Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The House Girl (P.S.) by Tara Conklin


Title: The House Girl: A Novel (P.S.)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Series: P.S.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 5, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0062207512
ISBN-13: 978-0062207517
Author's Website: http://www.taraconklin.com/
Notes: I borrowed this one from the library.


“My friends, this will be the largest, most important case of your careers,” he said. “I don’t care if you’ve been a lawyer for twenty years, or if yesterday was your first day at this venerable institution. This is the one you’ve been waiting for. We seek to right this nation’s largest, most enduring sin. We seek redress for hundreds of years of man’s inhumanity to man, trillions—let me say it again, trillions—of dollars in unpaid wages. The plaintiffs number, at the very least, in the hundreds of thousands, and possibly in the millions. We seek not only to compensate them for their ancestors’ sweat and blood but to memorialize, to remember.” 

A young lawyer is charged with finding a plaintiff to represent the face of slavery. An individual who has mass appeal and can win the sympathy of a jury. The person she picks is a young black slave woman who lived in the mid 1800s named Josephine. Josephine could bring controversy and publicity to the lawsuit.

'Much has been written about the early death and turbulent life of the southern painter Lu Anne Bell. An artist with no formal training, she rendered masterpieces of everyday life on the failing tobacco farm where she lived and died. Her work provokes questions of class, race, poverty, and the pernicious effects and moral bankruptcy of the “peculiar institution,” slavery in the antebellum South. She has been embraced by modern feminists and civil rights activists as a woman who, due to the constraints of the society in which she lived, expressed her beliefs in the only way she could: through her art. Or did she? Art historians now question the true authenticity of the Bell oeuvre. Famously, Lu Anne Bell signed none of her art. New evidence strongly suggests that the author of the masterful Bell works was not Lu Anne Bell but in fact her house girl, the adolescent slave Josephine.'

Now all Lina needs to do is track down a surviving relative and prove once and for all that Josephine is the artist behind the historical masterpieces. No sweat.
I really wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. A large portion of the book was very compelling and suspenseful. Josephine's story and how Lina went about tracking it down was well written and thought out and kept my full attention. I couldn't wait to find out what next would be discovered. The toggling between the two main character, one in the present and one in the past, was brilliantly done and added to the suspense of it all. This part of the story was unquestionably for me a 5 star read.

While I loved Josephine's story, another smaller story within the larger one didn't seem to fit in with the rest. I understand what the author was trying to do--build another bridge between the past and present and explain why Lina was so obsessed with finding out what happened to Josephine, but I felt it just didn't work.  While I applaud her effort, ***slight spoiler*** I felt that comparing a slave to someone who didn't want to be a mother and felt trapped in her marriage was a poor choice--the two are vastly different. To me (and I'm sure the author didn't attend to do this) it belittles the tragedy of what happened to Josephine. In my humble opinion, a bridge like this needs to be of equal height/severity in order for things not to go askew and detract from the more intense and bigger story. I felt, at least in this case, you need equal footing between the two and that just wasn't the case. Josephine had no control over what happened to her. Things were done to her. The other woman chose to get married and through her own actions found herself pregnant. She had choices which Josephine did not.***end of spoiler***

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. I liked the suspense the author created with Josephine's story by going back and forth between the past and present. Plus, I loved learning about Josephine and the young woman won me over. While I would have loved a happier ending, I felt the author did a good job of capturing the cruelty and despair of what was happening back in the days of slavery. At times it reminded me of the book Roots by Alex Haley, although it is not quite as severe in its intensity as that book. The story makes you wonder how anyone could not see that a black person is just that--a person. Plus, it makes you see the "good old days" weren't as "good" as one would believe. Not when people were killed and tortured just for the color of their skin. It's unfathomable.

Notes to keep you in the know:
"In 2014, the Whitney Plantation opened its doors to the public for the first time in its 262 year history as the only plantation museum in Louisiana with a focus on slavery. Through museum exhibits, memorial artwork and restored buildings and hundreds of first-person slave narratives, visitors to Whitney will gain a unique perspective on the lives of Louisiana's enslaved people." For more information, check out their website at http://www.whitneyplantation.com/

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Good Guys Wear Black (Rural Gentlemen, #4) by Lizbeth Selvig


    Title: Good Guys Wear Black
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Contemporary Romance
    Format: Paperback; 528 pages
    Publisher: Avon Impulse (November 11, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0062370154
    ISBN-13: 978-0062370150
    Author's Website: http://www.lizbethselvig.com/
    Notes: I borrowed this one from the library.



