Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Early Review of Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

Title: Change Agent: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Scienct Fiction/Thriller
Format: Hardcover; 416 pages
Publisher: Dutton (April 18, 2017)
ISBN-10: 110198466X
ISBN-13: 978-1101984666
Author's website: http://thedaemon.com/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes.

The year is 2045. Singapore is the current technology capital of the world, and genetic engineering is big business.Years ago, the UN decided to step in and regulate the industry and created the Genetic Modification Treaty. In 2038, the treaty was ratified in order to stop the global spread of unregulated genetic editing of human embryos. Illegal edits have become a black market cash cow, but critics fear genetic edits could have consequences that are yet unforeseen.

Kenneth Durand works for Interpol in the Genetic Crimes Division. He and his team have managed to shut down thousands of illicit embryo clinics world wide, hundreds of which belonged to the Huli jing, a well funded, disciplined, and extremely low-profile genediting cartel. The Huli jing have hidden what they do over the years behind the facade of a legitimate business called Trefoil, but Interpol has recently put two and two together. Marcus Wyckes, the leader of the Huli jing is now one of the world's most wanted men, and Kenneth Durand and his team have been tasked with the mission to find him. Wyckes and his gang have crossed a line as informants reveal they're using unwilling human test subjects many of whom have been killed by the tests performed. The Huli jing are a cruel lot whose preferred weapon of choice against those that stand in their way is poison--specifically custom designed synbiotoxins that are difficult to detect and maximize a victim's suffering.

Just days after his debriefing on the Huli jing, Kenneth finds out the hard way that synbiotoxins are not the only powerful weapon in the Huli jing's arsenal. A week after he is attacked, Kenneth wakes to discover his DNA and appearance have been dramatically ratified to mimic Wyckes'. He'd been administered a change agent which edited his genetic makeup in a way no one had ever believed survivable. The Huli jing had issued him a death sentence, but somehow he's survived, and now he's on the run not just from the Huli jing, but also his own people.

He now is a man with two missions--to stop the Huli jing and get his identity back.
This was a fun action-packed, fast paced, thrill ride of a read. The beginning of the story made me think it might go the route of the movie Face Off, just using a DNA identity/appearance switch instead of a face transplant, but that idea was quickly extinguished. There is no exchange of identities in this one just the wish to kill and pass off a dead agent as one of the governments most wanted criminals so they'd take him off their list. When Kenneth Durrand survives, however, the implications are mind boggling. It changes the face of everything.

One of the things I loved about this novel is that the author did so much research into the world of genetics. It encompasses so many surprising and innovative ideas and concepts that truly do exist. I was extremely impressed. While we've all heard of concept of designer babies, the thought of being able to modify an individual's DNA later in life would be extraordinary. While I would think some things would be more easily changed than others, such has hair and skin tone, I'd think the transformation would not be as instantaneous as what happened with Durrand. Plus, I think you'd run the risk of rejection and the irreversibility of some features, such as height and shape of the eyes, chin, ears and nose, once an individual has matured. I can't even begin to imagine the effects such genetic edits would have on individuals while things were being tested and sorted out, but I love the concept. You can see how this would open many topics for discussion in a book club setting and I love that.

Overall, I gave this story 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. It had a slow start, but once you get through the author's initial information dump, which he uses to initiate you into the world of the future he's created, things speed up significantly. It's already been optioned by Netflix and we'll have to wait and see if they make it into a movie or TV series, but I'm hoping for the latter. I could see so many more stories taking place in a world where people could change their identity. Oh, the possibilities. I just can't help but love it.

Notes to keep you in the know:
To learn more about epigentics, check out this article: http://www.whatisepigenetics.com/fundamentals/

To learn more about CRISPR, check out these articles:

If you're wondering about some of the genes Suarez referenced in his book, check out the human gene database: 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval
Classification: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Caraval (Book 1)
Format: Hardcover; 416 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books (January 31, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1250095255
ISBN-13: 978-1250095251
Author's Website: http://stephaniegarberauthor.com/
Notes: I bought this one.

Dear Mister Caraval Master,

My name is Scarlett...

