in putting the pieces together and working fast to catch a kidnapper.

” Jezzie Flannagan stayed behind. ‘I’ve heard about you, Detective Cross, now that I think of it. You’re the psychologist. There was an article in the Washington Post. ‘ She smiled nicely, a demi-smile. 

I didn’t smile back. ‘You know newspaper articles,’ I told her. ‘Usually a pack of half-truths. In that case, definitely some tall tales.’

‘I’m not so sure about that,’ she said. ‘Nice to meet you, anyway.’ Then she walked into the office behind Secretary Goldberg, the mayor, and the star FBI agent. Nobody invited me — the psychologist-detective of magazine fame. Nobody invited Sampson.

Monroe did poke his head out. “Stick around, you two. Don’t make any waves. Don’t get pissy, either. We need you here. I need to talk with you, Alex. Stay put. Don’t get pissy.’

Sampson and I tried to be good cops. We stood around outside the headmaster’s office for another ten minutes. Finally, we left our posts. We were feeling pissy. 

I kept seeing the face of little Mustaf Sanders. Who was going to go and find this killer? No one. Mustaf had already been forgotten. I knew that would never happen with the two private-school children. “

Meanwhile in the undisturbed country outside of the city proper, Gary Soneji believes himself to be in the midst of a perfect crime that will gain him prestige and fame for decades to come. An obsession with high profile kidnappings has led him on a quest to carve his own place out in history as a brilliant criminal. He has the two missing children locked in makeshift coffins in the ground at an old farmhouse, and he’s beginning his plan to extort money from their wealthy and high-profile parents by way of ransom. But after hearing some disparaging remarks about himself over the news by a FBI agent, Soneji’s plan takes a turn. He cannot allow these terrible things to be said about him on such a public platform — he cannot allow his image of a criminal mastermind to be tainted. Clad in a clever disguise, he murders the agent in question, the dumping of his body helping to soothe Soneji’s maniacally hurt pride.

As the investigation into the slippery Soneji continues, Alex and Jezzie begin to grow closer. Despite the attraction he has to wonder – is it a mistake to get so close to her so soon? Something about Jezzie is off, but Alex can’t quite put his finger on it. He’s enjoying the comfort and thrill of the relationship, something he hasn’t had in his life for a while now.  He’s also trying to keep a firm eye on the kidnapping case, but his attempts at victim retrieval are foiled when he attempts to trade ransom for one of the children, but has the money stolen from him instead. And as more murders relating the kidnappings occur, Alex is stunned to discover that he may be on the trail of solving not one – but two – cases at the same time.

In a classic tale of cat and mouse, Alex Cross is determined to have closure with the spider whose web he’s been caught in for over a year. The fast-paced style of James Patterson will at times leave readers breathless as one facet of the investigation is laid to rest but many more questions are raised. Who is Gary Soneji? Where are the missing children? And what is Jezzie Flannagan hiding?

I give Along Came a Spider 4.5 out of 5 stars. I have been a fan of James Patterson for many years now and Alex Cross is by far my favorite of his characters. My only regret for Alex is that he has such a hard time with his love life. Patterson could stand to give him a break every now and then. Patterson writes intelligent and crafty mysteries and never disappoints me, much like another mystery author I love – Patricia Cornwell. The books are quick and easy to get through and perfect to curl up with on a dark and stormy night.

Fans of Alex Cross can continue the journey with their favorite D.C. detective and jazz-playing good guy with:

  1. Along Came a Spider
  2. Kiss the Girls
  3. Jack & Jill
  4. Cat & Mouse
  5. Pop Goes the Weasel
  6. Roses Are Red
  7. Violets Are Blue
  8. Four Blind Mice
  9. The Big Bad Wolf
  10. London Bridges
  11. Mary, Mary
  12. Alex Cross
  13. Double Cross
  14. Cross Country
  15. I, Alex Cross
  16. Cross Fire
  17. Kill Alex Cross
  18. Alex Cross, Run
  19. Cross My Heart
  20. Hope To Die
  21. Cross Justice
  22. Cross Kill
  23. Cross The Line
  24. Detective Cross
  25. The People vs. Alex Cross (due out in November 2017)

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Recommendation: Weekend In Paris

Weekend In Paris

by Robyn Sisman

” People can be so frightened of failing that they do nothing, or choose something so dull they have no chance of shining. “

Not every book is meant to be meaty and award-winning, like the classic War & Peace. Not every book is meant to invoke deep and delicious feelings of unrequited attachment or passionate love at first sight. Not every book is meant to be the one that you grab off the shelf a hundred times until it’s literally falling apart from the spine on out.

Weekend in Paris, by the late Robyn Sisman, is not one of those books. But it is a fun, flirty, and whimsical tale of a young woman who rushes off to Paris to begin a lifelong transformation – and what girl doesn’t dream of that? It’s a book you can throw in your handbag before you hop in the car with your family and take a nice, long road trip. It’s a book you can giggle with and appreciate for it’s silly and fanciful nature. It reads easy and light, as most chick-lit books should.

Perky and youthfully optimistic Molly Clearwater has high hopes for herself. There have been a few wobbly moments since she made the move into trendy and exciting London from her small town, but she is keeping a clear head and moving forward. Sure, her boss, the ever grumpy and somewhat misguided Malcolm Figg, thinks (and often, actually says) that she’s nothing but a typical stupid secretary. He’s probably just feeding into the stereotypes about blondes, and Molly is sure that someday soon he will recognize her full potential and begin showing her some respect. She’s always been a very careful and cautious young lady, and her arrival into adulthood is no different. She plays by the rules and makes sure that all I’s are dotted and all T’s crossed, but that doesn’t stop her from dreaming that one day she could be more than just the reliably simple girl next door.

When Malcolm commands her to book a trip to Paris for a medical conference and insists upon her coming along for the ride, Molly is ecstatic. She’s never been to the glamorous city of fashion, food, and French kissing, and so of course she would be delighted to go – what girl wouldn’t? And all on the company’s dime as well! She cannot wait to begin a weekend full of enacting as much joie de vivre as humanly possible. If there is one place that you can let loose and reinvent yourself (if only for the weekend) – it’s Paris. Never mind what the gossip around the office about Malcolm is. . .she’s sure that he couldn’t possibly be expecting “a physical reward” for his allowing her to accompany him on his business trip.

 But unfortunately for Molly, that is exactly what Mr. Figg is expecting of her. When he makes a crass pass at her just before they are due to leave, she knows what she must do. He’s called her his “stupid secretary” one too many times, and she’s got to begin standing up for herself or else she just won’t be able to look at herself in the mirror.  With the false confidence she is so desperately holding on to, she decides that she has to begin behaving like the woman she wants to be, and the woman she wants to be wouldn’t take this sort of nonsense from anyone – let alone her boss.

Dear Mr. Figg,

Conscious as I am of the honor of working for Phipps Lauzer Bergman, the time has come for me to move on to a position where my talents will be more fully appreciated and deployed. I accepted this job under the misapprehension that its demands would be concomitant with my educational qualifications. Thank you for opening my eyes. I apologize for wasting your valuable time with my suggestions for improving the efficiency (not to mention the literacy) of the department. For my part, the time has not been entirely unprofitable, as I have been able to gather much useful raw material for my first novel. 

As of today I am formally resigning as so-called “Marketing Officer” and taking the holiday owed to me in lieu of notice. It will therefore not be possible for me to attend the Paris conference as planned, but no doubt you will manage perfectly well without the help of someone who is just “a stupid secretary.” 

