[ARC Review]Five reasons why:LSD packs in a punch !!!

Firstly, a HUGE happy book birthday (in advance) to Helena Hill’s Long Steady Distance which releases tomorrow. I won an e-ARC of this book and just finished reading it yesterday. It was definitely one of my most satisfying novella-length reads (PDF Version – 150+ pages), in recent months. And, I might be speaking a bit early, but I think this would also make it to my year-end list of favorite book covers. Check out the illustrator’s ( Mhaladie: Elizabeth Julien Coyne) profile on  Twitter and on her Tumblr and on her website.

Also, check out the author’s website , twitter account, and the book’s Goodreads and Amazon pages.

Here’s five reasons why you should check this book out:

long-steady-distance-final-cover 1) It is set in high-school and against the backdrop of the year-long track and cross-country racing competitions. My knowledge of inter-school track-n-field competitions’ schedules and routines is literally zilch. But, the author provides such a lovely window into their daily lives, that you don’t really mind feeling occasionally lost about who’s timing how much in which race.

2) Through Sophie, who is biracial and from the “poorer” part of the city”, it does bring in issues of race and classism, but the story never becomes “about” race or class differences. It is resolutely focused on Emily and Sophie figuring out their feelings for each other before giving a thought (or “defining”/”labelling”) to what that means.

3) It is a sensitive portrayal of a teen’s anxieties – about coming out to their family, to friends and to the society at large. Through Emily, it also touches upon insecurities and the feeling of being a part of a facade when her mom remarries after her dad’s death. She gets a stepfather, stepsister (who she dotes on) and step-aunt/uncle/cousin/grandma. I liked how, though pretty ambivalent about her step-dad, she doesn’t lose perspective and sees that he isn’t a bad person. Just not someone she can connect with. It is these little things – like, not painting everyone or their perceptions about each other in absolute terms – that makes this book come across as so thoughtful and wise.

4) It seamlessly merges in discussions about religion v/s atheism and I love how Emily and her Mom handle their differences wrt faith. It was, well, uneasy, but mature and respectful. There is also a discussion about Christianity and verses from the Bible and how they view homosexuality. As I am not that well-informed about the religious texts, I am not sure how to comment or critique it. But I really liked the idea and just the approach of characters looking towards religion itself in order to examine and understand their own beliefs instead of not confronting it at all. (Note: The quoted verses is a very small section of the book and required in context, so you don’t have to be apprehensive about this book reading like “religious fiction”, )

5) The peripheral characters make quite an impact too. Sure, there is a usual trope-y mean girl (who influences a lot of the events that happens in the end of the book) , but most of the characters feel authentic, and though some of them just get a line or two, and make up the rest of the runners’ team, I still felt like I knew them and cared for their running scores, them beating their own personal record times and so on.

Overall impressions : Rating:A fabulous debut novel!!  Simple but engrossing and doesn’t rely on unnecessary drama to propel the love story forward. Sticks to telling the story it is intended to. Provides a great snapshot into the life of a high-school teen – her favorite subjects, teachers, passions, family and friends.

 

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Wintersong – A semi-spoilery rant.

Wintersong (Wintersong, #1) Rating:

Synopsis2All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

My reviewThis is one of those books which starts out really strong, loses steam mid-way and then splutters into such a mind-numbing conclusion (not! there is a sequel) that .. you are just left to wonder – How can a novel intended to have Music as its backbone leave you feeling so empty?

  • Liesl was annoying, the Goblin King was annoying and well.. their romance was annoying . I couldnt take anything Liesl said or felt seriously because I never got the sense that she even knew what her priorities were or where her loyalties lie… Her “love” for her family members kind of flits around.. Sometimes she has Kathe in her thoughts, sometimes it is her brother.. but most of the time.. none of them seem to matter in comparison to her new-found proximity and place in the Goblin king’s life and the “freedom” she finds Underground.. And, she remembers her parents occasionally as an afterthought…
  • And oh, dont let the synopsis fool you.. Liesl’s strength doesn’t come from the Goblin King – “musically”, “physically”, or “emotionally” – it comes after they have sex – which you might miss if you flip the pages to skim over musical or flowery metaphors. Gosh, there was something so… needy and whiny about the way Liesl craved for physical intimacy – and that too so quickly after she is practically blackmailed into being held captive.. that despite all her affirmations throughout the book that it is “her choice” to be in the relationship – I just couldn’t shrug off feeling so creeped out by their unhealthy and almost Stolkholm-Syndrome-like dynamics..
  • The writing in general is beautiful.. with a great concept.. But I just wished the book didn’t spend such a major chunk of its page time on Liesl grumbling and the Goblin King playing the most boring version of the Brooding YA Hero trope ever written.
  • The world-building is kind of confusing… and gave the impression that the author just put in a lot of pretty dressing and sparkly icing to cover up a wafer-thin setting. What could have been summarized in five sentences is spread thin throughout the book and presented very …. very….. slowly..
  • Oh, how I wish there was more of Kathe , and less of Liesl’s condescension and judgement about her… It was the most blatant .. “My sister is shallow and pretty but I am ordinary and deep and beautiful from inside” trope ever. Except that Kathe is so much more .. – that we are robbed of seeing because of – Liesl.GoblinKing.Epic.Love.Story

