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Monday, March 29, 2010

The Highest Stakes: He's racing to win back his country, his fortune and his one true love by Emery Lee

The Highest Stakes Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 1402236425
Pages: 560 pgs
Genre: Romance/Georgian
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge
Rating: 


 Publisher’s Description:
The breathtaking origins of thoroughbred horse racing 

A tale of drama, danger, thwarted love, and retribution set in the high stakes gentleman's world of 18th century horse racing, where fortunes could be won... and lost... 


She's lonely and neglected, but she knows horses... 


Charlotte Wallace is orphaned and alone until a sympathetic stable boy takes her under his wing and teaches her everything about thoroughbred racing. In the process, the two discover in each other a love destined to be thwarted at every turn... 


If only he could, he'd take her away with him forever... 



Robert Devington has tried everything to persuade Charlotte's uncle to allow them to marry. Then an ill-fated friendship, a scandal in the making, and one desperate act of folly rob them of their love and his livelihood... Dead set on retribution, all Robert's hopes are hanging on one small horse-his only chance to reclaim his land, his dignity, and his love, against all odds...


My Review:
One thing that very few people know about me is that I love horse racing. Horses are the most beautiful and noble creatures and seeing them run at their full power is almost like a spiritual experience for me. So I was very interested to read a novel about the horse racing world that combined some of my other favorite thing, mainly romance and historical fiction. I had really high expectations and I was not disappointed.

The characters were absolutely amazing. Charlotte was one of the few female characters that I liked throughout the book. I never once got annoyed with her. I felt so bad for her. Every time she got close to finally being with Robert, something happened to separate them. It was so sad yet so frustrating. I liked Robert. He was a bit to squeaky for me. But I could see why Charlotte loved him. I like my men with a but more tarnish to them. I guess that is why I preferred Phillip. He was swarthy, broody and badly behaved. That’s my type. I wanted him to end up with Charlotte but then I realized that Charlotte is most definitely much smarter than I would be.

I did find the book a bit frustrating. Not for anything bad but every time they even got close to getting married Charlotte’s uncle did something either cruel or manipulating and stopped it. Definitely kept me interested though. I also thought that the horse racing mixed well with the rest of the novel. It was firmly a part of the story without overwhelming it. It also added a unique and interesting aspect to the story.

I really loved this book. I thought it was interesting and I loved the ending. It was the perfect ending for this story. I can’t say more without giving everything away. I would suggest this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in horse racing and a love of romances with star-crossed lovers.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Founding (The Morland Dynasty)Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 1402238150
Pages: 560 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction/England
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge
Rating:    


Publisher’s Description:
Seeking power and prestige, grim, ambitious Yorkshireman Edward Morland arranges a marriage between his meek son Robert and spirited Eleanor, young ward of the influential Beaufort family. Eleanor is appalled at being forced to marry a mere "sheep farmer"; she is, after all, secretly in love with Richard, Duke of York.

Yet from this apparently ill-matched union, Robert and Eleanor form a surprising connection that soon will be tested by a bloody civil war that divides families, sets neighbor against neighbor, and brings tragedy close to home.

My Review:
I have never read a historical fiction novel about this time period before. At least, I think I haven’t. They tend to meld after a while. I can’t help it. My mind is not what it once was. The Founding was, however, a nice distraction from all the romance and YA’s I have been reading lately.

I love historical fictions with lush historical detail. This one definitely was that. The detail was amazing. You really feel as if you are a part of the time period. Although, at times, the story seems a bit rushed. Especially in the first chapters. We never get any detail about Robert and Eleanor’s marriage in the early days before they had children. I wanted to see more their relationship and less of her popping out child after child. I was more interested in the development of the relationship than the expansion of the family.

The characters were really great although some of them really annoyed me. All of them were well-developed and interesting but some of them just made me want to throw the book across the room. Eleanor was one of the one who made me want to toss the book. She was borderline obnoxious. She was strident, controlling and manipulative. She was so obsessed with marrying off her children that she barely gave any attention to their happiness or their welfare. She was what Mrs. Bennet would have been with money, title and power.  Robert was a too much of a wuss for my tastes. I was waiting for him to grow a backbone for most of the book but he never did. He remained Eleanor’s stooge throughout all of it.  The only character I felt any sort of connection to was Job. He seemed like the only character with any sense yet he was also vulnerable to Eleanor.

Overall, this was a really good historical fiction. I loved the historic richness of it and all of the characters were really strong and vivid. If you like Susan Higginbotham, you will probably like The Founding as well.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough


Once a WitchPublisher: Clarion Books
ISBN: 0547223994
Pages: 304 pgs
Genre: Young Adult
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, YA Reading Challenge
Rating:   

 
Publisher’s Description:
Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

My Review:               
I have been very into the YA paranormal romance thing lately. Call it a phase but, by God, are they compelling. It should be formulaic but every book has something different and new to offer. Once A Witch was no different.