Yours sincerely,

Molly Clearwater (BA Hons)

It was a magnificent letter, if she said so herself. Even Malcolm Figg would feel chastened when he read it. She had been right to stand up for herself. Definitely. To wait until Malcolm was temporarily out of his office, then gather her belongings, press “Send” and sweep out of the office for good was positively heroic. In a film, there would have been a “go, girl” music and the whole staff would have stood to cheer her exit. “

Ahhh, but Paris! A weekend in Paris! Should she throw caution to the wind and just go anyway? Everyone already thinks she’s going there so she won’t be missed (except, maybe, by her well-meaning, if a bit overprotective mother) and. . .well, she’s already got it all planned. Except now. . .she doesn’t have the “where to stay” part sorted. and the fact that she doesn’t know a soul there could be a problem but. . . why not? Standing at the train station with the Eurostar so close, her suitcase packed, and a ball of determination settled firmly in her stomach, Molly decides to be the heroine of her own story and take a chance on herself, and on the famed City of Lights.

Minutes into her ascent on Paris, Molly meets a loud and enchanting young woman who whisks her off to a party, where she is introduced to a motley crew of the most fashionable people she has ever met – literally. She is captivated by the impetuousness of her new friend, and is determined that some of Alicia’s wild spontaneity and overall fabulousness will rub off on her. It doesn’t take long for fresh-faced Molly to meet up with a darkly handsome French man and she instantly begins falling head over heels. Fabrice is dangerous and intriguing, and once she hops onto the back of his motorcycle, she is thrilled to find herself transformed from a run-of-the-mill secretary into a sexy and interesting woman of the world. Fabrice is an artist in a city full of dreamers and creative geniuses, and Molly surprises herself by allowing him to draw her, allowing herself to be swept up in the romance of it all. Paris has a way of casting a spell over those who let it.

” He propped the bike steady and climbed off himself. Molly felt his fingers flutter against her cheek as he undid her helmet and removed it. He smoothed back her hair carefully, a palm on either side of her head. ‘You know, Molly, you are very beautiful.’

‘No, I’m not,’ she whispered. 

‘I like your hair. And your little English nose.’ He ran a finger down it. 

‘That tickles.” 

‘And your smile,’ A knuckle brushed her mouth. 

Her eyelids drooped. She was melting, turning to butter. Then his lips were on hers, warm and searching. He pulled her tight and pressed harder, sliding his tongue into her mouth, tugging and twining until her head sank back in surrender and her body arched into his. “

But all spells must be broken and soon enough, Malcolm Figg reenters Molly’s life with all of the darkness and negativity of a heavy raincloud. She must enroll her newfound friends into a wildly intricate scheme to fully rid herself of him and in the process, finds out much more than she intended about herself and interestingly enough, about her past. Molly finds that in leaving home behind and jetting off to Paris that she has instead come full circle.  Molly’s  transition from the careful and curiously cautious Ingénue into a sparkling and truly confident bonafide woman means realizing (and accepting)  that she is extraordinary all on her own. Paris simply caused the magic that was already inside of her to wake up.

Weekend In Paris is the charming story of a young woman’s awakening and the steps she takes to reach it. Some experiences are full of silly comic relief, and some are filled with the dawning realization that things are not always as they seem to be. It is the quintessential tale of romance in the famed city of Paris and all of the excitement that it comes wrapped up in. I give Weekend in Paris 4 stars and recommend it to readers of Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot; and anyone who wants to skip town and reinvent themselves. . .if only for the weekend.

R.I.P 

Robyn Sisman 

08/04/49 – 05/20/16

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Review: Kill All Happies

Kill All Happies

by Rachel Cohn

” If this party was a mess, it was my mess, and I had it under control. 

Mostly under control. 

Partly under control. 

Not really at all under control. “

Victoria Navarro has just graduated high school and is looking for a way to make the moment count. With one of her best friends jetting off to spend a year doing humanitarian work in Africa, and her own impending departure to San Francisco (thus completely dismantling the trio of girlfriends that have dubbed themselves “The Cuddle Huddle”), Vic is anxious to create some long-lasting memories and blow out of town with a bang. And it is imperative that she have her best friends, Fletch and Slick, right by her side.

Rancho Soldado, her sleepy hometown located in the shadow of Las Vegas, is just as ready for a big blow-out as she is. Happies, their resident safe place and iconic, tourist claim-to-fame, is closing up shop under the black cloud of bankruptcy. Bev Happie is ready to leave her childhood behind her and at the tender age of 75, is set on moving to Florida to begin anew with money made from the sale. Happies has been an institution in the town since her toddler years and although she’s sad to see it end, Bev has no idea how to make things work anymore. Rancho is just far enough off the map that tourism has tapered off steadily enough over the years and  hardly anyone comes through anymore – except the diehard Happies fans who are obsessed with the nostalgia that lives within the four walls of the restaurant and attached theme park.

When Bev finally gives in to Vic’s insistent begging, an idea is born. Vic is going to throw the biggest send-off party her town has ever seen; both for Happies and the graduating class. She will be able to say goodbye to life as she’s known it in style and maybe, just maybe, she’ll finally be able to hook up with the guy she’s had her eyes on for years.

” In a week, I was leaving Rancho Soldado, probably for good. In my eighteen years of living in this podunk desert nowhere, I hadn’t done a single thing for my town to remember me by, despite my many appearances at Town Council meetings with suggestions for improvements that Thrope made sure were never acted on. 

That could all change tonight. We’d party like Thrope never existed. We’d pretend a version of Rancho Soldado could exist without her overlord tyranny.

Last Call at Happies, brought to you by Victoria Navarro, who will at least give her friends and classmates one final celebration to remember her by, and bring Annette Thrope’s senior class party at Happies nightmares to fruition one last time. “

Getting everything put together on short notice isn’t going to be easy, especially with Vic’s arch nemesis, Miss. Ann Thrope dogging her every step. Thrope has been looking for any opportunity to ruin her life for years and Vic just knows that if her old teacher gets wind of the party-of-the-century due to debut this weekend, all bets will be off. Fortunately for the Senior Class, Vic Navarro has never backed down from a chance to undermine her sworn enemy. Life is looking up.

But as the party begins, it’s just one problem after another:

  • Jake, Vic’s love interest and Slick’s older brother, is in charge of the beer (courtesy of his broke-down car turned beer truck, christened The Chug Bug) but she can’t seem to get him alone. And everything has to be on the down-low because Slick has expressly forbid her best friend from touching her brother.
  • Evergrace Everdell, the weird and annoying homeschooled kid who wasn’t invited, shows up anyway and starts causing trouble. She’s spouting off nonsense about Vic not knowing the truth about her best friends, and it’s making her uneasy.
  • Zeke, the tall and emo brother to her crush, keeps following her around trying to be the voice of reason. Once he throws her cell phone into the night in an attempt to force her into having fun, she’s technologically crippled and becomes unable to find her friends in the growing crowd.
  • And despite orders that the party be kept as secret as possible and no social media posts made, everyone has blasted the news that last call at Happies is happening now. The result is tons of Happies fans have descended upon the town  and broken into the long since condemned and off-limits theme park in back of the old restaurant – breaking the one rule Bev gave to Vic in exchange for giving her a location for the party.

All hell has officially broken loose.

Don’t throw a party just to impress a guy.

I should have heeded my sister’s advice. How could this night suck more? ” 

Will Vic be able to find her friends and put some troubling rumors to rest? Will she finally be able to share more than a stolen kiss with the guy she’s been crushing on for years, without her best friend finding out? Will she be able to keep the party under control long enough that someone doesn’t inadvertently set the place on fire? Will she be able to host this evening of debauchery under Thrope’s nose and pull of the con of all cons?

And will she actually be able to say goodbye to Happies and Rancho Saldado for good?