But, oh, I am interested in reading the sequel because the twist in the later part of the book is interesting and kind of sets up the sequel to focus on a slightly different plot. And it looks like (fingers crossed) we might get more of another love story too..

Edit: Amidst all the metaphors and flowery prose, the bit that actually had the most impact on me (maybe because I had just watched Coco) was this bit :

Image result for coco movie images This was the immortality humans were meant to have: to be remembered by those who loved us long after our bodies had crumbled to dust.

 

 

First Crush, Last Love by Elizabeth McKenna

Picture Rating: 

Synopsis2Remember your first crush? How your heart raced and your cheeks flushed whenever you saw him? Jessie Baxter does, and it’s happening again. Ten years ago, despite her best efforts, Lee Archer wanted to be just friends. Now, he wants more, but Jessie’s still recovering from a psycho ex-husband. Can she learn to trust again and make her first crush into her last love?

Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel will have you remembering the angst of high school, the grief of a failed relationship, and the happiness of true love.

My reviewTrue to its title (that I wasn’t exactly a fan of the first time I saw it..), this is Jessie’s story of unrequited love slash high school crush which never blossomed into something deeper. Why? Well, because this is also the story of Lee’s unresolved insecurities stemming from his troubled family life.  Cut to a decade later, when Lee finally is in a better place but Jessie, unfortunately, doesn’t have it in her to reciprocate the same trust to start a new relationship.

I am quite picky reader when it comes to romance, but I really liked a lot of aspects about the book. The high school phase is done quite well – especially Jessie mooning over Lee. Sure, I wondered why she was so hung up over someone who already has an on-and-off girlfriend, but hey.. she is a high-school teen.. and well.. this book doesn’t really “justify” that into something “epic” . Both Jessie and Lee have their independent stories, go on to have relationships with others over the brief years after high school. They have their heartbreaks, they grieve, and they grow.

My favorite “heartbreak” quote is actually from one of Jessie’s, though it has nothing specifically to do with her or Lee:

“It’s hard to grow a relationship to the point of love when you run into hatred everyday”

I liked how, despite the bleak nature of her marriage, Jessie still saw some good things that came out of it – like her decent in-laws. I also appreciated that the “violence” in their relationship was shown subtly, and something that, though currently simmering below the surface,, would eventually bubble out into something dangerous if Jessie doesn’t do anything about her situation. It was one of those classic cases of passive-abusive marriages with a spouse/partner not seeing the signs.

I guess what didn’t work for me much is the “Last Love” part of the book. Sure, it was sweet and predictable, but with the only “suspenseful” conflict being the “ex-husband” who doesn’t want to let go, you just kind of want to get done with it.

But , the book , in its entirety did work for me – It was sweet, with a pleasing conclusion.

Buy the Book:
Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble
Createspace

Elizabeth McKenna

Meet the Author:

Elizabeth McKenna works as a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. Though her love of books reaches back to her childhood, she had never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

She had always wanted to write fiction, so she combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write Cera’s Place and Venice in the Moonlight. Her short story, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, is available for free on her site http://elizabethmckenna.com/. She hopes you will enjoy her first contemporary romance novel, First Crush Last Love, as much as others have enjoyed her historical romances.

​Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

Tour Schedule:
Oct 16 – The World As I See It – review / giveaway
Oct 17 – Working Mommy Journal – review / giveaway
Oct 18 – Books, Dreams, Life – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Oct 20 – Amie’s Book Reviews – review / giveaway
​Oct 21 – Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway
Oct 23 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – review / giveaway
Oct 24 – Books for Books – review
Oct 25 – My Reading Journeys – review
​Oct 26  – Haddie’s Haven – review / giveaway
Oct 27 – 3 Partners in Shopping – book spotlight / giveaway
Oct 27 – Tragically Dull Adventures of an Almost Librarian – review
Oct 30 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review
Oct 30 – Divas With A Purpose – review
Oct 31 – The Autistic Gamer – book spotlight
Oct 31 – Olio by Marilyn – review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 2 – Jessica Cassidy – review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 2 – The Pen and Muse – book spotlight / giveaway
Nov 3 – A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog – review om giveaway
Nov 3 – bookmyopia – review
Nov 3 – Celticlady’s Reviews – book spotlight
Nov 3 – Kristin’s Novel Café – review / giveaway
TBD    – Rockin’ Book Reviews – review / giveaway
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*Note: I received a print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review for iRead book tour*