    Dewey Mitchell once had high hopes for his life, but everything changed when he was diagnosed with cancer. He lost his shot at the NFL, his hopes of having a large family, and his wife, who couldn't come to terms with the possibility that he may never be able to give her children. But despite the hardships and disappointments life's thrown his way, he's managed to survive. When the new single librarian comes to town with her young son in tow, however, that age old longing of  yearning to have a family comes back. 

Rose Hanrehan is a single mom whose family have driven her to escape. The daughter of a US Senator, her unwed/unplanned pregnancy brought scandal upon the family that she's never been able live down. Coming to the small town of Kennison Falls is her means of escaping their attempts to marry her off, thereby, making an honest woman of her. While she isn't against marriage, she doesn't believe she should have to settle for just anyone. Whomever she decides to marry has to accept not only her, but her son who has Asperger's syndrome as well--they're a package deal. Can starting over in a small town be the new beginning she needs? 
     
    This book had a lot going on in it--banned books, cancer, and Asperger's syndrome. I have to confess, it was a bit overwhelming with a lot to take in and felt a little heavy and yet, ironically, not heavy enough. While I loved the way the banned books and Asperger's syndrome were handled, the cancer left me with a lot of unanswered questions. I would have loved it if Ms. Selvig would have expanded the story to include more of Dewey's back story. I kept wondering when he and his ex-wife had gotten married and what type of cancer he'd had. Neither of which were elaborated upon.

    Dewey's the town's Mr. Fix-it and the middle school football coach. He's good with kids and has a heart of gold, but when he first meets Rose, he comes off as an overbearing know-it-all in regards to Jesse, Rose's son. While Dewey has some good ideas as to how to handle Jesse, I felt at times he was a bit presumptuous with his advice, especially as he had no previous knowledge about Jesse's condition. I was in Rose's corner from the beginning in her dislike of him. He was one of those characters that had to win me over and eventually did.

    Rose is a single mom who has had to learn how to deal with a child who doesn't behave as other kids do. After research, physician recommendations, and trial and error she has pretty much figured out what her child needs. Dewey, however, shakes up Rose and her son's world and her son surprisingly takes a liking to Dewey. I loved seeing how the relationships among these three (even between mother and son) grew as the story progressed. What surprised me was how real and genuine the story felt.

    Overall, I gave this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. At times the content was a bit heavy, but I liked the realistic feel of the story. I liked how Dewey finally realized he didn't have all the answers and did some research. I loved how when things got a bit rough, Dewey decided to tough it out and work through it. This was one of the few romances I've seen that has a few bumps on the way to a happily ever after and I rather liked that. As for the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a FAN rating--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice.



Friday, June 5, 2015

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) by Libba Bray


  • Title: The Diviners
  • Classification: Young Adult (14+)
  • Genre: Paranormal Horror Story
  • Format: Hardcover; 592 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 18, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 9780316126113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316126113
  • ASIN: 031612611X
  • Notes: Library Loan

The year is 1926 and prohibition is in full swing, the Zeigfield girls have their follies, and technological advances seem to know no bounds. Evie O'Neill has just been reprimanded by her parents for demeaning the character of a boy she knows deserved it but can't prove it. She's being sent to live with her uncle in New York and she couldn't be happier, but her happiness may be premature. In the midst of all the glamour and excitement, a dark shadow has been cast over the city as a serial killer starts stalking prey. Because of the nature of the killings, Evie's uncle has been called in to help with the investigation. Her uncle runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstitions, and the Occult and is considered to be an expert in the field of the Occult. Due to her nosey nature and her propensity to get into trouble, Evie will find a new way to use the talent that got her into trouble with her parents. Evie O'Neill can find out a person's darkest secrets by touching an object that was once in that person's possession. With just a touch she can see into a victim's final moments and perhaps help catch a killer.