Kill All Happies is the new book from Rachel Cohn, an author best known for her work on Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Gingerbread. She is a writer who celebrates a strong, female protagonist and Vic Navarro, star of Kill All Happies, is no exception. Cohn has a way of offering interesting and quirky characters that readers will enjoy getting to know. While Kill All Happies does indeed have several of these wonderful additions (Zeke, the punk-rocker with a heart of gold; Chester, the stoner older brother with a few surprises up his sleeve; Mayor Jerry, the resident hippie) I found that the antagonist, Miss. Ann Thrope, was sorely lacking. I would have loved for her to be a meatier villain with more depth – and I also would have enjoyed a stronger resolution between  Vic and her mortal enemy. In fact, I would have preferred a stronger resolution for many things at the closing of the story. I was left wanting so much more.

Rating this book a 3.5 stars out of 5 is hard, because I did enjoy the story a lot. What I didn’t enjoy was what I felt to be an excessive use of profanity that in my opinion, dumbed the characters down. Not all teenagers feel the need to drop the F-bomb every other word just to get their points across, and I always find myself a bit annoyed when authors assume this. It’s as if they have in their head that this is how a teenager speaks, and so they elaborate upon that dialect. Another issue I had was while I appreciate a bit of reckless debauchery as a rite of passage for any kid in the middle of that awkward transition from older teenager to adult, I was a bit put off by the careless mentions of casual sex and hookups. I’m not an idiot, I know teenagers have sex, but I had a hard time believing that the majority of girls feel so unemotional about it. I think the author was using casual sex as a way to empower Vic and instead, it just made her appear a bit disconnected. Maybe I’m old and out of touch, but as the mother to a teenage daughter, it just seemed odd.

I loved – loved – loved the nostalgic feel of Happies and wish there was more background on the place that brought so many people – from all over the United States – together. It sounds like a place I would personally love to visit. Bev Happie was charming and a true staple in her community, which made it surprising that Rancho Saldado was okay with the place being closed down. But because Happies was so beloved, I had a hard time understanding how the devoted Happies fans would come into the old theme park and begin virtually destroying it via vandalism. It didn’t quite make sense and was out of place.

I recommend Kill All Happies to YA readers 16 and up, due to the language and sexual conversations. Please be advised that no actual sex is involved ( just talk of it, and is not graphic in nature).

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Recommendation: The Undomestic Goddess

The Undomestic Goddess

by Sophie Kinsella

As I sat down to make my recommendation today, I was having a hard time.

One goal with this year’s blog is to not repeat authors. That is already proving to be difficult; as I have weekly combed through my extensive library of over 700 books, looking for just the right title to recommend to my loyal readers, I have learned one very obvious thing – I get attached. By that I mean, once I have read a book and I enjoy it, I will then go out and buy every single book that author has written. And I particularly love series. I could spend nearly four months recommending Sookie Stackhouse novels for you. But I can’t do that because. . . I just really don’t want to repeat authors, with as many talented writers as there are out there.

So anyway, I sat down with a stack of Sophie Kinsella books and spent a good hour trying to figure out which one to recommend. I was originally going to fill the author’s space on my blog this year by reviewing one of her books that I have not yet read and desperately want to – Finding Audrey, the YA tale of a girl suffering from anxiety; something that is very near and dear to my heart. But I have so many wonderful authors already lined up for reviews, I decided I would fill my terribly lacking recommendation slot instead.

But which one to choose? Kinsella has written a whopping 25 novels (both as herself and under her nom de plume, Madeline Wickham) and I have loved so many! I mean hello – Shopaholic?! Remember Me?! Twenties Girl?! You see my dilemma.

I finally decided on a book that I picked up last summer off the clearance section at my local Half Price Books and devoured in less than a week (I had lots of reading time last summer, as my newborn nursed literally every two hours, for 40 minutes each time). This book kept me giggling, nodding my head in agreement, and generally smiling as I made my way through it.

So, today’s recommendation is The Undomestic Goddess, by Sophie Kinsella.

Samantha Sweeting is in denial that she’s a workaholic. Sure, she measures every single minute she spends in the office and catalogs her progress obsessively – she is paid by the six-minute increment, after all. No, she hasn’t taken a vacation in years – she can barely find time to get her nails done (and that’s only if her best friend bodily drags her away from her desk). Of course she spends 8. . .10. . .12. . .okay, 15 hours a day at work. She’s an attorney trying to make partner, and so it just makes sense that she spend most of her time trying to stay on top of things. And it’s not as if she has much to go home to anyway; in fact, she has nothing waiting on her at home (unless you count the nosy neighbor who lives down the hall).

” ‘Your job is obviously very pressured.’

‘I thrive under pressure,’ I explain. Which is true. I’ve known that about myself every since. . .

Well. Ever since my mother told me, when I was about eight. You thrive under pressure, Samantha. Our whole family thrives under pressure. It’s like our family motto or something. 

Apart from my brother Peter, of course. He had a nervous breakdown. But the rest of us. “

But sometimes all work and no play can make for a few careless mistakes. As Samantha realizes with growing dread that an oversight has cost her client upwards of £50,000, she goes into panic-mode. Instead of fighting, she chooses flight, and off she walks straight out of her office at Carter Spink, down to the station and eventually hopping on a train bound for nowhere.

Samantha distractedly unloads herself at the last stop makes her way through town in a daze, desperately running things over in her mind and trying to figure out what to do to amend the situation. Before she knows it, she’s pushing open a wrought iron gate and knocking on the heavy front door of an impressive country home. The woman who answers the door hurriedly ushers her inside, ignoring Samantha’s request for a simple glass of water, and instead tells her some surprising news – Samantha has got the job!

” ‘I’m very grateful, really.’ I manage a half smile. ‘You’ve been very kind, letting me trespass on your evening.’

‘Her English is good, isn’t it?’ Eddie raises his eyebrows at Trish. 

‘She’s English!’ says Trish triumphantly, as though she’s just pulled a rabbit out of a hat. ‘Understands everything I say!’

I am really not getting something here. Do I look foreign?

‘Shall we do a tour of the house?’ Eddie turns to Trish. 

‘Really, it’s not necessary,’ I begin. ‘I’m sure it’s absolutely beautiful –‘

‘Of course it’s necessary!’ Trish stubs out her cigarette. ‘Come on. . .bring your glass!’ 

What Trish and Eddie Geiger are looking for is really quite simple – they need a housekeeper. Someone to do the laundry, dust the mirrors, prepare the lunch, and especially. . . impress their friends and neighbors. Samantha seems so perfect for the job that they can’t help but hire her on the spot. Dazzled by her articulate conversation and very impressive references, they guide her down to her tidy living quarters and insist that she stay the night so that she may begin work immediately the next day. There is no way they can let this highly recommended and beautifully charming young woman leave – especially as she is so accomplished in the culinary arts.

Except, none of that is true. Samantha, overwhelmed by her desire to stay in the quiet, comforting home and hide from her problems has embellished her talents. . . more than a little. She has no idea how to properly make a baked potato, let alone a meal complex enough to be worthy of a five-star restaurant (unlike the Cordon Bleu-trained housekeeper before her).  Her reference is indeed a Lady, but Freya Edgerly is her best friend – not her former boss. And of course she speaks well – she’s British! But Trish and Eddie are just so nice, albeit a little eccentric, and she really has nothing left for her in London anyway. Hiding out in their home seems like the perfect solution to all of her problems.

Except the plan isn’t quite working as she’d thought it would. Sure, she’s got a place to hide, but she has no idea what she’s doing! Samantha is trying so hard that you really feel sorry for her when she fails again and again, but luckily for her – the resident gardener, Nathaniel, is more than willing to help Samantha with anything and everything she needs to learn. Not to mention, the one thing Samantha didn’t lie about was her tenacity and her smarts – two things that are imperative in job so complicated as the one that she signed up for. Eventually, life catches up to Samantha and she must decide which path she wants to spend the rest of her days walking down.

” I don’t know what’s happened. Brown bubbles are expanding out of my gravy saucepan, all over the cooker, and down the sides on the floor. It looks like the porringer in the story of the magic pot that wouldn’t stop making porridge. 