[ARC Review] A Distant Heart – By Sonali Dev

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev Rating: 

Synopsis2 Born to her parents in Mumbai as a result of prayer, pilgrimage, and every fertility treatment known to modern medicine, Kimaya is the first of her mother’s babies to survive after seven miscarriages. Needless to say, her parents treat her like the miracle she is, and short of putting her in a bubble they protect her from anything outside their mansion at the top of Pali Hill in Mumbai overlooking the ocean. But she develops a rare form or aplastic anemia at the age of ten that severely compromises her immune system and requires her to be isolated in a Laminar airflow room.

Trapped in her ivory tower with nothing more than the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company, she befriends the boy who shows up to wash her windows when he makes the math homework that befuddles her magically easy to understand with his brilliant mind.

Rahul Savant was thirteen when his father died in his arms after taking a bullet for Kimi’s politician father. Rahul was left to take care of two younger siblings and his mother. He accepts Kimi’s father’s mentorship on the condition that he works off the charity by being a servant in his home. As he struggles to take care of his family in his poverty-ridden, crime-ridden neighborhood he loses his beloved younger sister to illness and learns that blocking out his emotions is the only way to survive loss. He believes staying detached is staying strong and it’s the only way he can be focused enough to keep his loved ones safe. But his friendship with Kimi is something he can restrict to the few hours he spends with her across the plastic curtain of her isolation room.

As the years go by Rahul and Kimi develop a unique and deep friendship. He becomes her eyes to the outside world and she becomes his refuge in a cruel world. With Kimi’s encouragement, Rahul makes his way into the extremely selective Indian Civil Services Police Cadre. When Kimi is given a new lease on life via a life-saving procedure, she and Rahul must navigate their undeniable attraction, their lost friendship, complicated family dynamics, and a web of lies that cut too close to home to learn the real meaning of courage, loss and love.

My reviewI hate it when books with an Indian backdrop promise an “authentic Indian rep” and it ends up being a bad imitation of cheesy bollywood song-and-dance romance.

But I loved A Distant Heart for being so unabashedly Bollywoodsy in terms of setting up the world of its two main characters.

Rich Girl meets Poor Boy – CHECK
Poor Boy follows his father’s footsteps by joining the city police force – CHECK
Rich Girl’s father is a politician – CHECK
The infamous Mumbai mafia are the menacing villians in the story – CHECK
The Poor Boy is the sole bread-winner of his family who live in the Mumbai chawls – CHECK

and so on.

Yet, what makes this book rise above the cliches and the simple two-line plot are the two main characters. When Rahul stays away from Kimi, you understand. You understand Kimi’s stubbornness. Her sporadic desperation to cling onto Rahul not because she started considering him as her lover, but because he was just about the only friend she could make during her forced exile from the outside world. And if you know something about how the classic Indian stories have characters reacting to and believing in luck and superstition, you sort of get where Rahul is coming from too.

I quite liked some of the secondary characters too, especially Kimi’s parents. If there is a spin-off to this book that is a love story of Kimi’s parents (who are former bollywood stars), I would definitely read it.

The book has some really good quotable passages, my favorite ones being about making peace with circumstances and losing control of circumstances and your body when you have an illness. If there is something that could have been better, it is probably some of the dialogues. It felt clunky at times.. and well.. read too much like.. quotes? I mean, there were times it didn’t feel casual or authentic in a way you would expect people to actually converse. I also would have liked if the author had gone the whole hog with the mystery plot (instead of making it really predictable)

This plot is something that was introduced in the previous book. But, there is enough background information given, so the book worked perfectly fine as a standalone for me (since I havent read the previous book). However, I feel that I would have related to a couple of characters more if I had read the previous book (when they were first introduced)

I would recommend this book for its bittersweet romance lilting in from the mansions and chawls dotting the Mumbai landscape. Do check it out when it hits the stores this December!

(I was lucky to get an ARC of this book from Shenwei@readingasiam/wordpress. Thank you!)

Love Connection (First Comes Love #1)

Love Connection (First Comes Love, #1) Rating:

*Note : I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Buy Links:

Kindle          Paperback

Synopsis2Have you ever wondered what might have been?
Gemma Dawson is at the airport, staring at two plane tickets to two different cities. Two different weddings. Two possible futures. She’s at a crossroads.
Be maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding or crash her ex’s?
Gemma’s decision, unknown to her, hinges on a delayed flight and a chance meeting. Now her life is about to go down two parallel tracks—will Gemma fly toward a life with her first love or a future with a man she’s not even met yet? 