I found the mythology of witchcraft and powers that MacCullough created in this book to be very interesting. It was a much more bohemian type of witchcraft that I really preferred over  the elitist Harry Potter wizardry. It wasn’t really as well developed as Harry Potter but it definitely has the potential to be just as compelling. The separation of “Talented” verus “Not Talented” creates a “House” like atmosphere that really mirrors the tensions in HP and makes the story much more interesting. The mystery element was really great. I mean, it is kinda obvious who is the bad guy from the beginning but what is really amazing is how Tamsin figures it out.

The real highlight of the book was Tamsin herself. She was intelligent, empathetic and her voice was strong. I felt so bad for her. She was on the outside looking in throughout most of her life. I wanted to smack her family for treating her as an outcast. It was so frustrating. Gabriel was okay as a leading man/boy. II wish that he had played a  bigger role. He also wasn’t very developed as a character.  Maybe this is because I wish there had been a bit more romance. And I do wish there had been more romance but I would not want it at the expense of the mystery. Alistair was one compelling villain. He was attractive yet creepy and I liked that. The secondary characters were rather one dimensional. I wish they had more depth to them.

I really liked Once A Witch. It felt like the beginning of a series and I really hope it is. I can’t wait to see this story develop. Especially the relationship between Gabriel and Tamsin. 
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Mysteries Bk 2)

Living Dead in Dallas (Original MM Art) (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood)
Publisher: Ace Trade
ISBN: 0441019315
Pages: 320 pgs
Genre: Romance/Paranormal/Vampire
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, Vampire Series Challenge
Rating: 
 

Publisher’s Description:
When a vampire asks Sookie Stackhouse to use her telepathic skills to find another missing vampire, she agrees under one condition: the bloodsuckers must promise to let the humans go unharmed. 

My Review:
This was a really great follow-up to the equally great Dead Until Dark. It was not exactly what I was expecting but it was good.

I loved the development of the characters. Sookie, Bill, Eric, Pam and Sam really were awesome in this one. I am a Sookie/Eric shipper and, don’t get me wrong, I wanted more Eric but Bill was really almost perfect. He was heroic, romantic and damn sexy even though I know that he will be a huge disappointment in the coming books (a friend of mine spoiled me). I also really thought that the Godfrey storyline was great. If you are expecting the same Godric as in the show, you will be disappointed.  Godfrey is creepy. I mean really creepy but still kind of attractive. I don’t even know how to explain him. I was glad when he met the sun unlike in the show when I was borderline crying.

I was really surprised at the small role that Maryann the maenad plays. I thought it was going to be a much more prominent part of the book but it was like a blip in the storyline. Ok maybe this is bias from True Blood but it took me a while to acclimate to literally everything being from Sookie’s eyes. If she didn’t see it, you don’t hear about it. As I got further into the series and away from True Blood, it got better but while we are still in the realm of the TV series, it was a little jarring. 

This was the type of book that I read immediately before bed and ended up going to sleep at 5am instead of my normal 3am. It was the perfect mixture of action, romance, humor, and paranormal. I can totally see why people (now including me) are obsessed with this series.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sunday Salon (March 15th)

This week has been more of the epic blah. I am in a funk. I must admit it now. Not reading-wise. That has been going well. It is more in the life factor. I am currently in the middle of a job search. I am desperate to remain in NYC but it seems most jobs are in other states and I am simply unwilling to leave. I also have some editing work that is hanging over my head right now and it is..well not stressing me out…but it is in the back of my mind at all times.

I know you are not here to listen to be gripe. So..my reading week…was fricken awesome! My reviewing week…well…was not. I only posted two reviews but I have finished reading all three books I started last week and have started three more. I am on a roll and it feels darn good.


I am also contemplating starting a new meme called Five For Friday where we would list our favorites of a certain topic or genre(whether it be bookish or not). I figure it could be a good way to get reading suggestions and ideas. What can I say? I am a list maker. Would anyone be interested in participating in a meme like that?
Reviews Posted:
The Highlander’s Sword-Amanda Forester
Raven Stole the Moon-Garth Stein
Guest Blogs:
Amanda Forester
Finished Reading-
Once a Witch-Carolyn MacCullough (e-book)
All Together Dead-Charlaine Harris
Currently Reading:
From Dead to Worse-Charlaine Harris
A Certain Wolfish Charm-Lydia Dare
The Foundling-Cynthia Harrod Eagles
Never Tell Our Business to Strangers-Jennifer Mascia

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein

Raven Stole the Moon: A NovelPublisher: Harper Paperbacks
ISBN: 0061806382
Pages: 464 pgs
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge
Rating: 