‘Get it off the heat, for God’s sake!’ exclaims Nathaniel, throwing his rucksack aside. He snatches up the pan and moves it to the counter. ‘What on earth is in that?’

‘Nothing!’ I say. ‘Just the usual ingredients. . .’

Nathaniel has noticed the little pot on the counter. He grabs it and takes a pinch between his fingers. ‘Baking soda? You put baking soda in gravy? Is that what they taught you at –‘ He breaks off and sniffs the air. ‘Hang on. Is something burning?’

I watch helplessly as he opens the bottom oven, grabs an oven glove with a practiced air, and hauls out a baking tray covered in what look like tiny black bullets. 

Oh, no. My chickpeas. 

‘What are these supposed to be?’ he says incredulously. ‘Rabbit droppings?’

‘They’re chickpeas,’ I retort. My cheeks are flaming but I lift my chin, trying to regain some kind of dignity. ‘I drizzled them in olive oil and put them in the oven so they could. . .melt.’

Nathaniel stares at me. ‘Melt?’

‘Soften,’ I amend hurriedly.

Nathaniel puts down the tray and folds his arms. ‘Do you know anything about cooking?’

Before I can answer, there’s the most almighty BANG from the microwave. “

What culminates is a hilarious and often cringing account of how Samantha begins to navigate her new life as a not-so-domestic goddess. Kinsella has a way of turning a phrase and painting a picture with rich description that leaves you chuckling and culminates in the endearment of the character(s) to you.

I give The Undomestic Goddess 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to lovers of Meg Cabot, Jennifer Weiner (although Kinsella’s subject matters are less serious than Weiner’s) and general chick-lit. It’s a book you can read quickly and enjoy as much as a slice of freshly baked chocolate cake.

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Recommendation: Postmortem

Postmortem

by Patricia Cornwell

“ The dead have never bothered me.

It’s the living that I fear. ”

About six or seven years ago, I borrowed a bunch of books from a friend who had an impressive library. Most of the books that I borrowed, I read and returned. But this one. . .

. . .see, I ended up moving shortly after borrowing those books and this particular little novel was still mixed in with my own books. It was a well-worn mass production paperback and you could barely read the title on the spine because it was so broken. I threw it up on my new set of bookshelves in my brand new place, and didn’t think much of it.

Another couple of years later, I was home alone. It was a quiet, dreary day and I was bored. I grabbed a book off of the bookshelf at random and piled up on the couch to log an hour of two of reading. Trying to pass the time before my boyfriend got home.

And I stayed on the couch the entire night, in a feverish rush to finish this book.

Postmortem is the first of 24 – and counting – novels in the Kay Scarpetta Mystery Series. This particular series is the one that Patricia Cornwell is best noted for, the collection spanning nearly 30 years of writing. After devouring this first book, I ran out and got the second and third, and thankfully Christmas was right around the corner – my boyfriend bought all the rest of the books for me (wrapping them individually and piling them all under the tree). I was hooked.

While I have come to love many of the books in this series for a variety of reasons, Postmortem is one of my favorites, mainly because it is the first. We meet and get to know the dark and twisty parts of Kay Scarpetta that she allows us to see. She’s a woman playing in a man’s world, and while she’s excelling, it takes an infinite amount of determination and work to stay on top. Kay is the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Virginia, and each book is centered around a particular case (or cases) she’s working to solve. Some books carry the killer(s) across several novels and some are solved by the last page of just one particular book.

The other characters featured, such as Detective Pete Marino, FBI profiler Benton Wesley, and Kay’s niece, Lucy, grow throughout the series. They age, they change careers, they have romantic interests, and they become thickly embedded into the storyline and under Kay’s skin. They become people that you feel like you really know, and that is a writing characteristic that has always appealed to me. I am a sucker for a good series, because I become the happiest reader when I can invest heavily in characters and their development.

As Postmortem begins, Dr. Kay Scarpetta is called to the scene of an apparent death by strangulation. There appears to be a serial killer on the loose in Richmond, and this murder is just one in a string of recent unsolved murders in the area. Cornwell pulled inspiration for this particular type of serial killing straight from the headlines;  Timothy Wilson Spencer, who terrorized the the Richmond area over a fateful fall season, killed in the same manner.

 Also on the scene is the cantankerous Pete Marino, who’s persistent moodiness is a perpetual thorn in Kay’s side. Marino has a knack for inserting himself into her cases and always makes sure she knows he’s around, either with his loud and obnoxious conversation or with his body — always too close for comfort.

” I wondered where Marino was going with this. He was hard to read, and I’d never decided if he was a good poker player or simply slow. He was exactly the sort of detective I avoided when given a choice — a cock of the walk and absolutely unreachable. He was pushing fifty, with a face life had chewed on, and long wisps of graying hair parted low on one side and combed over his balding pate. At least six feet tall, he was bay-windowed from decades of bourbon and beer. His unfashionably wide red-and-blue-striped tie was oily around the neck from summers of sweat. Marino was the stuff of tough-guy flicks — a crude, crass gumshoe who probably had a foul-mouthed parrot for a pet and coffee table littered with Hustler magazines. “

One thing that is fascinating to read is the use of technology and forensic science. This book was published in 1990 and it’s ridiculously crazy how far the medical examining system has come since then. There is mention of a criminal database but not one in actual existence. DNA’s help in catching criminals something that can only be dreamed of at this point. As the series and modern science in criminal justice advances, the author goes to great lengths to become as well-versed as humanly possible on the subject and again, it’s fascinating to watch that progression.  Cornwell is meticulous in her description and logic, having immersed herself into the world of criminology and forensic science as a passion in her personal life.

The killer has left behind several clues – most of which are nearly unseen to the naked eye. With the use of black light analysis, Dr. Scarpetta discovers unsettling bodily fluids, and she’s also intrigued by an unusual smell left behind on the victim. Kay begins to work on finding links between the murdered women, as well as trying to navigate through her murky personal life. Her precocious niece, 10-year old Lucy, is spending time in her home and keeping Kay on her toes. Lucy comes from a bit of a broken home; her mother is far more interested in her flavor-of-the-week boyfriends or her creation of children’s books to pay attention to her daughter. Lucy has smarts that border on genius-status, and she’s proficient in the relatively new art of computer science. The evolution of Lucy throughout the series is probably the most dramatic, and one of the most interesting. The love that Kay has for Lucy is that of a mother and daughter, and both fill a void in the other’s life.

“ I didn’t want her to be like me, robbed of innocence and idealism, baptized in the bloody waters of randomness and cruelty, the fabric of trust forever torn. ”

Kay is perturbed to have her case spun out into the mainstream media, and dismayed when several classified items are brought to light for the public. It seems there may be a leak coming from the inside, and that further perpetuates Kay’s sense of paranoia about the people surrounding her. Finding it difficult to trust anyone leaves Kay in an unsettling position, and leaves her coming across as cold and uncaring to the people in her life. She has built walls around her for the sake of her sanity; her job can be difficult and taxing on the emotional state. She has had to learn to cut parts of herself off in order to solve murders, catch rapists, and put awful people behind bars. This theme is seen throughout the series of books in their entirety, as Kay struggles to maintain personal relationships that invade her work space.

As Dr. Scarpetta learns more about the victims, she unknowingly puts herself in harm’s way. Crucial bits of information leave her vulnerable to the killer and in the end, she must rush to figure things out before it’s too late, relying on her wits and instincts to get her through alive.

” These strangling cases were the most difficult of my career, and I was gripped by the fear I was becoming too caught up in them. Maybe I was losing my rational, methodical way of doing things. Maybe I was making mistakes. “

I give Postmortem 4.5 out of 5 stars. This is a fast-paced and easy-to-read mystery that, regardless of the science involved, is easy to follow. Some of the things that Cornwell comes up with over the entirety of the series is genius and unique, and fans of shows such as Criminal Minds and CSI will appreciate the depth into which the solving of the murders go.