Love Connection is a feel good Romantic Comedy about one woman, life’s infinite possibilities, and the destiny that lies beyond two different choices.

My reviewThis is the first book I have picked up with this kind of storytelling. There are two separate stories running in alternate chapters – both as consequences of two different choices Gemma makes – one in which Gemma catches a flight to San Francisco to stop her ex’s wedding and the other where she catches a flight to Chicago to attend her best friend’s wedding. Both stories feature almost the same cast of characters, such as her best friend, sister and some similar events such as Gemma’s bachelorette party. It was a lot of fun to see similar events being played out differently as a result of Gemma’s choice. I liked how the author managed to keep all the chapters and events so consistent. I keep waiting to see if there would be any moment when some character would doff their hat acknowledging the “parallel universe” of Gemma’s life; and it does happen once. So, I did like that slight touch of magic.

Well, I am pretty critical of the whole altar-ditching when it features the main characters since I, as a reader, would be accompanying the MCs on their journey; and altar-ditching is a sure-shot way for me to lose sympathy with at least one MC in the whole situation. I always dislike it when a couple gets their happily-ever-after and has no thought, guilt or consideration for the broken hearts and dreams they leave behind. Since this is a short book with two stories – it was almost like two novellas in one – I didn’t expect pages and pages of stewing-in-guilt scenes. Having said that, and without giving away any spoilers, all I can say is that I really liked Gemma in one story more than the other. She acts like a ditz but she owns it that she messed up and gets these “I feel guilty, Karma is going to get me” stabs on her chest occasionally and well, that was good enough for me. I am not too convinced with the other story though – she got off guilt-free way too easily.

I also felt both stories had very convenient third-wheels who just absolved Gemma from feeling guilty because, well, they were just that forgiving. But, having said that, I didn’t mind it in one of the stories because I did somewhere want closure for Gemma too.  Moreover, like I said, I was happy the author let Gemma stew a bit. But I didn’t really like the final moments in the other story – I found a couple of people’s reactions to the situation a bit unbelievable.

One thing that never gets old in chick-lit is female friendships. I love how they rally around in times of crisis – can be running away from your own wedding or being single on your own honeymoon – and this book is no different.  Gemma’s sister and her best friend were precious ❤ and the three of them provided just the kind of laugh-riot needed to get the other through the times they were feeling lousy.

Overall impressions This book had all the elements of a fun romantic comedy – bachelorette parties, runaway brides and drunken binges with your best friend who is as broken hearted as you are. Now, imagine twice the fun when you have two different stories based on two choices by one person. A lot of rom-coms deal with the dynamics of the girl, her (ex?)boyfriend and her best friend.  Ever felt or wondered how a movie or a book might have turned out if the girl had preferred to place the well-being or interests of one person over the other? Well, this book explores two different possibilities – and keep reading to find out if both lead to the same or different happily-ever-afters.

Love Is – By Tia Kelly

Rating:

*Note : I won a signed paperback of this book in a blog tour giveaway*

Buy Links:

Amazon            Barnes & Noble

Summary (Goodreads):

It took a once-in-a-lifetime bond to teach her what love is, and a once-in-a-lifetime betrayal to show her what love is not… Love Is. A different kind of love story.

Diane Collins had big plans for her life, and hoops star Warren Scott was not among them. He doesn’t want to be the face of the NBA, and she doesn’t care that he is. His reluctance to be part of the limelight disarms her and the two embark on an unlikely friendship that becomes an even unlikelier romance.

Soon, his life is her life – filled with VIP treatment, parties and luxuries beyond Diane’s wildest imagination. But Warren is harboring a secret, and once it’s revealed Diane’s decision to stay or go could change the very fabric of who she thought she was.

My Review:

Set in the 80’s and spanning over a decade, Love Is is the story of Diane Collins, a girl with big dreams and ambitions for her career – a burning desire to earn her spot in the NASA space mission. But an airport encounter with the famous NBA athlete Warren Scott changes everything that she had planned for herself. They become close friends and soon she is travelling all over the country to his matches and attending parties. A year later, Diane is fed up playing friends and asks for something more – commitment and acknowledgement that their relationship isn’t platonic anymore. Does Warren step up?

Despite its languid pace in the first 100-150 pages, you do get a sense that Diane’s story is worth sticking around for. There is something very “slice-of-life” about this book, made up of everyday conversations, travels and occasions and not moments of high melodrama. Even during the times when Warren and Diane had huge fights and meltdowns, there was something understated in the way they were written. Warren turns from someone who is shown conflicted and flawed into someone who is an absolute jerk by the end of the book. I guess the only redeemable thing about him was he did his bit to support Diane financially.