The Museum of American Folklore, Superstitions, and the Occult (aka the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies)  was constructed by Cornelius Rathbone who amassed his fortune building railroads. His sister, Liberty Anne, at age 11, was reported to have gone missing for two days. When she was found, she stated that in that lost time period she met a strange man whose coat opened to reveal the wonders and frights of the world. Her hair was completely white and for the next month before death claimed her, she made outrageous and startlingly accurate prediction about the future, most of which came true. Among them were Lincoln's assassination, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Great War,  as well as many others. It was said it was her predictions which led Cornelius to invest in steel and the railroads from which he acquired his fortune. One of her last predictions talked of  "'a coming storm,' a treacherous time when the Diviners would be needed." Diviners is a name for  people with rare and unique gifts and, make no mistake, a storm is coming. Liberty Anne Rathbone's final prediction is about to come true. The outcome, however, is anyone's guess. One thing is certain, with all the deaths in New York, something wicked is stirring. 

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This was such a fun and fast paced book and a bit of a surprise. I expected a fairly typical paranormal ghost story set in the 1920's but it also had elements of Steampunk in it. The book follows two main characters and several important secondary characters who slowly come together and become friends. Many of whom, we come to learn, have Diviner like abilities.

The story begins as a terrible evil is unleashed upon New York. People are being murdered in grizzly fashion with body parts missing. Notes left with the dead along with the careful positioning of the bodies which have symbols branded upon them suggest these are some form of ritualistic type murders being methodically planned out.  Evie O'Neill's uncle Will is brought in by the police to help solve the crimes as he's an expert in field of the occult.

Evie is young, fearless, and loves being the center of attention. She can tell things about a person just by touching an object they've owned. Her talent got her in trouble and is the reason she came to be living in New York with her uncle right around the time the killings started. Her best friend, Mabel, who is almost her polar opposite, lives just down the hall and is about as smart as they come.

Memphis is a smart young black man with a love of poetry who works as a runner and once upon a time had the power to heal through touch. He no longer has the power, but his younger brother, Isiah, has the power of prophecy. Memphis does all he can to keep his brother's particular talent a secret. He doesn't want him exploited as he once was.

Sam Loyd is a 17 year old conman in the making. He can will people not to see him which is pretty handy in his line of work because he can hide anywhere. During his first encounter with Evie he steals twenty bucks from her and she hasn't trusted him since. When her uncle takes a shine to him and offers him a job at the museum, Evie is anything but pleased.

Theta is a Zigfield girl who lives with Henry, a musician. They tell everyone they're brother and sister when they're really best friends.These two befriend Evie early on and are very secretive about their pasts. They too have special abilities that will eventually be revealed,

Jared is Evie's uncle's ward. How he came to live with her uncle is somewhat of a mystery. He's a play it by the book kind of guy, but there is more to him than meets the eye. Mabel has a huge crush on him so Evie will attempt to play matchmaker.

When this motley crew comes together they will all have a hand in bringing down a murderer. Their only clue is a haunting tune which they later come to find has the following eerie lyrics:
“Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on. Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells ’em off for a coupla stones.”

They have the potential to save the world. For the murders are just the beginning. The worst is yet to come...

Overall, I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. I thoroughly enjoyed this uniquely haunting story. Due to some of its content,  however, I would say this is a book is intended for the older portion of the Young Adult audience. It has some disturbing scenes that potentially could give some young children nightmares. It's a perfect book to read around Halloween or when you want a good scare.  In a word, it's Spooky.

The Book Trailer:

Notes to keep you in the know:
Make sure to read the Author's Notes at the end. I found it very interesting. Ms. Bray talks of various historical items she found that helped her create the story.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick


    Title: Black Ice
    Classification: Young Adult Fiction
    Genre: Suspense/Mystery
    Format: Hardcover; 400 pages
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (October 7, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 1442474262
    ISBN-13: 978-1442474260
    Author's Website: http://www.beccafitzpatrick.com/
    Notes: I bought this one.




Two friends, Korbie and Britt, are spending spring break hiking the Grand Teton Mountains. As they journey to Korbie's family cabin, a storm moves in and their jeep becomes stranded on the road. Afraid their car is not the safest place to stay in such cold weather, they go in search of shelter. When they come across a house occupied by two handsome guys not much older than they are they think they've encountered a bit of good luck, Unfortunately, their nightmare is just about to begin... Young women in the area have mysteriously disappeared and Britt and Korbie are about to find out what happened to them.
This was actually a pretty decent book, but it was slightly marred by an extremely annoying main character. I've often heard others complain about annoying main characters, but this was a first for me. Britt going on and on about how great her ex-boyfriend, Calvin, was just got on my nerves and I almost stopped reading. I kept thinking, "Seriously? The guy dumps you in a rather rude way and you can't stop going on and on about how great he is? Gah!" I get that Britt still has mixed feelings about her ex and hasn't had true closure, but still...