 Publisher’s Description:
When Jenna Rosen abandons her comfortable Seattle life to visit Wrangell, Alaska, it's a wrenching return to her past. The hometown of her Native American grandmother, Wrangell is located near the Thunder Bay Resort, where Jenna's young son, Bobby, disappeared two years before. His body was never recovered, and Jenna is determined to lay to rest the aching mystery of his death. But whispers of ancient legends begin to suggest a frightening new possibility about Bobby's fate, and Jenna must sift through the beliefs of her ancestors, the Tlingit, who still tell of powerful, menacing forces at work in the Alaskan wilderness. Armed with nothing but a mother's protective instincts, Jenna's quest for the truth behind her son's disappearance is about to pull her into a terrifying and life-changing abyss.

My Review:
I had no idea what to expect with Raven Stole the Moon. I was wavering between an intense family drama or a mythology infused fantasy. Turns out that it was a mixture of both and it could not have been better. I was not really expecting to like Raven Stole the Moon as much as I did but it was really interesting and quite the engrossing read.

I was really pleased to find that the characters were not one dimensional. They all went through a journey in this book and they were all well-rounded. The characters had layers without being too complex. Jenna was amazing. I couldn’t blame her for leaving Robert at all. He was completely unlikeable at the beginning of the book. He did not treat Jenna well at all. I did begin to see his reasoning as the book went on but in the beginning, he was just terrible. I began the book severely annoyed with both Robert and Jenna but finished with a respect for the journey and growth of both characters.

I was really pleased that the Tlingit folklore and culture played such a strong and important role in Raven Stole the Moon. Garth Stein weaves the folklore into the story seamlessly. This results in a rather interesting combination of family drama,, romance, and fantasy that really should not work so well but it does.The writing is also magnificent. Some of the more action packed and emotional scenes were just beautiful to read. I also usually have a bit of a dislike of the alternating point of view narrative style but I really liked it here. It gave us everyone’s perspective without any character becoming vapid or one dimensional. 

Raven Stole the Moon was an absolute joy to read. It was engrossing and interesting. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good family drama.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Amanda Forester Guest Blog

Struggles of an Arranged Marriage
The Highlander's SwordThanks for inviting me to join you today and chat about the struggles of an arranged marriage. Back in medieval Europe, an arranged marriage was common place, particularly for the upper classes. In fact, the notion of finding a love match during those would have seemed as odd to them as an arranged marriage seems to us today. In those times marriages were based on forming a political alliance or enhancing wealth and property. The personal feelings of the individuals involved were not a consideration.

In my debut novel, The Highlander’s Sword, Aila expected to enter the convent and has prepared her whole life to do so. After the death of her brother leaves her an heiress, everything changes. Here’s how she discovers marriage is in her near future:
Aila entered her father’s solar with some difficulty, her feet growing heavier with every step. Confirming her fears, MacLaren stood next to her father. The two imposing men stared at her, saying nothing. This could not be good. Her father folded his large arms across his massive chest and turned to MacLaren.
Aila was struck at the change in MacLaren. She had known him years ago when he had been a friend to her brother. The warrior now before her hardly resembled the braw, cocksure young man who had left Scotland to fight the English in France. He looked older, his slate eyes cold. A red scar carved a wicked path from the corner of his left eye down to his chin.
“Well?” demanded her father.
MacLaren looked her up and down in a manner that brought heat to her face.
“Aye, I’ll have her.”
Aila’s mouth dropped open, and she stared at one then the other. MacLaren frowned and turned to Laird Graham.
“Ye’ve no’ told her then?”
“I’ve told no one,” replied her father. “Watch yer back, laddie. I warrant there will be some what will take offense to yer marriage.”
Marriage?
© Amanda Forester, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2010
Poor Aila doesn’t have much preparation for this and finds herself married to a Highlander in short order. Her story is not unlike many ladies of that era whose entire future depended on their father’s decision, which often had more to do with political ambitions or military pacts than a desire to see their daughter happily wed.
The history of Europe is full of examples of marriages being used to seal political agreements. In 1328, the Treaty of Edinbugh-Northhampton, in which England recognized Scotland’s independence (at least for a little while) was sealed with the marriage of the son of King David I of Scotland and the sister of King Edward III of England (they were age 4 and 7 at the time of their marriage). In 1295, the treaty between France and Scotland, later known as the Auld Alliance would be sealed with an arranged marriage between the King of Scotland’s son and the King of France’s niece. Whether the marriage was a happy one is unknown, but the Auld Alliance remained intact for hundreds of years until 1560.