Diane did a lot of things which I hate about the “strong female protagonist” in books and which I equate to stupidity, because I feel that the onus is on the author to make us empathize with their decisions and provide a clear insight into their “emotional rationale” when they do make those decisions. A lot of times that doesn’t happen and I get the feeling that we readers are somehow just expected to feel sorry for them because hey, WOMEN and SITUATIONS and PROBLEMS and LIFE.

But, that didn’t happen here. The author wrote Diane in a way that I could understand her, feel for her. Yea sure, there were times I wanted jump into the book and shake her into her senses, but I could fathom where she was coming from. I could see the long distance one has to travel between resolving to get back your life on track and actually getting there. Especially when you have had so many setbacks and lost so much time over a guy who just wasn’t worth it. And when you don’t have a strong family support system. (Gosh, her parents were a piece of work!  But I am guessing such parents are not that far removed from reality, considering the timeframe the book was set in, and her upbringing)

Life finally showed Diane what love is and what isn’t but she lost quite a bit in the process. But, she also rediscovers herself, a part of who she had lost waiting for a mirage. I had mixed feelings about some of the events in the end – it goes from a pointless tragedy to a bittersweet realization on Diane’s part about her defunct association with Warren.

“Now knowing what love was, how could she ever accept anything less?”

There were some socio-economic and religious beliefs and gender and race issues that were referred to, and I liked that they were not addressed in a heavy-handed or preachy way. As the book was set in the U.S. of the 80’s, a lot of the cultural references were lost on me and all the NBA talk went over my head. I honestly found it a bit difficult to get past at least 1/3rd of the pages because of all the info-dump related to NBA games, frequent travels, and weather research and space missions. I guess people who are more clued into the 80’s sports and entertainment scene in U.S. will enjoy and appreciate some aspects of this book a lot more. Do watch out for all the chapter titles! (I just reckoned they had to mean something so I googled them after I finished the book)

Natalie’s Getting Married – By Rosa Temple

9781942111061Rating:

Kindle
Paperback

*Note: I received this book from the author through Aimee’s blogiversary giveaways.

 Synopsis:

Career minded, Natalie Spencer, had never been in love. She could never understand what all the fuss was about. But when she met Jackson Humphries during Fresher’s Week at university, that all changed.

Utterly infatuated, Natalie quickly discovers the meaning of love and, before she knows it, she’s heading up the aisle – for the first time, that is.

This is a tale about four wedding dresses, a runaway groom and a girl who got so carried away, she couldn’t see true love staring her right in the face.

My Review:

I think I enjoyed the first half of the book a lot more than the second. Though predictable, it was a lot of fun, and who doesn’t like to root for a girl ending up with her college crush?

This is the story of Natalie and the men in her life. When Jackson proposes to her by the end of her University days, she couldn’t have imagined or wished for better. But is he the one? Her mom and dad are happy, her best friend Gabriel seems to be skeptical and Jackson’s mom hates her and feels they are making a mistake by rushing into things. Will their relationship last? Will they make it to the aisle? Is Jackson the one or is it someone else?

There are a lot of cute touches to the story – The whole, magical feel to the dress shop which felt like a nod to the wardrobe door in Narnia, Natalie’s surprise gift at the hen party and even some of the stereotypes like the rich, snooty, future mother-in-law were fun to read.  But as the book progressed, I became less sympathetic towards Natalie. It felt like watching someone make a repetitive trainwreck of decisions. Her resolve to “focus” on her career and stay away from men lasted only till she met the next hot or considerate guy. In her own words, I did find her to be a bit of a flake in the end. I found it ironic that for all the talk about her best friend Bella not sticking to one guy for a long time and being projected as the more “shallow” one of the two, she ended up sounding more worldly-wise and mature in the end. One more thing which I felt could have been better is build-up to some conversations on a couple of occasions when Natalie has a “How can you say that about me?!” righteous outbursts. I couldn’t connect to them and it made her come across as a ditz. On the other hand, Gabriel could have really used more animated moments. I mean, I get it, he was a rock and very, very mature, but whenever I pictured him while reading I always felt like I was listening and watching someone with infinite patience, no anger and amazing perceptibility when it comes to people. Oh well, what am I complaining about?! That’s Gabe for you ❤ ❤ ❤

There were a couple of other things which worked for me in the beginning but I felt they were overused and ceased to be funny later on. For example, Natalie’s mom crying and fainting spells whenever she is happy or excited. That continued throughout the book and was a bit of overkill. If I do have to pick one character who was my favorite from the secondary cast, it is probably Liam. Without giving away much,  I will just say that I really liked the way he was written and he shined in the page-time that he got – right from his thoughtful side to his anger and bitterness, everything felt apt and relatable.