What I did like was the mystery behind everything going on and the way things slowly unfolded. I enjoyed the twists and turns and how not everything was as simple as it first appeared. I liked how Britt grew as an individual even though she made a lot of bad decisions along the way. Granted, there were some startling moments where realization suddenly sunk in as to what was going on and I'm not sure how I would have fared in her shoes.

My favorite quotes:
- "They never tell you that when you watch someone you once loved dying, hovering between this life and the next, it’s twice as painful, because you’re reliving two lives that traveled one road together."

-'“You’re damn right I’m jealous,” he growled. “When I kiss a girl, I like to know she’s thinking about me, not the fool who gave her up.”'

Overall, I gave this one 3 out of 5 roses. It was a fast paced suspenseful story with a very annoying main character that brought the overall rating down. When you're tempted to put your fingers in your ears and you're not listening to the audio version you know it's a bad sign. So while still a very good story that I liked, I was slightly disappointed with this one.

Monday, May 25, 2015

All of Me (Love Between the Bases #1) by Jennifer Bernard


    Title: All of Me: A Love Between the Bases Novel
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Contemporary Romace
    Series: Between the Bases
    Format: Paperback: 384 pages
    Publisher: Avon (May 26, 2015)
    ISBN-10: 0062372165
    ISBN-13: 978-0062372161
    Notes: I am part of Jennifer Bernard's Street Team which means I love her books enough to help get the word out when they get released. I also occasionally get free swag and access to ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), but I'd still be part of her street team even if those weren't offered.  



Some relationships end amicably. Some relationships end with hurt feelings. When Sadie broke off her relationship with Hamilton Wade, however, it ended in a most horrific way. He posted pictures of her in various states of undress on Facebook as well as circulating an embarrassing video, all of which she had no idea he'd taken. After being betrayed so badly, Sadie's hesitant to get involved with anyone again. When Caleb Hart starts paying her attention, she's determined not to make the same mistake twice by dating the wrong type of guy, but Caleb is making that decision hard.

Caleb Hart was in the major leagues until his pitching took a turn for the worse. Now playing for the Kilby Catfish, a minor league team, he's hoping to break his streak of bad luck and get himself back in the majors. He's a nice guy who has helped raise his younger siblings, Like Sadie, he has a past, but unlike Sadie he's managed to keep it a secret. When he feels a strong attraction to Sadie, he'll try to convince her to take a chance on him but will their pasts get in the way?

While no one's perfect, each will end up wondering if the other can accept 'All of Me.'
This is the first book of a new series that I thoroughly enjoyed. It brought to light some of the dangers the age of camera phones brings with it--namely that pictures and videos can be taken very easily without someone's knowledge. It reminded me a little of the Paris Hilton's sex video that was released by her ex-boyfriend. While Paris managed to gain notoriety and profit from her embarrassing video, Sadie gained nothing but a bad reputation. Yes, ladies it's a whole new world out there and you need to be careful.

I enjoyed how the book had so many uplifting messages like we shouldn't let our past define us and that things can get better. I adored Sadie's inextinguishable spirit which never let her give in to the despair of what her ex-boyfriend did to her. Bouncing back from something like that would not be easy. Additionally, I like how Ms Bernard touches on how we are our own person and aren't defined by the mistakes our parents make. We can choose to be our own person, learn from other's mistakes, and choose our own path.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. While the book touched on some serious subject matter, it still contained a lot of Jennifer's signature humor. It delved into a wide range of emotions and I liked how these two likable characters got what they each deserved--each other. As I read, the saying, 'When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." came to mind. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a  STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Disillusioned (Swept Away, #2) by J.S. Cooper


    Title: Disillusioned (Swept Away Book 2)
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
    Series: Swept Away
    Format: Paperback; 288 pages
    Publisher: Gallery Books (March 17, 2015)
    ISBN-10: 147679099X
    ISBN-13: 978-1476790992
    Author's Website: http://jscooperauthor.com/
    Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher. Thank you.