For seven years Scarlett Dragna has been trying to acquire the highly sought after tickets to the show Caraval by writing letters to the owner. Year after year there's been no response. This year, however, on the verge of her marriage, she's received 3 tickets. Caraval is said to be a magical show which encourages audience participation, and changes location from year to year. In some ways it's a competition although the specifics of Caraval have been kept closely under wraps for years. Rumor has it the winner is granted one wish, and Scarelett knows exactly what she'd wish for if she won.

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game. What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you, but don’t let any of it trick you. We will try to convince you it’s real, but all of it is a performance. A world built of make-believe. So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.”

"Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world."

This was such a fun book. The whole experience felt a bit like going to a carnival, and seeing things distorted like you would when you peer into a fun house mirror. Things are not always quite what they appear to be and it can get a bit confusing as you try to figure out what is real and what isn't, who you can trust and who you can't, and how to interpret all the clues. From Scarlett's first step into the game it appeared to be something dark and sinister making me wonder if Scarlett would get out of the whole thing alive. There were many twists and turns, and while you're reading you'll probably think to yourself once or twice, "What the tomfoolery is this?" But I adored the craziness of it all and the drama that ensued.

Overall, the book was refreshingly unique, and if I were to say anything more I'm afraid I'd begin entering into spoiler territory. I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. It had a very fast and steady pace with a lot going on. If you blink, you might miss something, so try to keep up. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earns a BLUSH rating-- at the beginning stages of romance where something is just starting to be stirred. If I had to compare this story to another book I'd chose Alice in Wonderland. It was both crazy and fun with a touch of  magical whimsy.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Here's to Us
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Women's Fiction/Chick Lit/Realistic Fiction
Format: Hardcover; 416 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (June 14, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0316375144
ISBN-13: 978-0316375146
Author's Website: http://www.elinhilderbrand.net/
Notes: I received an ARC at BEA.

Popular Television Chef Deacon Thorpe
Found Dead at 53

Nantucket, Massachusetts--Deacon Thorpe, 53, chef-owner of the Board Room, in midtown Manhattan, and host of the popular Food Network program Pitchfork, died of a heart attack at his summer cottage Thursday evening, according to Nantucket police chief Edward Kapenash.

Thorpe arrived on Nantucket Island on Thursday morning ferry, officials at the Steamship Authority confirmed. He was found by island resident JP Clarke on Friday morning...


Deacon Thorpe was a revered celebrity chef on the late night TV cooking show 'Day to Night to Day with Deacon' and later on the daytime cooking show 'Pitchfork'. Most would say he'd made a success of his life. He'd loved three women, had three beautiful and smart kids, but died alone feeling like a failure. This is the story of his rise and fall from fame as seen through his own eyes and the eyes of those who loved him most.

'Everything comes to an end--the days ends, the summer ends, an era ends'

I will start this review off by saying this was not my favorite story. It sums up all the things that are wrong with today's society. We've gotten used to disposable things and somewhere along the line marriage has entered into the mix. There are people who don't respect the union of marriage and could care less if children get hurt when those ties are broken and this story touches upon that. Deacon Thorpe was a rather selfish person who put himself first. He fooled himself into thinking of himself as a good guy because he occasionally did the right thing. When it comes to the big things in life, however, he failed and failed brilliantly.

Some would say Deacon's father's desertion followed by his mother's are what shaped him into the man that he became, but that's.only partially true, What we do with our own life is ultimately left up to us. We have the choice to do what's right or fool ourselves into thinking what we do doesn't affect others and they'll be all right. Deacon prided himself on telling his children that his father "didn't want me, but I want you." quite frequently. While words are lovely, he ultimately wasn't all that different from his own father. While he didn't fully abandoned his son, upon his death the following statement summed up his relationship with his son. "Hayes had loved his father, but he and Deacon had been more like casual, easygoing friends, and really, that was only later in life," If I was to assign a song to Deacon Thorpe it would be 'You Came in Like a Wrecking Ball' by Miley Cyrus.