So yes, there were some parts that I thought could have been better. But if I have to sum it up, it was a fun and ideal chick lit read. I finished it in a few hours and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Silent Sentry – By Theresa Rizzo

Rating:

*Note : I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Buy Links:

Paperback                Kindle

Synopsis:

Someone wants Gianna Donnatelli.  Preferably alive.  Alive and compliant.  He’s willing to kill to get to her.  But she’s got family. 
The Scarfilis and Donnatellis love deeply and protect fiercely. “Family takes care of family” is the code they live by.
When a hacker threatens Gianna Donnatelli’s life, Dr. Joe Scarfili is determined to keep her safe, only he has no police or tech experience, and Gianna’s penchant for aiding Detroit’s underprivileged is the same kind of altruism that got his wife killed. Gianna protects Joe with the same unyielding resolve.

Gianna pushes all his insecurity buttons. Joe tries her patience like no other. But together they’ll fight to save each other and their love… Or die trying.

Award-winning author Theresa Rizzo delivers a thrilling crime novel packed with suspense, romance, and redemption.

My Review:

At over 400 hundred pages, this is a pretty balanced and wholesome romantic-suspense; with the pace of this book best described as probably being on cruise control! And by that I mean, while it isn’t the kind of book which drops a bombshell every other page or is action-packed, it doesn’t slack much either. This did make for a leisurely read with ample time spent on both the romantic and mystery aspect.

Pretty early on we are given the hint that both Gianna and Joe are from families of considerable clout, more specifically – well-connected to or regularly dealing with old-world Italian mafia families. Neither of them has ever shown any interest in going into the family businesses though. Joe got married, became a successful surgeon, and well, got widowed when his wife was killed in a drive-by shooting. Gianna initially trained as a nurse, with her desire to “care for” stemming from watching her mom succumb to MS. She soon realizes her real passion is in software development though, so she quits nursing and gets into coding. Her altruistic side never leaves her as she decides to live among the poor and dangerous, dinghy Detroit areas to try and lead by example, and also coaxes her dad to help her with the finances to open a clinic nearby.  However, one day her house is broken into and she is attacked, and she ends up in the same hospital where Joe works in. Old, unrequited feelings for him resurface; but reciprocation is the last thing on her mind at the moment, as she tries to work out just what was the attacker after. She keeps her fingers crossed that it has nothing to do with Prometheus , her baby-  an invention that can revolutionize the healthcare industry.

One of the things I liked in the book is the world building. By that, I don’t mean just the descriptions and history of the place this is set in, but also all the characters and occupations and relationships that were mentioned. We are introduced to Joe’s and Gianna’s families and the author does dwell on their histories and the bond their families have shared. We also meet Gianna’s partners at work and Joe’s best friend.  There are times I feel that storytelling in some genres gets so .. insular when it comes to showing us about the protagonists’ lives, with pretty much no details given on anything else about them,  as long as it is playing up to the theme of the book. So it was nice to really know where everyone comes from. But on the flip side, I felt there were quite a few open sub-plots which were hinted to, but we never got any further answers or explanations. One that I can think of which really stuck out was this entire undercurrent of Joe not being on good terms with his extended family, specifically his uncle and cousin, due to some old incident. This was never really addressed. Similarly there were a couple of other things, like Joe having some secret in his past that he didn’t want anyone to know.

Coming to the romance, well most of it was unhurried and I liked that the author addressed how two people with fundamental ideological differences do have their work cut out for them if they have to proceed with a relationship. Having said that, I honestly found Gianna pretty irritating with her sanctimonious manner. And if I may add, self-absorbed, judgmental and insensitive whenever Joe tried to present his perspective. I thought, “C’mon girl, his wife died in a drive-by shooting in Detroit. Is it so hard to piece together why he feels that way about what you do?!”.  Thank heavens she got more bearable as the book proceeded!

The suspense part was not exactly an amazingly constructed whodunit and I honestly felt the entire book could have been much better with sharper editing. But, but, but, I love it when books that lure you into a false sense of closure finally throws up a couple of shocks in the final few pages.  And this is one of those books. I never saw them coming, so I was pretty spooked; and also glad that the book did end in a bit of a flourish!