Bianca secretly investigated the death of her mother for several months before she was kidnapped. One second she was sitting at the bar waiting for her best friend to reappear from the restroom and the next she was waking up in the trunk of a car wondering what in the world is going on. But she's wasn't alone. Jakob, a young man she briefly met at a coffee shop earlier that day was in the trunk with her. She thought he was an innocent bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person, but she soon found out she'd been tricked. He was the one who masterminded her kidnapping. The one who might hold the answers she was looking for.

Caught in an intricate web of deceit, lies, and secrets she's unsure who to trust. With billions of dollars at stake, loyalty can be bought at the drop of a hat and lives, including her own, could be lost without a second thought. Can she figure out what's going before it's too late?  For nothing is as it seems and she's no longer disillusioned.
Another riveting, roller coaster ride of a story from Ms. Cooper and I confess to being more confused than ever. Gah! I so love this story. Yes, I'm confused in a good way. If the ending of this series doesn't deliver the ending I'm expecting (and by that I mean another suspenseful nail biter with a satisfying ending)  I think I'll end up crying. I don't think I've ever said that about a series before. Hey, no pressure Ms. Cooper--well, not much. Ha!

In this, the second book of the series, Bianca is wising up and learning fast. She's still torn about her feelings and attraction to Jakob, but she's being more cautious. There are so many twists and turns in this one that I thought I might get whiplash, but managed to refrain from needing any first aide.*smirk* What I truly love trying to do while reading this book is to see if I can predict the twists before they happen. Some I can, while others I'm completely oblivious to until they occur. I'm finding this series to be so much fun.

Overall, I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. J.S. Cooper masterfully spins a tale full of mystery, suspense, and some down right hot romance that left me wanting the next book yesterday so there would be no interruption in the reading. Definitely a series I HIGHLY recommend. I also have to thank this author for managing to get me out of my reading slump. I've been having trouble getting into books for the last two months and this is the first one that totally enthralled me. For that reason alone I couldn't help but give this book a 5 rose rating. So thanks J.S. for getting my reading back on track. I absolutely am enjoying the ride.

Order of the Series:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Release Day Review of Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2) by Rachel Hartman


    Title: Shadow Scale (Seraphina)
    Classification: Young Adult; 12+
    Grade Level: 7 and up
    Lexile Measure: 0780 (What's this?)
    Genre: Fantasy
    Series: Seraphina
    Format: Hardcover; 608 pages
    Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (March 10, 2015)
    ISBN-10: 0375866574
    ISBN-13: 978-0375866579
    Author's Website: http://rachelhartmanbooks.com/
    Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher.

In a world where dragons and humans once lived segregated but in fragile sort of peace, a young half breed who, by all accounts, never should have been born may be the missing link that connects them all...

Seraphina thought she was the only one of her kind--a half dragon/half human called an ityasaari. She, however, was wrong. One of the few who understands both dragon and human reasoning, she unwittingly got herself mixed up in her country's, Goredd, politics. With civil war breaking out among the dragons as to whether they should once again conquer humans or maintain the peace between humans and dragons, it won't be long before war finds its way to Goredd. On a mission to find others like herself, those who were once scorned and hunted, ironically, may be the only ones who can save both dragons and humanity. Could Seraphina be the one to tear down the barriers between the two species?
This was the second and, sadly, final book to the Seraphina story. According Ms. Hartman, however, there will be more stories to come that will be set in this world. With any luck, this won't be the last we hear of Seraphina and her motley crew. While this book wraps things up fairly nicely, I'd like to see a little more of her. *crosses fingers* If you haven't read the first book, I encourage you to do so. While this book recounts a nice portion of what happened in Seraphina, there are some details and events I wouldn't want you to miss that aren't included in this one.

In Shadow Scale, we get to see more of the lands surrounding Goredd as Seraphina sets out on a mission to find and bring together the other half dragons that fill her mental garden. While some will be willing to help protect the kingdom from being razed to the ground, some might not be so willing to protect a country where half breeds are said to be abominations. As with many quests, collecting her fellow half breeds will have its complications.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. I enjoyed the rich world building and the characters who seemed to come to life on the pages. There were a lot of twists and turns, and I was happy to learn the story behind the grotesque that was banished from Seraphina's garden. While at times the story seemed to lag, I was always entertained. I will confess, however, to being a little disappointed about the way Ms. Hartman resolved the love triangle. I kind of wish she'd wrapped it up differently. Other than that, I loved the finale and look forward to reading more books set in this world.

Order of the series:
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