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Recommendation: The Little Lady Agency

The Little Lady Agency

by Hester Browne

”Gentlemen! No Little Lady in Your Life?

Call the Little Lady Agency: Everything organized, from your home to your wardrobe, your social life to you.

No funny business or laundry.”

I have so many friends who claim they “just don’t have time to read.”

They go on and on about how much they admire the time I have to read and are jealous of  how many books I can plow through in a year. They cannot believe I have all of this “free time” on my hands to shop for books, read books, blog about books, etc. And they are the same friends who get overwhelmed in bookstores and are afraid of wasting time on a bad book, mainly because books are expensive.

I have a few suggestions for these friends:

  • Make time. You have it – you just gotta make it. A book doesn’t have to be read in a day, a week, or a month. It doesn’t even have to be read in six months. If you can dedicate 5 minutes a day to reading, then dedicate that. If you can dedicate more – then do it. We all have time, it’s just what you do with it. Set a reading goal and stick with it. If you put your devices down (laptop, mobile phone, tablet) for the last hour before you go to bed, studies show you sleep better anyway. So put the electronic device down and grab a book.
  • How do I personally make time? I read an average of a book a week, sometimes two, if the books are shorter. I set a personal goal of 50 pages a day. Most books are between 300-500 pages. I usually read more than the 50 pages, because I read all day. I read ten minutes here and five minutes there. I read while I’m nursing my baby to sleep. I read while I’m eating my lunch. I read while I’m waiting for my son to finish doing his hair in the morning and I’m sitting in my car alone, waiting to take him to school. I read in the bubble bath that I dedicate to myself every night. I read while my kids are doing homework, and I’m sitting near them for moral support. If you just carry a book around with you and stop telling yourself that you need an hour of complete silence to sit down and read, then I promise you that you can get through a book.
  • Don’t have time to shop for books? Amazon is your friend. Not only can you have books delivered to your door next day (same day, in some areas – like mine), you can browse the book section of Amazon based upon reviews, ratings, genre, and about 500 other parameters. Don’t have time to read the back and decide if it’s the book for you? Don’t worry, literally thousands of other people have already done it for you and have blessedly rated books so you don’t have to do the legwork. Don’t know where to start? That’s okay too – Amazon has several lists you can browse from on their main page in the Book Department, such as Best Books of April and Award Winners.
  • Books are expensive. Yes, they can be. Want that new bestseller? Chances are it’s only in hardback and will set you back about $20, even if you have a membership to the bookstore or find it on sale. And what if you don’t like it? What a waste of money, right? Well – that’s why we have libraries! And most libraries have wonderful websites set up where you can have books held for you online and they let you know when it’s available. All, for free! And if you have a Half Price Books near you, you’d be surprised at A) how many beautiful and bestselling books you can find for under $3 in their clearance section and B) just how often they mail you coupons. Sign up on their website to get paper coupons, or they can email/text them to you. A 50% off coupon on a book that is already 50% off can save you….a lot. AND they don’t limit what you can use your coupon on. So if you really want that $25 bestseller, it’s already marked down to about $20 at Half-Price, plus you can use a coupon, so you can take it home for about the cost of a lunch at Chick-Fil-A. Still finding books too expensive? Try the Half Price Books Marketplace website where you can find books listed for $1, with cheap shipping.
  • What if you don’t like the book? Easy, put it down and pick up another. There is no rule that says that once you start a book you must finish it. Give a book three chapters to hook you and if it hasn’t, then don’t waste any more time. Most professionals in the literary world are trained to only read the first three chapters before deciding to sign a book or not, so those words had better be good.
  • The books I like are immature. . . Don’t worry. You aren’t the only adult who likes YA books more than the ones your “own age.” Don’t ever be embarrassed about what you want to read. Just buy it, read it , love it, and join the fandom.

So stop saying you don’t have the time to read. I promise you – you do! I’ve read 17 books this year and I have five animals, three kids, a husband, and a partridge in a pear tree. You can do it.

Most of my friends are women and most of these women like fun and easy reads. The Little Lady Agency is one of those, and it completely fits the bill for a book that you can read a little bit at a time, and not find yourself confused when you pick it back up. Readers who like Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot will enjoy this trilogy surrounding an unlikely girl-for-hire named Melissa – AKA Honey.

“ There are many marks of a true lady but I believe that one of them is to walk with her head held high while her world falls apart around her. ”

No one takes Melissa Romney-Jones seriously. Not her father, the prominent member of Parliament, and not her uptight and snobbish co-workers at the estate house. She doesn’t quite feel as if she fits in anywhere unless she’s lounging at home with her flatmate or out on the town (albeit quietly, at a respectable restaurant at a respectable hour, and of course, with proper shoes on) with her best girlfriend. But when she loses her job (sigh, again) and needs to find a way to make ends meet, she is a bit lost. After an unusually fortuitous job interview, she finds herself wrapped up in something completely different than what she’d originally penciled into her day planner – and  she decides to take matter into her own hands by taking a real chance. . . recreating herself as . . . “Honey.”

Honey Blennerhesket, to be exact.

“ Appearances can be deceptive. Just because someone has a generous chest and a romantic nature doesn’t mean they’re EASY. ”

Honey can be all of the things that Melissa cannot. She can be everything Melissa wishes she could be. She’s got luxurious blonde hair (care of a meticulously placed wig) that men find super attractive. She can be no-nonsense and opinionated, and people will actually listen. She can be glamorous and confident, and she can let go and not worry about what others think. Honey is a woman that people – especially men – respect.

As the owner/operator of The Little Lady Agency, Honey expedites of the needs of men. Not sexually, of course, because Honey may be voluptuous and sexy, but she also has strict manners and high values. You never give the milk away for free, and all of that. She handles all of the other things that men just cannot seem to manage. She can take a dowdy and hopeless nerd and turn him into a well-dressed gentleman. She can keep the meddlesome mother off of a son’s back by pretending to be his girlfriend at Christmas parties and events. And she can make sure that a man’s home is decorated tastefully and subtly, all while making sure his dry-cleaning is picked up and he has the right reservation at the perfect restaurant. And even though there is a man or two who come through her program acting like complete immature lechers, Honey can handle almost anything.

“ My golden rule has always been to look on the bright side, no matter what. With all the complications in my life, I had to. Because if you can find three good things in any given situation, no matter how dire, I guarantee you’ll forget the rotten stuff. ”

Well, almost anything. A certain dashing American keeps calling on her for her services, and against her better judgement, she finds herself catching feelings. It feels like he might be too. . .but the trouble is, she can’t quite figure out if Jonathan Riley likes her for Honey or for. . . herself.  And at the end of the day, she has a job to do, and nothing will keep her from making her client happy.

The Little Lady Agency is charming and funny. And although the premise of the story is very close to that of a call-girl, Melissa’s character is always above reproach when it comes to her manners and etiquette. The author has kept everything clean and tidy; no foul language or sexually graphic scenes. The interactions between Honey and her clients are at times, downright hilarious and cheeky. It’s just a good ole’ chick-lit book, akin to the likes of Jane Austen in it’s feminine flair and wit. The characters are likable and not terribly cliche, and  as the story is told over three novels – you won’t get the ending you’re expecting out of this one.

I give The Little Lady Agency 4 stars and highly recommend it for a light and fun read. It is sure to leave you giggling and nodding your head as readers will find they can truly relate to Melissa’s (mis)adventures in dating (even if the men aren’t her real boyfriends). Her struggle to be her own woman and to build confidence in a world that so eagerly and voraciously tries to tear her down is admirable. Melissa is someone I would love to be friends with, grabbing a cocktail after a long week. She’s a good person, and continues to be one no matter what is thrown her way or how others try to put her down. I love how she finds that she is more like “Honey” than she originally thought and her evolution from timid girl to confident woman is paved with wonderful values and dreamy expectations.