[Blog Tour: Review+Giveaway]Uneven Exchange – By S.K. Derban

Rating:

Buy Links:

Kindle                    Amazon – Paperback                 Barnes & Noble

*Note: I received a print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review for iRead book tour*

Synopsis:

Like fire and ice, Alexandra Callet’s life runs hot and cold. At the age of thirty-three, Alexandra owns a stunning home and a successful interior design company. But she is in love with her business partner, Jake Taylor, and he doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a woman. She should be on top of the world, but instead she feels dragged down by the void in her heart. Hoping for answers, she decides a trip to Mexico might soothe her soul.

Jake Taylor only pretends to be a confirmed bachelor. Jake has been entranced by Alexandra’s determination and exotic beauty since the moment they met, but she has no idea how he feels. He considers confessing his love, but fears jeopardizing their friendship and business. He’s caught in a web of pretending he doesn’t care, and doesn’t see a way out of it. Alexandra is recruited for a dangerous mission. Following her trip to Mexico, her resemblance to a member of an assassin’s family leads Alexandra to be recruited by the DEA. Her training leaves her distracted, and her business begins to suffer. Jake notices her sudden change, and feels her slipping both personally and professionally beyond his reach.

Should he finally take the chance…before it’s too late? After all, he has nothing to lose. However, when Alexandra returns to Mexico for her mission, things go terribly wrong. Will she be able find the strength to fight and escape the peaceful haven that has now become her prison?

Or will Jake lose Alexandra forever…

My Review:

Kevin O’Neill is the agent in charge of the operation which is about trying to capture and smuggle Miguel Santiago aka “The Magician” out of Mexico. The Mexican government is uncooperative, so it is a covert operation. It doesn’t help that Miguel is well-protected at all times and his residence is an imposing fortress. When two of Kevin’s field agents spot Alexandra on her vacation in Mexico, the DEA finally feel the wheels of fortune turning in their favor. Because, if anyone can lure Miguel out of his safe haven, it is his sister Daniela. And by some twist of fate, Alexandra bears a striking resemblance to Daniela.

Alexandra runs a successful interior designing & architectural firm with her partner Jake. She has always nursed feelings of something more than just platonic towards him. Fed up with being just Jake’s friend and  professional partner, she welcomes the distraction DEA has to offer and agrees help them out. After a rigorous training where she perfects her voice pitch and body language similar to Daniela, she sets out to Mexico once again.

I loved the premise of the book – it had this whole larger-than-life and an almost cinematic vibe that was fun to imagine. There is a sizeable cast of characters, a lot of them being DEA field agents and undercover spies. So all the initial juggling where we are taken back and forth from Alexandra’s quiet life to the hectic DEA operation made for an engrossing read.  The pace was pretty good too. I couldn’t connect with some things though. Some of the dialogues, especially all the conversational humor felt a bit contrived. Then, there was this whole Jake and Alexandra’s unrequited love story. I am not exactly a huge fan of romance taking centre stage if the book’s genre is something else, but considering this book is pitched more on the lines of thriller/suspense-romance, I felt that the romantic part in this book ended up being sort of half-baked.  Jake doesn’t get much of page-time and I honestly thought it didn’t complement well with the rest of the story.  Then there were some other ideas which weren’t explored fully but just made as random observations. I mean, there is a moment in the book where Alex’s trainer comments that her transformation as Daniella is so convincing that she worries that Alex might find it difficult to shrug off Daniella after the case. At that point, I thought it was interesting and that something on that line of thought will be incorporated into the rest of the book, but nothing else happens. Another thing I couldn’t connect with is Alex’s faith.  I think it is nice to have a protagonist who is devout, but I just thought it was a bit out of place and over-emphasized, especially all the Biblical references and metaphors.

Overall, the book was quite engaging and easy to read. A good one to pick up if you would like to read something involving undercover ops, sprinkled with a bit of romance and lots of Mexican flavor!

About the Author:

745037Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, S.K. Derban moved to London within the first three months, and remained in England until the age of five. Her father, an American citizen, was a decorated veteran of the second world war. Derban’s mother, born and raised in the United Kingdom, was involved with the London Royal Ballet Company, and a great fan of the arts. Even after returning to the United States, Derban’s life was filled with a love of the theatre and a passion for British murder mysteries. S.K. Derban has always remained passionate about writing, and is thrilled to finally share her work with others.

Her personal travel and missionary adventures also help to transport readers virtually across the globe. When writing, S.K. Derban relies on all aspects of her life, from her faith in the Lord, to her love and knowledge of the arts.

Connect with the author:  

 Website   Twitter   Facebook

Giveaway:

Win 1 of 2 print or 2 ebooks of Uneven Exchange (USA only) + a $25 Amazon gift card (International) . Click the link below:

Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Check out all the tour stops! :

TOUR SCHEDULE:

April 4 –   Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway
April 4 –   A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog – review / giveaway
April 4 –   FLY HIGH! – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 5 –   Katie’s Clean Book Collection  – review / giveaway
April 5 –   Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine – review
April 6 –   Books Reviews, Nature Photos, and Everything in Between – review
April 6 –   Heidi’s Wanderings – review / giveaway
April 7 –   Writing Pearls – review
April 7 –   Working Mommy Journal – review / giveaway
April 8 –   Seasons of Opportunity – review / giveaway
April 8 –   Book and Ink – review / giveaway
April 11 – Corinne Rodrigues – review
April 11 – Mystery Suspense Reviews – book spotlight / guest post
April 12 – Jorie Loves a Story – review / guest post
April 12 – Olio By Marilyn – review / author interview / giveaway
April 13 – For Life After – review
April 13 – Cassidy Salem Reads & Writes – review / giveaway
April 14 – The Travelogue of a Book Addict – The Book Drealms – review
April 15 – Reading Is My SuperPower – review / giveaway
April 15 – Puddletown Reviews – review / giveaway
April 15 – misty103 @ HubPages – review / author interview
April 18 – StoreyBook Reviews – review
April 18 – A Blue Million Books – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 19 – The Reading Diaries – review
April 20 – Pause for Tales – review / guest post
April 21 – bookmyopia – review / giveaway
April 22 – booklovercircumspect4 – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 22 – Jessica Cassidy – review / author interview / giveaway

iRead Book Tour Logo Medium

Come back to me (Come back to me #1) – By Mila Gray

  Rating:

*Note: I won this book in a giveaway hosted by Cheryl from iheartfictionalpeople. Thank you Cheryl, the author (Mila Gray/Sarah Alderson) and publisher (Pan Macmillan) !

Buy Links:

Paperback
Kindle
Hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads):

Home on leave in sunny California, Marine and local lothario Kit Ryan finds himself dangerously drawn to his best friend’s sister, Jessa – the one girl he can’t have.

But Kit’s not about to let a few obstacles stand in his way and soon Jessa’s falling for his irresistible charms.

What starts out as a summer romance of secret hook-ups and magical first times quickly develops into a passionate love affair that turns both their worlds upside down.

When summer’s over and it’s time for Kit to redeploy, neither Kit nor Jessa are ready to say goodbye. Jessa’s finally following her dreams and Kit’s discovered there’s someone he’d sacrifice everything for.

Jessa’s prepared to wait for Kit no matter what. But when something more than distance and time rips them apart they’re forced to decide whether what they have is really worth fighting for.

A breathtaking, scorchingly hot story about love, friendship, family and finding your way back from the edge of heartbreak.

My Review:

The Goodreads summary is a bit different than the one on the hardcover. That synopsis ends with the same cliffhanger as the first chapter of the book – leaving us to wonder who dies – Kit or Riley(Jessa’s brother). We are soon thrown back to three months earlier when Kit and Riley come home on leave. So despite its ominous beginning, the book is a pretty breezy and lighthearted read for most part. There are a lot of familiar romantic and family tropes used and I did enjoy some of them. The Riley-Kit bromance was nice and so were all the father-son moments between Kit and his dad.

I think where I struggled with the book was that some issues were focused on way too much, some in an almost forced, dramatic way. And there were some other things which could have been fleshed out better, but was brought in suddenly, so it felt like some half baked sub plot. And most of the plot’s shortcomings are related to the way Jessa’s character and her family dynamics were described. She felt like such a stereotype, the dutiful, obedient daughter who hasn’t missed a day of school. She and her mom are always walking on eggshells and trying not to upset Jessa’s dad, who, they suspect might be suffering from PTSD from his early military days. But all it takes is three months of falling in love with Kit to change completely. From teaching her driving to coaxing her to go to acting auditions, Kit works miracles for her confidence.

The book is about two young people falling in love and there is this constant tussle in their minds about whether or not to admit or commit to their feelings. So while I was expecting pages of them kissing and getting intimate, I felt there were too many pages devoted to it where there was literally nothing else happening in the story. There is this whole plot of Jessa’s dad hating Kit and his dad because of some past incident. I found that easy to guess, and I think that’s another thing I found with the book- it was too predictable.

Coming to the military backdrop of this book, I liked how PTSD in military men was touched upon. I especially liked the way they showed Jessa’s mom being such a rock when it came to staying on with her dad and supporting him. While I understood Jessa’s anger at what the entire family collectively goes through because of her dad’s mood changes and her mom not speaking up, I honestly found her slightly fickle and self-absorbed sometimes. If I have to put it in simple terms, let’s just say I found Kit endearing though he checked all the boxes of familiar romantic tropes, whereas Jessa was a more irritating female version.

So yea, this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me.