While I disliked the story, it was well written which is what kept me reading until the end. The way the author showed how the actions of one individual can effect the lives of so many others and have a trickle down effect was right on the money. The animosity and cattiness of the three wives who find themselves in the impossible position of being under the same roof while planning the funeral could have been comedic, but the author chose to make the situation something more hefty, awkward, and dysfunctional. Eventually the three made peace with one another as best they could, under the circumstances, for the sake of their children, but this was a rather depressing read. It went from bad to worse to awkward.

So why the title, 'Here's to Us?" Well it's used a couple of times in toasts in the book. Once by Buck, Deacon's best friend, and a second time by Deacon's wives. Of the two the toasts made, to me Buck's seemed the one more appropriate one for the title:
"Here's to us, two selfish bastards." 

I'm giving this one a 1 out of 5 roses. It was well written but was like watching a train wreck. I just couldn't seem to look away.  It's the first book I've read by this Ms. Hildebrand, but because so many of her fans were shouting her accolades while I was standing in line at BEA waiting to get a copy of this one, I'll give her books another try. This novel just wasn't to my liking. I like happy stories, or at least ones with happy endings, and this was a far cry from that. I'm foregoing the romance rating scale in this one because, frankly, there was no real romance in this one. It was just the story of a very dysfunctional family after the death of the person who connected everyone together. In a way, this could be called a cautionary tale about how the grass isn't always greener on the other side--That sometimes what you really want you already have. You just have to open your eyes to see it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Early Review of You May Kiss the Bride (The Penhallow Dynasty #1) by Lisa Berne

Title: You May Kiss the Bride: The Penhallow Dynasty
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Penhallow Dynasty (Book 1)
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (March 28, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062451782
ISBN-13: 978-006245178
Author's Website: http://lisaberne.com/
Notes:  I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating. Please note that as I read an ARC, any quotes listed are subject to change, they will need to be checked and verified against the final version.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

"I am afraid that life simply isn't fair. A disagreeable fact, but what can one do?"

Livia Stuart had finally reached her boiling point. After years of being forced to endure visits with The Honorable Miss Orr--and her mother--the Right Honorable Viscountess Glanville she'd had enough of biting her tongue and sitting there like she have a clue as to what they were truly doing. Their visits came under the guise of being charitable, but masked double edged comments which made it quite clear their true reason for coming was to gloat. Just twelve years earlier she would have been considered one of their peers, but the death of her father shortly followed by the death of her mother and grandfather had left her penniless under the care, if one could call it that, of her aunt and uncle. So while she was walking in the woods, trying to collect herself after one such visit, could anyone blame her for what she'd done when a lost gentleman mistook her for a servant girl and she'd lost her temper? She'd sent the man on a wild goose chase that would insure he'd not get to his destination for a very long time.

It was then that she decided to go to the ball the Orrs had generously invited her to because she was quite certain the man she'd just misdirected was Miss Orr's intended. She'd show him and the lot of them that she may be down but she wasn't out. Then she furiously set to work on her gown.
This was a great story that reminded me at the beginning a little of  the relationship between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara in 'Gone With the Wind.' While this story itself is nothing like the classic novel, the animosity and attraction between the two main characters was reminiscent of the golden oldie. Soon thereafter, the book took another turn and reminded me a touch of the story Pygmalion where a woman with very little education is transformed into a lady. Is it any wonder that shortly after picking up this book I found myself hooked? I should say not. *smirk*

Gabriel Penhallow and Livia Stuart are about as different as night and day. He's wealthy, she's poor. He's decided it's time he married while she's in no hurry to shackle herself to some man. He's powerful and one of the most eligible bachelors while she's lowly wallflower. But there's something about the outspoken and unconventional chit that draws Gabriel to Livia. Perhaps it's her lack of interest in him that catches his attention. Perhaps it's the defiant spirit he sees sparkling in the depth of her dark green eyes which declares she won't be cowed when dealing with the ton. Perhaps it's her mischievous machinations which  make him realize life with her would never be boring. Whatever it is he intends to find out.