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Review: The Music Maker Series – Inharmonic

The Music Maker Series – Inharmonic

by A.K.R. Scott

” Nadja’s eyelids fell shut once more as his breath washed over her. The room spun, threatening her ability to remain standing. She slid one hand down across the hard plane of his chest. She could feel his heart racing and knew hers beat just as quickly. Their chests rose and fell together as Pax’s voice joined hers in the final refrain. 

‘The waves may crash and roll and roar

But I am my love’s forevermore.’ “

A.K.R Scott is an emerging fantasy author and is sure to make a splash onto the scene with her debut novel.  Inharmonic, the first installment of the Music Maker Series,  is full of all of the makings of a successful fantasy novel – a complex setting, cloaked figures with special powers, and a quest to find out the truth. The fictional world of Amrantir is peppered with deep woods filled with mystical trees, busy cities where music is in the forefront of culture and considered the most highly-valued trade, and creaky docks lined by wooden ships carrying precious cargo. Inharmonic transports readers into the depths of a land full of magic, all wrapped in a symphony of the sweetest composition.

Nadja is a girl sitting precariously on the cusp of becoming a woman –  but not in her manner of choosing. Instead, she will transition into her next phase of life by way of a marriage to a fellow member of her tribe, the Wanderers. She has grown up knowing the customs and traditions of her patriarchal society, but she has also been a reluctant participant, albeit silently. The partner that has been chosen for her and whose ways she shall adopt is a good man, and a handsome one to boot. But this does nothing to assuage the feelings that live deep in Nadja’s gut – the feelings of certainty that she is more than capable of forging her own path and making her own decisions without the express permission of a husband.

As the evening of her betrothal celebration unfolds, Nadja’s life begins to take a set of unrepairable turns. She comes across her young cousin, Kizzy, struggling against the nefarious and unwanted advances of an elder tribal leader, and in her haste to save her, Nadja commits what she believes to be murder. This one act spurs the bride-to-be to pack a bag and flee the confines and security of her camp, and she strikes out towards the city of Cantio in search of her uncle, with whom she has been told she can find sanctuary.

” There, the shock of the night dissipated, and the weight of everything she had been through hit her like a blow to the head. And now, with her meager supplies being looted by a pack of wolves, she truly had nothing and no one. To return to her tribe was suicide and continuing on her journey meant almost certain death. Nadja’s heart broke, and she wept as one mourning the loss of a loved one. But for her, it was the loss of everyone she had ever loved. Her body racked with sobs, and she stuffed the edge of her cloak into her mouth in a feeble attempt to muffle the noise. She cried until exhaustion overcame her and swept her away into a fitful slumber. “

When her Uncle Tau suggests enrolling in the local music conservatory as a further cover for the story he’s concocted for her, Nadja is trepidatious. She has some skill with a flute but doesn’t feel she is quite up to par with the elite members of the community who are also competing for a coveted spot in the illustrious school. Fate is on Nadja’s side, however, and she is accepted. The conservatory will provide her a much-needed place to hide from any of the tribal members attempting to hunt her down. It will also allow her to hone her musical skills and learn a thing or two.

Also accepted into the conservatory is Pax, an aspiring wood craftsman that she met while on her journey into the city. He is mischievous and full of flirtation, but for now, Nadja tries to push him to the background of her mind as she focuses on blending in the shadows. Unfortunately for her, Pax has other ideas. No matter how she tries to push him away, he always seems to find a reason to be around. Much to her growing digress, Nadja finds Pax becoming her hero in more ways than one, as he firmly inserts himself into her life.

” A heavy hand landed on Nadja’s shoulder. 

‘I’ll be partnering with Miss. Machinal.’

Nadja spun to face Pax, knocking away his hand. She stared at him in stunned silence for a moment as the amusement in his eyes belied the mask of innocence he wore. She opened her mouth to say something, but closed it again when her mind refused to cooperate with her lips. 

Instead, she whipped back around to tell the grandmaster there was a mistake, and she would most certainly not be partnering with Pax. However, by the time her instructor was halfway across the room, speaking with Petrin and a beet-red Helaine, Nadja desperately scanned the rest of the class, now only a handful of people since most of the students had already left. Finding everyone else paired off, she faced Pax, her eyes blazing. 

‘I did not agree to be your partner.’

Pax feigned surprise. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I thought that was why you were standing over here clearly not looking for a partner. You seemed to be waiting around for someone to come over and claim you.’ 

‘You have some nerve,’ she seethed.  “

As her time at the conservatory unfolds, Nadja begins to learn more about herself and her supposed heritage, and the questions that begin to appear, are at times, more than she can stomach. Her mind is at war with her beliefs of the balance of nature and the magic running in her veins, and soon she becomes embroiled in a situation that she is afraid she cannot fight her way out of. When her past finally catches up to her, she is not as prepared as she originally planned to be, and Nadja must rely on her instincts and emerging talents to carry her on.

Inharmonic is the first in a set of novels, and if the author’s website is any indication, there will be at least three. You can track the author’s progress with a clever widget on the blog portion of her website. This series has the makings of a trilogy at the very least, with possible spin-off stories involving minor but equally interesting characters. Readers who enjoy Inharmonic can sign up at the author’s website (www.akrscott.com) to receive a free copy of a novella entitled Heart of the Wood, featuring the heroic and engaging character, Pax.

I found the premise of Inharmonic to be original and intelligent, and while I have not read a weighty amount of fantasy books, I believe the underlying storyline to be unique. The story is about Nadja and her journey of discovering who she is outside of tribal tradition and law, but it is also centered around music and the power that sound has on the environment in which it lives. Cultivated melodies have the power to call on rain, can literally move mountains, and grow crops that would otherwise be laid waste by pests and disease. The author is obviously very well-versed in the language of music and while it does lend itself to the story well, at times it can be a bit much. If you don’t know a lot about music and its terms (like myself) you may find yourself lost and a bit bored with lengthy descriptions of the inner workings of song and harmony.

I was also confused as to the audience the author was writing for. I’ve found it nearly impossible to “write for the masses” in the literary world of today. The genres of the modern-day reading circles are very distinct and the lines clearly drawn as certain styles of writing invoke cult-like followings. The Young Adult genre is taken very seriously by the readers involved, and while the ages and subject matter suggested this was a YA book, the language was heavy-handed and almost too elegant and complicated for the average YA reader to understand and navigate without a dictionary. That being said, adult readers would find this intelligently written and appealing. However, the storyline was lost more than once in the face of overly-worded paragraphs full of detailed descriptions and dialogue was slowed to a turtle’s pace in the midst of formality.

I’ve found that most books involved in a series can be wordy with their first installment, as the author is excited to set the world up for their reader and also so that in future books, they are able to focus more on plot than setting. I am looking forward to the rest of the books in this series, as Inharmonic left me in a state of desperate wanting as it came to its close. I also appreciated the map in the front of the book, showing all the points of interest clearly marked. The author’s website has a fantastically interactive map with further detail and descriptions that I found delightful. I’m a fan of a good map, as the wife of a cartographer, and fantasy worlds are always made better with a pure path laid out.

I give Inharmonic 4 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for music-lovers and fantasy-lovers alike. I recommend this for readers over the age of 15, as the language overall is advanced and may be confusing for the average mid-grade or YA reader.

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Recommendation: Me Before You

Me Before You

by Jojo Moyes

“ …I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other. ”

Sometimes I wonder how publishing houses feel when they give a hard pass to a book and it ends up becoming a national bestseller. Do they have regrets? Is it just a drop in the bucket? Does it even bother them at all, considering how many novels are pushed out each year by countless houses? Does someone get fired? Yelled at? It intrigues me.