Some arranged marriages ended in disaster. King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152. Despite producing several children, their relationship became so fractious that she often urged her sons to rebel against their father. She was kept in virtual imprisonment for the last 15 years of her husband’s life, a story which inspired the movie, The Lion in Winter.

However, not all arranged marriages were unpleasant for the marriage partners. Notably, King Edward I was reported to have a happy marriage with his wife Eleanor of Castile. She even accompanied him on crusade from 1270-1273 and gave birth to two of their sixteen children while abroad. When she died in 1290 Edward was so heartbroken he erected a series of memorials in her honor.

In my own novel, the story of Aila and MacLaren is a rocky one at first. They have a lot of distrust and false assumptions to overcome, but over time love blossoms. What do you think of an arranged marriage? Do you think it is possible to find love this way?
THE HIGHLANDER’S SWORD BY AMANDA FORESTER—IN STORES MARCH 2010
A quiet, flame-haired beauty with secrets of her own...
Lady Aila Graham is destined for the convent, until her brother's death leaves her an heiress. Soon she is caught between hastily arranged marriage with a Highland warrior, the Abbot's insistence that she take her vows, the Scottish Laird who kidnaps her, and the traitor from within who betrays them all.
She's nothing he expected and everything he really needs...
Padyn MacLaren, a battled-hardened knight, returns home to the Highlands after years of fighting the English in France. MacLaren bears the physical scars of battle, but it is the deeper wounds of betrayal that have rocked his faith. Arriving with only a band of war-weary knights, MacLaren finds his land pillaged and his clan scattered. Determined to restore his clan, he sees Aila's fortune as the answer to his problems...but maybe it's the woman herself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Forester holds a PhD in psychology and worked for many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance novels was way more fun. She lives in the Pacific Northwest outside Tacoma, Washington with her husband, two energetic children, and one lazy dog. You can visit her at www.amandaforester.com.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Musing Monday (March 7)

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about dust jackets.
Do you prefer books with a dust jacket? What do you do with your dust jacket while reading? Leave it on or take it off? (Question courtesy of Kim from Page after Page)
I am rather crazy about dust jackets. Bordering on ridiculous actually. I never leave my dust jackets on while reading. It leads to the frumpy edges that really drive me batty. I take the jacket off while reading and place it on my bookshelf. That is not the crazy part. I put a book of a similar size in the jacket so it maintains its shape. There is nothing that irks me more than having to reshape a dust jacket. Creases always end up in the wrong places and it just becomes frustrating. It probably sounds quite loopy and I have been told quite often that this is not normal behavior but I can’t help myself. I think it is best that I stick to paperbacks and avoid the dust jacket issue altogether. 

The Highlander’s Sword by Amanda Forester

The Highlander's SwordPublisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1402229488
Pages: 352 pgs
Genre: Romance/Highlander
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge
Rating:   


Publisher’s Description:
A quiet, flame-haired beauty with secrets of her own...
Lady Aila Graham is destined for the convent, until her brother's death leaves her an heiress. Soon she is caught between hastily arranged marriage with a Highland warrior, the Abbot's insistence that she take her vows, the Scottish Laird who kidnaps her, and the traitor from within who betrays them all.

She's nothing he expected and everything he really needs...
Padyn MacLaren, a battled-hardened knight, returns home to the Highlands after years of fighting the English in France. MacLaren bears the physical scars of battle, but it is the deeper wounds of betrayal that have rocked his faith. Arriving with only a band of war-weary knights, MacLaren finds his land pillaged and his clan scattered. Determined to restore his clan, he sees Aila's fortune as the answer to his problems...but maybe it's the woman herself.


My Review:
One of my favorite types of romances is Highlander romances. They tend to combine the best parts of historical fiction and romance.  I also really love books about arranged marriages. They almost always equal tension and conflict.

Aila was one of the most believable heroines that I have ever come across. She was strong, intelligent and capable. She gets into trouble but she does not sit back and wait for Padyn to rescue her. She rescues herself and I really appreciate that. Padyn was the broody, sarcastic, and grumpy type of hero that I absolutely love. A ray of sunshine, sweetness and gumdrops is not my version of a good hero in a romance novel. Just strikes me as boring. Padyn was perfect. He brooded but he was never too broody and never became emo or wimpy.

One of my favorite things about The Highlander’s Sword is that the romance never overwhelms the story. The romance is a part of the story, obviously, but it never becomes the story. Aila and Padyn do not even begin to form a romantic relationship until more than halfway through the book. It was more of a historical fiction/romance than a pure romance and I loved that. I only have one criticism with this book. It is not a big criticism of anything but I want more of this story and of this couple and the other characters in this book.

This was a really great read. I read it during one sleepless night and it definitely helped me pass the time quite quickly. Anyone who is looking for a good, not to graphic romance novel should really pick this up.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.
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