Livia Stuart is tired of being pitied for he plight in life. She's tired of the ton and their arrogant ways. She's tired of people using her to boost their own self pride and self esteem. In a way, she's furious with the universe, and the card it's dealt her, but most of all she's upset with herself for being affected by it all. One things for sure when Gabriel Penhallow enters her life things will never be the same.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. It was a fun, seductive, romp of a read wrapped around a wonderful love story. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these two get to know one another and fall in love. The book was well paced with lively characters who were vibrant and appeared to be three dimensional as they practically leapt off the pages. A wonderful debut for this author and I look forward to reading more of her books. 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.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Early Review of Million Dollar Cowboy (Cupid, Texas #5) by Lori Wilde

Title: Million Dollar Cowboy
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Cupid, Texas
Format: Paperback; 432 pages
Publisher: Avon (March 28, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062468219
ISBN-13: 978-0062468215
Author's Website: http://loriwilde.com/
Notes: I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating. Please note that as I read an ARC, any quotes listed are subject to change, they will need to be checked and verified against the final version.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Ridge Lockhart has spent his entire life trying to prove himself. At the tender age of three, his mother dropped him off on his father's doorstep right before she allegedly committed suicide. His father and his then wife had wanted nothing to do with him, but had no choice but to take him in. So over the years Ridge worked hard to make a name for himself and earn his father's respect, praise, and love--three things Duke Lockhart seems incapable of giving him.

Ten years ago things came to a head when Ridge found his father in bed with his girlfriend. He left home without ever looking back. He no longer seeks anything from father. Now he's driven to prove that he's better than his dad. On the verge of a deal that will make him richer than his father, he's come home for his best friend's wedding.

Kaia Alzate comes from a long line of women said to be gifted with the ability to recognize their true love with just one kiss. Legend, or at least Kaia's grandmother, has it that when when a woman from their family line kisses their soul mate they hear a soft, but distinct humming at the base of their brains. Kaia's had a crush on her brother's best friend, Ridge, for as long as she can remember. When a kiss reveals him to be 'the one', she knows she's in trouble because everyone knows Ridge Lockhart is emotionally unavailable and allergic to commitment.

This is the fifth book in the Cupid, Texas series and you can jump right in with this one. I hadn't read the previous books, but I didn't feel lost at all. I will warn you, however, that you'll probably feel the need to read the previous four books in the series as I did. So be prepared.

There was so much going on in this book, but it was all good. Well, good for the reader that is. There is a huge amount of emotional depth in this one, and I love how Kaia wasn't afraid to call it like she saw it in regards to Ridge. She made him take a good look at himself and figure out what he really wanted--not just what he thought he wanted. He had a bit of tunnel vision going on and he wasn't looking at the big picture that was his life. Both he and Kaia had a lot to work through before they could truly be a couple, and I liked how the two seemed to balance one another. 

If you haven't figured it out, I absolutely adored this one. I gave it 5 out of 5 roses. It did get a little slow in the middle, but I was actually glad this romance wasn't  rushed. It's a story that centers around family, love, and forgiveness. It was fun, sexy, and emotionally deep which made for a delightful combination. A wonderful read that left me sighing. 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.

Notes to keep you in the know:
   How to remove a ring with dental floss:

Order of the Cupid, Texas series:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dangerous Games (O’Connor & Kincaid #1) by Tess Diamond

Title: Dangerous Games
Classification:  Adult Fiction
Genre: Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (March 28, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062655809
ISBN-13: 978-0062655806
Author's Website: n/a
Notes:  I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating. Please note that as I read an ARC, any quotes listed are subject to change, they will need to be checked and verified against the final version.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
When Maggie Kincaid was a young girl, she and her sister were kidnapped. She escaped, but her sister did not. The experience changed her, but she did not let it define her. She grew up to become one of the FBIs best hostage negotiators, but two years ago when one of her cases ended in bloodshed she quit the Bureau and vowed never to go back. Now. a teenager with high profile parents has been kidnapped and they're looking to her for guidance. Knowing her background, Frank is confident that Maggie Kincaid will be unable to say no to this case and he's been looking for a way to get her back.

Over the years, Jake O'Connor has gained a reputation for getting difficult things done right the first time around with little fuss. When a US senator's daughter goes missing he's asked to step in and ensure that the Senator's security is top notch and to make sure that if a hostage situation arises, things are handled smoothly. He's a soldier at heart, but over the years he's learned there is more than one way to serve your country.

"With jobs like ours, there are going to be failures, (...) People will die. Sometimes it's our fault...sometimes it isn't. Sometimes life just screws with us, and even though we did everything right, followed all the rules, and hit the right targets, sometimes people still die."
This was a fast paced, action packed, emotional thrill ride of a read. From the moment Maggie arrives at the scene, a snowball effect develops as things start to escalate at an alarming rate. What looks to be a standard kidnapping with a ransom demand quickly morphs into so much more.

In a case where things aren't always what they seem and the clock ticking. Maggie fights to save Kayla Thebes and bring her home safely. From the beginning Maggie feels there's something off about Senator Thebes. She senses there's something he's not telling her and that little tidbit of information could make the difference between getting Kayla out dead or alive. In order to negotiate properly, she needs to know everything, no matter how sensitive the information may be. Her main objective is to get Kayla out alive--no matter what.

I loved how Maggie and Jake worked together to figure out what was going on. While I thought one minor character should probably have been killed during the negotiations, because I truly doubted they'd have survived in a real life situation, I guess the author thought it would be too dark for a romantic suspense novel. There is a cliffhanger at the end, but the way it was written left me wondering, at first, if it truly would end in one or if Maggie's imagination was working overtime. She had a lot of flashbacks of her own personal kidnapping, and I kept wondering if they were causing her to see something that wasn't really there. The way the book ended, however, left me with no doubt that her suspicions were well founded.

I gave this one 4 1/2 out 5 roses. The story grabbed me by the hand and wouldn't let go. While I wondered how many times government agencies actual do step on each others toes, I loved the added level of duplicity this one had. I look forward to reading many more stories by Ms. Diamond. This one is definitely worth your time. On 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.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Early Review of When the Marquess Falls (Hellions of Havisham, #3.5) by Lorraine Heath (Novella)

Title: When the Marquess Falls
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
File Size: 1332 KB
Print Length: 128 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse (March 14, 2017)
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
Author's Website: http://www.lorraineheath.com/
Notes:  I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
George William St. John and Linnie Connor first came across one another on the day of his father's funeral. He was twelve and she was six. On that day the two formed an unlikely friendship and have been best friends ever since. As he's a Marquess and she's the daughter of a Baker nothing other than friendship could ever be, and so they never breached that friendship.  Linnie always dreamed of one day attending one of the balls George's family had hosted and this year George has decided to make that dream come true. He's promised his mother he'd chose a bride in exchange for Linnie being allowed to attend. Her opinion of the women in attendance would be helpful, or so he's said. George has always fancied Linnie and as a child thought he'd one day marry her. Dare he defy what both his mother and the ton expect and give them something to talk about? After all, when the Marquess Falls, there's no telling what can happen...
This was a bittersweet romance. If you haven't read any of the previous books of the series, I recommend you at least read The Viscount and the Vixen first. While some may say this one could be read as a standalone, I don't recommend it.The romance is a bit unconventional and you'll like it more if you know the how this story came to be and by reading The Viscount and the Vixen you can do just that. Sorry for the vagueness, but I'm trying not to reveal any spoilers.

I found it very interesting that both George and his future son, Killian, have decidedly different views on marriage each being influenced by their own father's choices. I love finally seeing the love behind what others deemed in The Viscount and the Vixen as being madness. The story of Linnie and George was short and sweet without any big surprises, but I thoroughly enjoyed it none the less. It gave the reader a unique perspective of the Marquess of Marsden and made me more sympathetic to his actions in the previous novel. I still feel he was a bit underhanded, but I now understand where he was coming from.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. As I stated before, this was a bittersweet unconventional romance that tugged at my heartstrings. It had high points and lows which made for a very emotional read. I'm so glad the author decided to write it, and knew from the moment Ms. Heath announced she had this one in the works that I wanted to read it. I was not disappointed. While this is a Novella, Ms. Heath still managed to put a lot of heat into the story. 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.This one was definitely worth reading.

Order of the Hellions of Havisham series:
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