Jojo Moyes wrote Me Before You in 2012, after a multitude of other novels that garnered reasonably good numbers and critical acclaim, as well as a few awards. Previously a journalist of more than a decade, she decided that full-time novel writing was her future. But when she brought Me Before You to her longstanding publishing house, they passed, and so she moved along and sold the book elsewhere. Subsequently, the romance novel featuring a quirky girl in bumblebee tights  and a wheelchair-bound boy with hair that’s too long sold over six-million copies in countless countries and ended up in Hollywood as a film starring two impossibly good looking actors.

Makes you wonder, right?

I’ve read a lot of romance novels. I’ve read the quickly turned-around and recycled babble of Harlequin authors. I’ve read the slightly more scandalous authors like Lori Foster and Patti Berg. I’ve read 50 Shades.  I’ve read historical romance, contemporary romance, sci-fi romance, teen romance. I just like to read, so no genre or author is off limits (unless you ask me to read Ayn Rand. That’s a hard no). But even with all of my reading, I still found Me Before You unique.

If I had to compare this book to work by another author, I would say it is most like a Nicholas Sparks novel. But even then, it’s not. Nicholas Sparks always ends up killing off the characters we fall in love with in some tragic, heart wrenching way that can almost always be avoided. I think Sparks needs some serious therapy, and maybe needs to buy a puppy or something. He seems very unhappy. He just can’t let his characters have a happy ending. The Notebook? Okay, I’ll give him that one. But I have literally stopped reading so many of his books because I could see what was happening. . . the main character was going to die, after falling in love, and then you know, his heart will be cut from his chest and go to save his teenage love’s son or something. Me Before You is kind of like that, but also so unique that it’s difficult to compare it to anything else. There is such an undercurrent of humor and sweetness, and even though you know what is going to happen – there is just no getting around it – you are okay with it. Yes, you cry, but you are okay. What happened needed to happen. And you can enjoy the book for what it is, not feeling ripped off as you finish the final pages and find everyone dead – either literally or just on the inside.

Louisa Clark doesn’t have it easy, but you won’t hear her complain. She comes from solid stock, and they all stick together.

The cafe she has spent years working in is closing up shop, and the loss  finds her at the doorstep of the Traynor residence, anxiously pushing through an interview for a job that she doesn’t really want – but needs. She has a family to help support and the Clark’s are all in it together. Being a caretaker is very low on her list of dream jobs, but it’s better than the other prospects, and so she accepts the offer and is grateful for the adequate pay.

But when she meets Will, her moody, strange, and sometimes downright insufferable ward, Louisa’s mind starts to backtrack. She is usually so adept at maintaining the pep in her step and has a positive attitude that is beyond reproach, and Will’s bad temper is starting to rub off on her. She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t like him. But she does need the steady work.

Will was a larger than life personality before a freak motorcycle accident took his body. He is now a shell of his former self, passing his time with a cynical attitude and plenty of music and film. He’s not much of a people person anymore, being not only bound to a wheelchair but also in the unusual space of being rather vulnerable emotionally. As a quadriplegic, he is completely dependent on other people for every single aspect of his bodily life. He in turn, finds the entire situation depressing and humiliating, leaving him full of enmity towards everyone and everything.

At first, Louisa’s bubbly persona only seems to irritate Will further and she finds herself questioning her abilities for helping him. He has a physical therapist who does the majority of the grunt work, and she knows she is there mainly to lift Will’s spirits and provide him with quiet companionship. But after she overhears his parents discussing Will’s plans to end his life in six month’s time, she becomes determined to change the inevitable outcome. She reaches into the depths of her resolve and patience, and vows to make Will’s life better and a as full as she can.

“ ‘Just hold on. Just for a minute.”
“Are you all right ?”
I found my gaze dropping towards his chair, afraid some part of him was pinched, or trapped, that I had got something wrong.

“I’m fine. I just…I don’t want to go in just yet. I just want to sit and not have to think about. . .I just. . .want to be a man who has been to a concert with a girl in a red dress. Just for a few minutes more. . .’ “

She has some bumps along the way, mostly due to her inexperience with Will’s lifestyle in the wheelchair, but the pair find themselves growing closer. They take in a concert together, they watch horse races, and they attend a wedding. They slowly and organically find themselves confiding in each other, and Louisa learns all about how big Will’s life was before his accident. She listens with rapt attention as he describes places like Paris and the outrageous hobbies he used to have when he had control of his body. She has always lived in a very small world, feeling the burden of her family on her shoulders, and Will encourages her to get out and take risks. Louisa finds herself questioning her longterm relationship with her boyfriend, Patrick, as she begins to see him through new eyes – she sees how superficial and shallow he is, compared to the depth and thoughtfulness of Will’s attentions. Louisa sees more and more how hard it is for Will to sustain life. He is easily fatigued and susceptible to illness, and his frustrations at not being able to do the most simplest things (like button his own shirt or hold a woman he is kissing) breed sadness in her.

“ ‘You cut yourself off from all sorts of experiences because you tell yourself you are ‘not that sort of person.”
“But, I’m not.”
“How do you know? You’ve done nothing, been nowhere. How do you have the faintest idea what kind of person you are?’ “

Despite the hiccoughs in their relationship, of course, the inevitable happens. . . Louisa begins to fall in love. She doesn’t even seem to realize it’s happening until it’s too late and she can’t stop it. Will has already been there, just waiting for her and her feelings to catch up, but he’d never say a word because he doesn’t want her to live her life for him. He wants Louisa to live her life for her – for once.

“ I realized I was afraid of living without him.

How is it you have the right to destroy my life, I wanted to demand of him, but I’m not allowed a say in yours?
But I had promised. ”

Me Before You is a novel that will make you cry, so be prepared. But I promise it will be bittersweet tears. Will and Louisa couldn’t possibly spend an entire lifetime together, but the time they do have is special beyond measure.

I give this book 4.5. out of 5 stars, and I recommend reading the last quarter of it in private. You can read the rest of it by the pool once the sun finally comes out and we sail into summer, but leave the rest for when you are alone and can ugly cry in peace. It also has a sequel, Me After You, and the movie is a beautifully scripted adaptation that follows very closely to the novel.

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Recommendation: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness

” It begins with absence and desire. 

It begins with blood and fear. 

It begins with a discovery of witches. “

I usually seem to have the luck to stumble upon serial books at the end,  when all of the books in the set have been published and are in readily available circulation. I cannot imagine having started and fallen in love with a book only to realize that it’s part of a series that will take years and years to come into fruition (uh, hello – Game of Thrones?). I don’t like to wait. I’ve always been extremely impatient. So as a general rule, I try not to begin a series unless all of the books are out or unless there are at least 80% of the series already in publication. My memory is very poor when it comes to books and television shows and so I like to devour a story in it’s entirety before moving along to the next. This is why Netflix is probably my favorite thing ever – tons of shows with ENTIRE seasons means I don’t have to wait (and inevitably forget) week by week to see what happens to characters I am invested in.

So again, I was lucky when I came across what is commonly referred to as The All Souls Trilogy, a set of three books written by a newcomer to the mainstream literary scene – the enigmatic and old-worldly poised Deborah Harkness. After spending a year immersing myself the acclaimed Outlander series by well-educated Diana Gabaldon, I had become familiar with her intelligent style of writing and with the academically detailed way in which she writes. When a writer is educated and an intellectual, they can at times approach their writing in a way that can be cumbersome to read.  Because the majority of readers do not have time to really sit with a book and also due to modern-day society’s predilection to  churning things out and turning things over as quickly as possible so they can be on to the next, heavier books are not read as often as their shorter, less verbose counterparts.  It’s not necessarily the story subject but more the detail and sentence structure that can make it decidedly more difficult for the average reader to get through. Gabaldon, in my opinion, writes heavier books that can take a bit of a moment to get used to, and I was thankful to have spent that year with her before transitioning into the All Souls Trilogy because Harkness writes in a very similar style.

Deborah Harkness is most definitely a scholar, her academic resume boasting honored degrees from Mount Holyoke College and Northwestern, as well as a Ph.D. from the University of California where she is a professor of history.  She is highly regarded in the world of histrionic knowledge and literacy, having based her educational career on becoming a historian of both science and medicine, delving into the world of nature and magic. She is a well-versed authority in the world of alchemy, the occult, and their counterparts. Harkness spent time deep in the libraries at Oxford, researching and expanding upon her favored path, and as such, her debut fiction novel A Discovery of Witches, reads like an entertaining textbook of the science surrounding the supernatural world of witches, vampires, daemons, and magic in general.

And so the story begins.

When Diana Bishop calls up a manuscript during her research as an alchemical history professor at Oxford, she unknowingly pulls a book that holds the secrets of life – an elusive book that has been missing for centuries. In doing so, Diana evokes a song in her blood that reaches out to the otherworldly creatures around her, drawing them closer to her than she ever would have preferred. Witches aren’t supposed to mix with daemons, and certainly not with vampires – but the underground supernatural society around her won’t leave her alone until she concedes to call the book again -the mystical, and thought lost, Ashmole 782 – so that they may procure the secrets of their creation and purpose.

One of the creatures drawn to the professor is Matthew Clairmont, an ages old vampire who spends his days working as an distinguished and notable geneticist and his weekends unwinding with serious bouts of yoga and the finest wines to be found around. He is a slow-burning mystery with a serious penchant for Darwinism and is drawn to the secrets of the book from a scientific standpoint. He is as curious about Ashmole 782 as he is Diana, surprising himself as he begins to ignore the taboo that is the  vampire-witch relationship. He allows her to bewitch him, her unassuming feminine wiles taking the place of the emotional barrier that he’d originally intended to have. Matthew’s arrival into the attractive historian’s world begins to complicate things to an extreme degree,  not the least of which is that any relationship between them is strictly forbidden and unfortunately for them, the attraction only intensifies.

” In front of the fireplace, drinks in hand, Hamish could at last press his way into the heart of the mystery. “Tell me about this manuscript of Diana’s, Matthew. It contains what, exactly? The recipe for the philosopher’s stone that turns lead into gold?” Hamish’s voice was lightly mocking. “Instructions on how to concoct the elixir of life so you can transform mortal into immortal flesh?” 

The daemon stopped his teasing the instant Matthew’s eyes rose to meet his. 

“You arent’ serious,” Hamish whispered, his voice shocked. The philosopher’s stone was just a legend, like the Holy Grail or Atlantis. It couldn’t possibly be real. Belatedly, he realized that vampires, daemons, and withes weren’t supposed to be real either. 

“Do I look like I’m joking?” Matthew asked. 

“No.” The daemon shuddered. Matthew had always been convinced that he could use his scientific skills to figure out what made vampires resistant to death and decay. The philosopher’s stone fit neatly into those dreams. 

“It’s the lost book,” Matthew said grimly. “I know it.”

Like most creatures, Hamish had heard the stories. One version suggested the witches had stolen a precious book from the vampires, a book that held the secret of immortality. Another claimed the vampires had snatched an ancient spell book from the witches and then lost it. Some whispered that it was not a spell book at all, but a primer covering the basic traits of all four humanoid species on earth. “

Diana has done her best to deny the witch inside of her, pushing her illustrious lineage to the side and putting science and the foundation of her education in its place instead. But by calling that book, she has inadvertently set herself on a path that is irrevocable. She is the progeny of a powerful witch and an even more powerful warlock, the union of which has been strongly discouraged ever since due to the combination of powers her parents had that resulted in just. . . too much magic.

When Diana finds herself unable to call the book again, she and Clairmont begin a quest for the truth about the book, its origins,  and its properties. The situation  proving to be more dangerous than they originally bet on as more and more supernatural beings find out that she has access to the long-lost book. Some of these beings are willing to kill for the chance to Ashmole 782’s secrets, forcing a protective Matthew to spirit Diana away into modern-day France for her safety,  where she is immersed into the lives of his ancient vampire family. Much to their digress, his vampiric kin can see that Matthew is falling in love with Diana, becoming rapt by her spellbinding intelligence and the witch’s song in her blood.

” “I needed to get away from a witch.” 

Hamish watched his friend for a moment, noting Matthew’s obvious agitation. Somehow Hamish was certain the witch wasn’t male. 

“What makes this witch so special?” he asked quietly.

Matthew looked up from  under his heavy brows. “Everything.” 

“Oh. You are in trouble, aren’t you?” Hamish’s burr deepened in sympathy and amusement. 

Matthew laughed unpleasantly. “You could say that, yes.” 

“Does this witch have a name?” 

“Diana. She’s a historian. And American.”

“The goddess of the hunt,” Hamish said slowly. “Apart from her ancient name, is she an ordinary witch?”

“No,” Matthew said abruptly. “She’s far from ordinary.” 

“Ah. The complications.” Hamish studied his friend’s face for signs that he was calming down but saw that Mathew was spoiling for a fight instead. 

“She’s a Bishop.” Matthew waited. He’d learned it was never a good idea to anticipate that the daemon wouldn’t grasp the significance of a reference, no matter how obscure. 

Hamish sifted and sorted through his mind and found what he was seeking. “As in Salem, Massachusetts?”

Matthew nodded grimly. “She’s the last of the Bishop witches. Her father is a Proctor.” 

The daemon whistled softly. “A witch twice over, with a distinguished magical lineage. You never do things by half, do you? She must be powerful.” “

When the pair returns to Diana’s childhood home and her own family, Aunt Sarah and her partner Em, she discovers more about her parents and the secrets that they fervently held under lock and key until their dying breaths. What Diana grew up believing about her parents comes into question and confusion, forcing her to answer the call to her lineage and supernatural race. When she is given an inheritance of one of her parent’s must treasured secrets, a page from Ashmole 782 itself, she must begins the quest for answers. Diana, along with a faithful Matthew by her side, make plans to strike out to search for Ashmole 782 through the ages of ancient history and culture, hoping to discover and analyze the mysterious book’s birth.

” Matthew bent and picked up the dropped sheet of stationery. ” ‘My darling Diana,” he read aloud. “Today you are seven — a magical age for a witch, when your powers should begin to stir and take shape. But your powers have been stirring since you were born. You have always been different.’ “

My knees shifted under the image’s uncanny weight. 

” ‘That you are reading this means that your father and I succeeded. We were able to convince the Congregation that it was your father — and not you — whose power they sought. You mustn’t blame yourself. It was the only decision we could possibly make. We trust that you are old enough now to understand.’ “

Matthew gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze before continuing. ”  

A Discovery of Witches is full of the scientific mystique of alchemy and the better known properties of magical lore and the supernatural. The pace can at times seem a little slow but in retrospect, it is simply because the author is building you up with character analysis and introducing you to the subject matters that will become important as you reach the second and third books in the trilogy.  A television show based upon the books is currently in the works, with filming set to commence in the summer of 2017. Harkness is in the midst of writing a book called The Serpent’s Mirror that is centered around Matthew during the Tudor era. It’s estimated publication is in 2017. A detailed guide and companion book is also in the works for fans of the series.

Harkness is also involved in a convention called All Soul’s Con, where historians and fans can come together to explore the world of magic and science for a day of adventure and reading. This year’s convention is scheduled for Saturday, September 23 in the charismatic city and vampiric Mecca of New Orleans.

I give A Discovery of Witches 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to readers who have a bit of time to sit down with a novel and the patience to allow a story to bloom slowly. the last quarter of the book moves very fast and the other two books in the trilogy also move in speedy plot changes as the duo hops from one time period to another on their magical quest. Readers who enjoy time travel, subtle romance, and strong female leads will enjoy this book.

Don’t forget to pick the other two up in this series if you enjoy the first. They read as follows: