Monday, December 29, 2014

Early Review of Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire (Love at Stake, #16) by Kerrelyn Sparks

    Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire (Love at Stake)
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Paranormal Romance
    Series: Love at Stake (Book 16)
    Format: Paperback; 384 pages
    Publisher: Avon (December 30, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0062107771
    ISBN-13: 978-0062107770
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher.

Russell Ryan Hankelburg is a man bent on revenge, He survived thirty-nine years in a vampire coma only to wake to find the life he'd known was gone. He has no memory of being turned or the events that lead up to it. All he knows is he'd been found in one of Han's caves with Han's trademark tattoo of ownership branded on his right wrist. After hunting and searching for the Han, he was about to make the kill he'd been carefully planning for two years when she got in the way.

Jia is a woman driven by revenge, Thirteen years ago her family was killed and mutilated by Han. While were-tigers have nine lives, mutilating them ensures they won't come back to claim any unused lives. Since their deaths, Jia's been training to take down the master vampire who has terrorized her people for over forty years, When she chanced upon Han, she thought she'd finally get her chance at revenge. She, however, wasn't fully prepared and he got away sending his guards after her. She was saved from almost certain death by him.

Can two people team up to go after a common enemy?

"Before we get started, I think we should set some ground rules." When she nodded, he continued, "Rule number one: our partnership is strictly for business. Our mission is to find Han and kill him."

But what happens when rules become too hard not to be broken as feelings come into play?

This is the sixteenth book and what very may well be the last book of the Love at Stake series. I would highly recommend reading the first and perhaps a few more of the later books in the series to get a better understanding and view of the wonderful world Ms. Sparks has created for this series. Most of the books can be read as standalones as enough background information is given that you won't feel lost, however, you will miss some of the ambiance and magic that envelopes the series by just jumping in at this point. Now while this might be the last chapter in this part of the series, Ms. Sparks commented in the foreword that this may only be a temporary hiatus from the series. She stated she may eventually write more as she still has a few more tricks up her sleeves that she didn't yet use.

Russell is a cowboy at heart who once had aspirations of running his family's ranch, but the Vietnam war set those dreams on hold as he enlisted. Unfortunately for him, his being turned ended those dreams altogether. He's loyal, strong. smart, and has had to start his life all over again from scratch with none of the support the average person has after waking from his coma. Plus, he's had to deal with the changes brought on by his becoming a vampire. The past two years have been difficult for him and he'd like answers as to why Han turned him. Of the unit he was in charge of, he's the only one Master Han chose to keep alive.

Russell's initial thoughts of Jia, who is were-tiger royalty, is that she is a spoiled princess and he wants nothing to do with her. Slowly, she proves she's more than a pretty face and can kick butt with the best of them. While Jia can at times be impulsive and not think things fully through, Russell manages to reign her in and help her see reason. I enjoyed the contrast between these two and how they manage to find a common ground outside of their hate for Master Han. I loved seeing the spark between them grow into something strong and meaningful as each realizes they had something, or rather, someone to live for and ground them. Additionally, I liked the mutual respect the two came to have for each other.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses.  The novel was nicely paced and laced with juicy twists and turns. Plus, the identity of elusive megalomaniac Master Han is revealed as well as the plans he had in store for Russell. I thought this was a nice ending to a very fun series. Will Ms. Sparks do as she hinted and extend the series later? Well, we'll just have to wait and see. Perhaps a spin-off will present itself in the distant future? We can only cross our fingers and hope.

Oh, and if you think the cover is gorgeous, check out this beautiful stepback:

Order of the Love at Stake series:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley (Valentine Valley, #5) by Emma Cane

    Title: Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Contemporary Romance
    Series: Valentine Valley (Book 5)
    Format: Paperback; 368 pages
    Publisher: Avon (October 28, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0062323407
    ISBN-13: 978-0062323408 
Author's Website:
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher.

Once upon a time Kate Fenelli lived in Valentine Valley, but she had aspirations of working for a big law firm and challenging herself to make it in the big leagues. Over the years her dreams became reality and she thrived in the big city, but success came at a price. She lost the man she once thought to be the love of her life. The stress of a going to school combined with a new born and miscommunication led to divorce. Now everything she's worked for has been thrown into jeopardy due to a dispute between her and the partners of her law firm, she's come home to Valentine Valley feeling embarrassed, vulnerable, and questioning the choices she's made in her life. Once she'd been happy with her life and the choices she'd made, now she's starting to reevaluate everything.

Tony De Luca had thought himself immune to Kate's charm. She'd been the love of his life and she'd broken his heart. He'd picked up the pieces and built himself a new life, albeit a single one, in the years since they'd parted. Now he's the proud owner of a bar and he's surrounded by family, friends, and his son. One day he figures he'll remarry, he just hasn't met the right woman yet. Now, with her back in town he feels those old feelings stirring.

Can two people with so much history find love again? Timing, after all, is everything.

This was a cute story about love, forgiveness, and letting go of a past which cannot be changed. We've all at one point or another in our lives said things we wish we could take back, had our actions or words misinterpreted, and done something in the heat of the moment we later regretted. Sometimes things can be smoothed over, but sometimes they can't. For Tony and Kate it ended up with their marriage breaking up. Over the years they'd created a schedule for their son which was arranged in a way so the two would have the least amount of interaction between them. Now, with Kate being back home for a "sabbatical to reflect" (aka get her priorities straight) the two have no choice but to try to get along while living in the same circles.

I tip my hat to any author who attempts to write a romance about a couple who reunites after a divorce. I think it's one of the more ambitious endeavors a romance author can take on. Ms. Cane, however, does a excellent job with this one and I enjoyed the story. Things progress much more slowly in such a story because of all the history and hurt feeling between them which makes the moment of reconnection that much more tricky. What I found intriguing is that it's Tony who has the harder time getting over the past than Kate. Perhaps because he was the one left behind?

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. I felt Ms. Cane managed to capture many of the emotions and conflicts that occur when a couple divorces and the obstacles they most overcome when getting back together. I always think it ironic that when a couple marries there is a side of the church set aside for the family and friends of the bride and another for the groom's. A marriage is a time when a couple unites and comes together so I feel there should be not sides, but rather a happy coming together of families, fiends, and loved ones. When a divorce occurs, however, lines are once again clearly erected. Everyone feeling the need to pick a side. I loved how despite all the warnings and concerns from family and friends, Kate and Tony decided to take another shot at love after doing what they should have done long ago--talking and communicating about how they feel. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a FAN--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Panic (Panic #1) by Lauren Oliver

    Title: Panic
    Classification: Young Adult
    Genre: Realistic Fiction/Contemporary
    Series: Panic
    Format: Hardcover: 416 pages
    Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (March 4, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0062014552
    ISBN-13: 978-0062014559
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I love the author's writing style, so I bought this one. 

      Every year the town of Carp, New York runs an illegal game similar to Fear Factor with a get rich quick prize attached. The game is only open to that year's seniors and for some it is their only chance of escaping the poverty stricken town.

"No one knows who invented Panic, or when it first began. 

There are different theories. Some blame the shutting of the paper factory,which overnight placed 40 percent of the adult population of Carp, New York , on unemployment. (...) None of these stories is correct, however. Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere; because it was summer and there was nothing else to do.

The rules are simple. The day after graduation is Opening Jump, and the game goes all through the summer. After the final challenge, the winner takes the pot."

The only problem is that not everyone will come out of the games alive because this year the take is the largest ever. In the midst of the competition, two friends will enter hoping to change their circumstances. With alliances forged and broken, will their friendship survive the heat of the competition? More importantly, will they come out of the competition alive? With so much at stake, there is one thing you can bet on, not everyone will play fair and situations already dangerous will turn deadly. 

The last competitor standing will be the one to show no fear. Would you have what it takes to win?

This story had so much untapped potential, and while it was entertaining and I liked it, it could have been so much more. From the very beginning we know there are secrets about the game that only a handful of people know. The judges who remain anonymous throughout the competition also gain a substantial amount of wealth, and stories circulate of those who have escaped their fate by doing so. Greed, revenge, and hope are just some of the things which drive the competitors.

Heather never meant to enter the competition, but when her boyfriend dumps her just as she's about to tell him she loves him, she recklessly decides to risk it all and enter the competition. Her best friend, Nat, had already decided to enter and isn't too keen on having her best friend as competition. They end up making a pact that if either wins, they'll share the winnings with the other and they'll both escape.

Soon the two find themselves teaming up with Dodge who's motivation for entering is revenge. Dodge has a crush on Nat, and she uses that to her advantage luring him into a similar arrangement to the one she made with Heather. She's hoping to up her odds of coming out of the competition with something padding her pocket.

As the game progresses. the competition gets more intense as more and more competitors are eliminated and those still in the game begin to show just how far their willing to go to win. Unscrupulous behavior rears its ugly head, but I felt Ms. Oliver could have kicked this up a notch. Perhaps because it's a young adult novel, she just didn't want to go there? Additionally, some of the tasks assigned weren't what I would have expected and seemed to be more aimed at angering certain residents in the small town than testing a person's fearlessness. It made me wonder who was in charge of the overall competition and challenges and what was their motivation?

Overall, I gave this one 3 out of 5 roses. It was a book about friendship, trust, loyalty, greed, revenge, (in other words human nature)  and how we handle the fear and disappointments life throws our way. It's about growing up and realizing what's really important. I can see how some would compare this one to The Hunger Games, There are some definite similarities, but The Hunger Games way out classes this one in complexity and suspense. As for making this one into a movie? I think Hollywood may be on to something--the premise for the book was awesome. I do, however, highly recommend rewriting parts and making the story more gritty, developing the characters more, and making the contestants a tad more ruthless. I believe this is only the second book that I've ever said that about because usually I don't want Hollywood touching any part of a story. By the way, if you hadn't heard, Universal Pictures bought the movie rights to this one. We'll have to wait and see if it actually makes it to the big screen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Groom Says Yes (Brides of Wishmore Book 3) by Cathy Maxwell

    Title: The Groom Says Yes
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Historical Romance
    Series: Brides of Wishmore
    Format: Paperback: 384 pages
    Publisher: Avon (September 30, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0062219294
    ISBN-13: 978-0062219299
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I bought this one.

Sabrina Davidson is a twenty-nine years old and has never been kissed. Caring for her ailing mother when her father would not, she missed her chance at finding a husband and is now considered to be on the shelf. She thought all would be well, as her father had no plans to remarry, but when a widow with a rather seedy reputation springs upon her that her father has proposed, her plans for the future become questionable.

Cormac Enright is a down-on-his-luck nice guy who is accused of a crime he didn't commit--one with a death sentence attached. He wants answers, and the man who lied to put him behind bars is the one who holds them. He's hoping to persuade him to tell the truth so he can clear his name, but as he sets out to find the man, he takes ill. 

Now as these two paths collide one kiss, made in a moment of weakness, will change everything.

This was one of those cute stories that makes you smile, but I have to admit the initial kiss made me cringe a bit. I don't care how handsome a guy is if they're sporting a potentially life threatening illness that is contagious, my lips are sealed. lol Other than the initial kiss, I enjoyed the book. Sabrina was the type of character to normally do what is expected of her while trying live up to her family's expectations and reputation. Some might think her snobbish or snooty, but I felt she just didn't fit in well with others. When she's confronted by her father's fiance I couldn't blame her for doubting the woman's claim. Her father had given her no indication he was involved with anyone, and what he had said about the woman in question had not been the least bit complimentary. What I enjoyed about Sabrina is that she starts to grow a backbone right before our eyes and begins to live life on her own terms not the terms of others. While her behavior was rather reckless, I rather enjoyed it.

Cormac is a former captain in the army and a nobleman who doesn't feel worthy of his title. He got himself into a bad situation by trying to run away from who he is and his past. The problem is you can't usually find what you're looking for while running. You have a tendency to pass by that which you truly want. While finding one's self sentenced to death is no walk in the park, it gives him an opportunity to exorcise old ghosts and get his priorities straight. It also gave him the opportunity to start truly living again.

Overall, I gave this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. It was a fun read that had a good pace and happy ending. I enjoyed watching Sabrina and Cormac grow as individuals and fall in love. On the Lisarenee Romance Scale, this one earned a STEAM--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.

Order of the Brides of Wishmore series:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

    Title: Flowers from the Storm
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Historical Romance
    Format: Paperback; 553 pages
    Publisher: Avon Books, Inc.; First Edition edition (January 1, 1992)
    ISBN-10: 0380761327
    ISBN-13: 978-0380761326
    Author's Website: 

He was born into a life of privilege.
She was born the daughter of a scholar. 

He would never have given her a second glance, and if he had, he probably would have broken her heart. Truly they didn't have much in common, then one fatal night he lost it all and she would be the one to give it back...

Sometimes people come into your life when you need them most whether you deserve them or not.

As I read the prologue of this book I wondered how I could ever like the hero of this book? He's vein, selfish, careless, privileged, wealthy, and egotistical. I thought to myself the author is going to have a hard sell on the romance with this one where I was concerned because I thoroughly disliked the man. You know what? I truly love it when an author can take a character like this and turn him around in my eyes. Ms. Kinsale truly delivered with this one.

Early on in the book Christian, the Duke of Jervaulx, suffers what I suspect, from the symptoms described, is a stroke. He loses his ability to speak or understand what others are saying to him. His coordination is off and he's unable to do the simplest of tasks like buttoning a shirt. He has to relearn almost everything but before there is a light at the end of the tunnel, he's thrown into his own private hell. The doctor whose care he has been put in thinks there's no hope for him. Using techniques which today would seem rather barbaric and suffering abuse from one of his caretakers, he's helpless and prone to fits of violence. Maddy is his light and hope because she sees what no one else seems to be able to--the man who still resides inside. The relearning of words reminded me a little of what I recall in one of the older Helen Keller movies in it's emotional stirrings. My daughter has an audio processing disorder for which I once read a book called 'Like Sound Through Water' and the trouble with the understanding of spoken words reminded me of that condition. Certain sounds can't be heard by people with the disorder and so they struggle sometimes to figure out what a person is actually saying. Luckily, my daughter had nothing as severe as the Duke. I felt the anger, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness from being unable to communicate with others was portrayed well, and I could just imagine the pain of it all.

As for the romance, I liked how gradually the two fell in love. It was almost like seeing a complicated puzzle of connect the dots being solved where connecting any one of the many dots out of sequence could have thrown the whole outcome off. I enjoyed how the two gradually came to respect and depend on each other and each needed to give up some of their previous lifestyle which I think captures what a good marriage is composed of--compromise. What makes this romance unique is that these two are as different as day and night. Maddy's been brought up as a Quaker who is devoutly religious whereas Christian is not. Maddy has always lived virtuously and modestly whereas Christian lived recklessly with no regard for anyone but himself. Yet despite the differences and perhaps because of them the two fit perfectly together.

The song that came to mind as I was reading one was 'Something Good' by Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music. The lyrics:
"Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good"

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. It was an emotional roller coaster of a read that tugged at my heartstrings. I love how the author managed to capture so much emotion on paper. Plus, she managed to accomplish something I didn't think was possible--she made me like Christian. I felt his personality changed from that of an egotistical selfish jerk to a caring and loving individual. 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, December 15, 2014

A Fistful of Charms (The Hollows, #4) by Kim Harrison

    A Fistful of Charms
    Adult Fiction
    Genre: Urban Fantasy
    Series: The Hollows (Book 4)
    Format: Paperback; 544 pages
    Publisher: HarperTorch (June 27, 2006)
    ISBN-10: 0060788194
    ISBN-13: 978-0060788193
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I bought this one.

Rachel Morgan has gained quite a reputation for herself by leaving the IS (Inderland Security) and surviving their death threat, living with a vamp, and becoming the Alpha of a small two person werewolf pack. Now her reputation is catching up to her and people are taking notice--and not in a good way. She's about to get an education in werewolf politics. One she's unlikely to forget.

On the home front, Rachel and Jenks are still not talking, but when Jax, Jenk's son, ends up in trouble the two set aside their differences and unite to save him. Jax isn't sure where he is only that Nick left and never returned. Being the dead of winter, the situation is dire because winter is the time when most pixies hibernate and many do not come out of it alive. Without a secure warm place to live and a steady food source, Jax's chances of survival are slim. Whatever Nick was involved in most certainly got him into trouble. Never one to leave someone she cares about in danger, she'll attempt to find him, and if he's alive, get him out of whatever trouble he's in.

This was another fun book with surprisingly no finger pointing going on at Trent. In fact, the cookie maker doesn't really make an appearance in this one. Instead, we get to see the darker side of Nick. It's been hinted at throughout the books that Nick had a sordid past and in this book we get a look at the true Nick. He has landed himself in some hot water and without help, I doubt he'd have been able to get himself out of it. Ironically,  Rachel's true character comes shining through as well,  because even though she and Nick are finished, and most would find her justified in wiping her hands of him, she can't abandon him to his fate.

One of my favorite things in this book (spoiler alert) is that Jenks gets biggie sized. Due to the weather, the distance they need to travel, and the need to travel fast, Rachel makes the four inch pixie into a six foot four inch tall man. Kim did a great job with this adding in of little tidbits here and there of Jenk's struggle to adjust to being bigger and unable to fly. Plus, his personality comes shining through in this one and, I admit, I fell a little in love with the pixie. Additionally, the interactions among Ivy, Rachel and Jenks really highlights their friendship, and we get a great look at how these three work as a team--something we haven't seen a lot of so far in this series.

Kim also gives us a peek into werewolf politics, the life of pixies outside Jenk's family, and a personal glimpse of the struggle that Ivy faces on a day-to-day basis against her vampire nature, I have to admit, an incident which happens between Ivy and Rachel get rather intense and a little scary, but it reminds us of the danger that Rachel puts herself in by befriending vampires We also get a little insight into what Piscary did to Ivy and it isn't pretty. I shudder just at the thought. The story also brings to light how amazing it is that Rachel can maintain a relationship with Ivy and Kisten, Most would run away without a second thought after some of the situations she's found herself in. It takes a lot of trust and faith to be friends with a person when the slightest mistake could get you accidentally killed.

Overall, I gave this book 4 1/2 out of 5. I loved watching the world and characters of this series grow and evolve right before my very eyes. I loved the little details included as well as the family feel to Rachel's motley crew. Sherrilyn Kenyon is always talking of how families don't always have to made by blood, but can be chosen, and in the Hollows series, it doesn't have to be said, it's clearly seen. To me this series reads like an adult version of the Harry Potter series. It's beautifully laid out but with more romance (obviously) and more grit. I have to admit while I like Harry Potter, I always thought it was his friends who made him special rather than him being the standout everyone thought him to be. In the Hollows, there is no doubt that while Rachel's friends are special, Rachel is in a class all her own. You can see the difference.

Order of the series:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Early Review of Say Yes to the Marquess (Castles Ever After #2) by Tessa Dare

    Title: Say Yes to the Marquess
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Historical Romance
    Series: Castles Ever After (Book 2)
    Format: Paperback; 384 pages
    Publisher: Avon (December 30, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 006224020X
    ISBN-13: 978-0062240200
      Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher.

Miss Clio Whitmore is on a mission. For eight years she has patiently waited for the man who proposed to her, to marry her. In that time, she's been the butt of jokes, the center of gossip, and been nicknamed 'Miss Wait-More'. Now her intended is finally coming home to make good on the promise he made, but Clio no longer wishes to marry the man. After coming into a substantial inheritance she's determined to live life on her own terms and not marry someone who doesn't want her. She just needs his brother to sign the papers to end the marriage contract.

Rafe Brandon is the second son of a Marquess. All his life he's played second fiddle to his older brother, Piers, and has always felt second best. Left in charge of things while his brother has been out of the country, he's determined to hold things together and not fail. With his brother's fiance wanting to terminate the marriage contract three weeks before his brother is to arrive home, he'll do anything in his power to hold things together. The problem is that Miss Clio Whitmore has always held a certain fascination for him. Can he hold things together without giving in to the temptation that is Clio?

This was a humorous read that occasionally leaned toward the cheesy side, but it wasn't over done and made me laugh just the same.When you read about the "Wheeee!" moment you'll know what I'm talking about. *grin* The heroine is a curvy blue-eyed blond who's been raised to believe she's overweight and always has to improve herself. The songs All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor and Shake It Off by Taylor Swift came to mind as I was reading. Clio's mother, with the best of intentions, was strict and determined to make her daughter the perfect wife for a diplomat. Unlike most of her fellow female peers, Clio received the best of educations and that is the one thing she is most grateful to her mother for providing. It's her education combined with her inheritance and the death of  the last of the major players (Pier's father) who set up the union that have given her the courage to request the marriage contract be dissolved. 

Rafe is a prizefighter who held the title of  Britain's heavyweight champion for four years. His immediate goal in life is to gain back his title, and he's about to start training when Clio disrupts his life. With his father's recent death and his brother being out of the country, he's determined things will not fall apart on his watch. He'll do whatever it takes, including planning the wedding himself, to convince Clio to marry his brother, Piers, the Marquess of Granville. This leads to many fun, silly, and irresistible situations as Rafe put himself right smack dab in the middle of temptation's way.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. It was lighthearted, silly, sexy, and fun. If you think you'll have issues with someone engaged falling in love with someone else, let me assure you Clio and Piers had hardly seen or interacted with one another in the 8 years they'd been engaged. It was far from a love match. I loved watching Rafe's inner struggle to do the right thing when all he wanted to do was the opposite. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one gained 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. Oh, and if you're wondering, this was the second book to the Castles Ever After series, but you can dive into it without reading the previous book and not feel lost.

Order of the Castles Ever After series:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Illusion (Swept Away, #1) by J.S. Cooper

    Title: Illusion (Swept Away)
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Romantic Suspense/Contemporary Romance/Erotic
    Series: Swept Away
    Paperback: 368 pages
    Publisher: Gallery Books (November 11, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 1476790981
    ISBN-13: 978-1476790985
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher. Thanks.

Bianca has been secretly investigating the death of her mother for the past several months when she is kidnapped. One second she's sitting at the bar waiting for her best friend to reappear from the restroom and the next she's waking up in the trunk of a car wondering what in the world is going on. But she's not alone. Jakob, a young man she briefly met at a coffee shop earlier that day is in the trunk with her. Is he an innocent bystander who accidentally got mixed up in this mess by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or is there a connection between the two that neither of them knows? One thing seems clear, they'll have to work together to survive.

This story had one of the best beginnings I've read in a long time. It had a quick pace and I immediately became ensnared by the mystery of what was happening, About 150 or so pages in to the book, however, I kind of figured out the twist and wondered why Bianca didn't as well? She kept making observations, sometimes ones even I didn't pick up on. She just never seemed to connect the dots until someone all but pointed it out to her. I have to admit, however, I loved the story despite guessing what was happening and still ended up enjoying the ride.

Bianca is smart but too trusting, She seems to be ruled by her emotions and very naive. She's obsessed with movies, which is good as she's a movie critic for a newspaper. I found it charming how she tended to associate everything that happened with something that happened in a movie. I have a couple of friends like that.

Jakob is the mystery man in this whole thing. He's good looking and seems to take charge from the very beginning, which Bianca seems to like. She doesn't know him from Adam and that makes me leery of him. I could never get myself to fully trust him as some of his actions seemed rather questionable. Plus, I didn't like the rather possessive nature he had when it came to Bianca. I couldn't figure out for the longest time if he was what he said he was or part of whatever scheme was taking place.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and gave it 4 out of 5 roses It had a good pace, was intriguing, and fairly steamy with some nice twists. There was a small flaw that gave me a good chuckle, but that I won't hold against the author as once upon a time I thought the same thing, Ms. Cooper thought bananas grow on trees which they don't. Banana plants have these huge fleshy type of stalks which are probably made up of about 90 percent water. Their tops end in huge floppy green leaves and there are no branches which would make them difficult to climb. They have long stalks as wide as some small to medium sized trees, but  I wouldn't attempt to climb one as I'd be afraid you would knock them out of the ground as they have a fairly shallow root system. But I have to thank the author because every time I think of Bianca up a banana plant clinging to the stalk and Jakob, a total alpha male, looking up and staring at her from the ground, I break out in fits of giggles. I picture an expression on his face similar to that of an adult finding a child sitting out in the open with their eyes shut thinking no one can see them. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a SHOWER rating--a cold shower is necessary (need I say more?). Some books should come with a warning - make sure your significant other is handy or your shower is in working order. lol Oh, and I should probably warn you, this one ends in a cliff hanger that had me wishing I had he next book in hand.

Notes to Keep You in the Know:
This is what a banana plant looks like:
The above fence is approximately 8 feet tall, but if memory serves the parent to my baby banana plants grew to be over twice the height of mine. It resided closer to the gulf where it was a tad bit warmer. I should point out there's a smaller banana plant behind the big one. That is why you see the smaller leaves. I usually wait until the weather is a little colder to cut off the dead leaves because I've found creepy crawlies and snakes in these plants which tend to be less active in cold weather. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

    Title: The Miniaturist
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Magical Realism/Historical Fiction
    Format: Hardcover; 416 pages
    Publisher: Ecco (August 26, 2014)
    ISBN-10: 0062306812
    ISBN-13: 978-0062306814
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I borrowed the book from the library.

A young bride journeys unescorted to her new home across the country to Amsterdam. When she arrives it is not her new husband, Johannes, who greets her, but his sister, Mira. Nella quickly learns things are not as they should be as her husband all but ignores her and her sister-in-law holds the purse strings and maintains command over the household. Secrets and mysteries abound and Nella is left feeling like an outsider, and while she's surrounded by people, she has never felt more alone. When her husband gives her a cabinet house for a wedding present, she's insulted and sees it as something one would give a child. At eighteen, she's definitely no child and she quickly wonders if he sees her as just another beautiful thing he's collected over the years. But strangely and surprisingly the cabinet becomes her focal point as the miniaturist whom she hires to fill it reveals things about the household that Nella knows nothing about, sometimes eerily predicting things before they happen. Is the miniaturist a friend or foe? Will she be the one to help Nella find her place or perhaps lead her to her doom?

“How can this house of secrets ever be called a home?”

This was a delightful story cleverly written and filled with rich symbolism, unexpected twists, and mystery. I love how the beginning is the end and the end is only the beginning, at least for Nella. The story is set in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century, which was touted to be Amsterdam's Golden age. An age when "ships from the city sailed to North America, Indonesia, Brazil and Africa and formed the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam's merchants financed expeditions to the four corners of the world, and they acquired the overseas possessions which formed the seeds of the later Dutch colonies."* The people of the time were under the control of the Burgomaster (aka mayor) and a body of regents with control over all aspects of the city's life, and a dominant voice in the foreign affairs of Holland. At the time of the story, Amsterdam was just coming into its own.

Nella's husband, Johannes, is a successful merchant with reputations of always being able to move his merchandise at a good price. He's considered one of the wealthier people in the area, and that is at the root of what ends up happening. Nella's new household is full of secrets to which she is not privy. Slowly she starts to uncover the secrets of those she lives with and, as she does, things begin to fall apart. Nella feels from the very beginning very powerless, as woman don't have a lot of power in the seventeenth century. Divorce is unheard of and once you’re married, you pretty much have to accept your fate--your bed, as they say, is made.

The role of the Miniaturist is an uncertain one from the very beginning. With each new delivery, items which Nella hasn't asked for are included with a note. Curiously, in the first interaction between Nella and the Miniaturist, the Miniaturist talks of herself in first person. "I FIGHT TO EMERGE."  Later she gives what appears to be a warning, "NELLA: THE TURNIP CANNOT THRIVE IN THE TULIP’S PATCH OF SOIL." This makes Nella wonder if she's the turnip or the tulip? I personally like the use of tulip as "tulip mania" was said to have occurred right around the time period this book took place. It was a time when tulips were a highly sought after commodity and worth quite a bit of money, but shortly thereafter plummeted in price because the market didn't reflect the true price of the item. The situation before prices plummet is sometimes referred to as tulip or an economic bubble. I can't help but feel this was a bit of foreshadowing on the author's part as to what was to come, not so much in a literal sense but in a figurative one. After all, bubbles do tend to burst.

At another point the Miniaturist says, "THINGS CAN CHANGE". This phrase reminded me of a quote from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” Both are hopeful, both say change is possible, and both state the obvious--that things need to change to get better. It made me wonder if the author was also making a statement that while things have changed from the seventeenth century to the present, have they really changed enough? Have we really made that much progress in the time from one to other? After all, bigotry still exists, people are still not accepting of those who are different or don't conform to society's beliefs, and people still envy those who have more.

Overall, I gave this book 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. It had a good pace, was smartly written, and kept my attention throughout. I can understand why this book has received so much attention. I'm sure there are things (symbolism and foreshadowing) within it that I didn't catch upon my first reading. The mystery of the Miniaturist and the secrets of Nella's husband's family kept me entertained and intrigued. I recommend reading the beginning a second time after finishing the book to know the true ending. I rather like how towards the end of the book, Nella figuratively finds herself and understands what the Miniaturist was trying to do. I enjoyed how the author sewed this tale together because it made me feel as though I was a part of it. More importantly, I liked how the book lingered on with me after I finished it. It’s the type of book that makes you ponder and think and, in my opinion, those are the best kind.
* Found at

Notes to Keep You in the Know:
Today, "'tulip mania' is used as a metaphor to describe an economic bubble. People start investing in a particular asset in large quantities because of positive sentiments about it. This pushes the prices of that asset to very high levels. After reaching a peak, prices suffer a sharp fall due to an extensive sell off, leaving the asset holders bankrupt. These assets are metaphorically called tulips."
Found at

An interview with Jessie Burton done by BBC News 24:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Most Anticipated New Releases of December 2014

The following list is comprised of books, short stories, and novellas my friends, family, and I are most looking forward to reading in December. It also consists of books by popular authors and others I've heard a lot of hype about. I am not flawless in my endeavors and sometimes I'll accidentally leave one or more books off the list that I shouldn't. Let me know if one of your favorites is missing. Sometimes my search techniques just don't work as well as I wish they did.

The list is divided into weekly releases. If you'd like to read a book's description, just click on the cover photo and you'll be magically transferred to Goodreads. Remember, a book a day keeps the boredom at bay! Happy reading.

December 1, 2014 - Marked (Dark Protectors) by Rebecca Zanetti
December 1, 2014 - The Secret Affair (The Westmorelands) by Brenda Jackson
December 1, 2014 - A String of Beads (Jane Whitefield) by Thomas Perry
December 1, 2014 - Ticker by Lisa Mantchev
December 1, 2014 - The Unimaginable by Dina Silver
December 2, 2014 - Aground on St. Thomas (Mystery in the Islands) by Rebecca M. Hale
December 2, 2014 - Black Knight (Witch World Book 2) by Christopher Pike
December 2, 2014 - The Boy with the Hidden Name: Otherworld Book Two by Skylar Dorset
December 2, 2014 - Broken Bonds (Cold Creek Book 3) by Karen Harper
December 2, 2014 - Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery by Christopher Fowler
December 2, 2014 - Checkmate: The Bowers Files by Steven James
December 2, 2014 - Darkness Falls: A Dark Angels Novel by Keri Arthur
December 2, 2014 - Death With All the Trimmings: A Key West Food Critic Mystery by Lucy Burdette
December 2, 2014 - Devoted to Him (Davison & Allegra) by Sofia Tat
December 2, 2014 - Full Force and Effect;Tom Clancy (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 10) by Mark Greaney
December 2, 2014 - Full Throttle (Black Knights Inc.) by Julie Ann Walker
December 2, 2014 - Geared for the Grave (A Cycle Path Mystery) by Duffy Brown
December 2, 2014 - The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer (A Paws and Claws Mystery Book 2) by Krista Davis
December 2, 2014 - Holding Holly: A Love and Football Novella by Julie Brannagh
December 2, 2014 - If You've Got It, Haunt It (A Haunted Vintage Mystery) by Rose Pressey
December 2, 2014 - In Bed with a Spy (Spy in the Ton series Book 2) by Alyssa Alexander
December 2, 2014 - Inspector Specter (A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery Book 6) by E.J. Copperman
December 2, 2014 - It's a Wonderful Fireman: A Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel Novella by Jennifer Bernard
December 2, 2014 - I've Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm (The Lords of Worth) by Kelly Bowen
December 2, 2014 - Jason (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) by Laurell K. Hamilton
December 2, 2014 - Keeper of the Castle: A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery by Juliet Blackwell
December 2, 2014 - Mai Tai'd Up (The Cocktail Series Book 4) by Alice Clayton
December 2, 2014 - Meow If It's Murder (Nick and Nora Mysteries) by T.C. LoTempio
December 2, 2014 - Murder, Served Simply: An Amish Quilt Shop Mystery by Isabella Alan
December 2, 2014 - Once Upon a Grind (A Coffeehouse Mystery Book 14) by Cleo Coyle
December 2, 2014 - Only for You (One Night of Passion Book 3) by Beth Kery
December 2, 2014 - Our Time Is Now (A Time Wanderer Novel) by Chloe Douglas
December 2, 2014 - The Queen: A Novella (The Selection) by Kiera Cass
December 2, 2014 - Ravencliffe (Blythewood series) by Carol Goodman
December 2, 2014 - Scandal at Six (Lois Meade Mystery) by Ann Purser
December 2, 2014 - Scorched Eggs (A Scrapbooking Mystery Book 6) by Laura Childs
December 2, 2014 - Spell Booked (Retired Witches Mysteries Series Book 1) by Joyce Lavene
December 2, 2014 - Suspicion at Seven: A Lois Meade Mystery by Ann Purser
December 2, 2014 - Universal Alien (Katherine "Kitty" Katt Book 10) by Gini Koch
December 2, 2014 - The Vault (A Farm Novel) by Emily McKay
December 2, 2014 - Vicious; Pretty Little Liars #16 by Sara Shepard
December 2, 2014 - Wolf's Fall: An Alpha Pack Novel by J.D. Tyler
December 3, 2014 - The Ever After of Ella and Micha (The Secret Book 4) by Jessica Sorensen

December 9, 2014 - For Real by Alison Cherry
December 9, 2014 - The Iris Fan: A Novel of Feudal Japan (Sano Ichiro Novels Book 18) by Laura Joh Rowland
December 9, 2014 - Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
December 9, 2014 - No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown
December 9, 2014 - Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
December 9, 2014 - Ripped (The REAL series Book 5) by Katy Evans
December 9, 2014 - Suspicion by Alexandra Monir
December 9, 2014 - Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas
December 9, 2014 - The Wishing Season (A Chapel Springs Romance Book 3) by Denise Hunter
December 9, 2014 - Zodiac by Romina Russell
December 10, 2014 - Elect (Eagle Elite Book 2) by Rachel Van Dyken

December 15, 2014 - The Lost (Witch & Wizard) by James Patterson and Emily Raymond
December 16, 2014 - Hope Rising (Of Love and War) by Stacy Henrie
December 16, 2014 - Kaleidoscope (Colorado Mountain Series) by Kristen Ashley
December 16, 2014 - The Last Cowboy in Texas (Deep in the Heart of Texas) by Katie Lane
December 16, 2014 - Murder Tightly Knit (An Amish Village Mystery Book 2) by Vannetta Chapman
December 16, 2014 - Revenant (Demonica) by Larissa Ione
December 16, 2014 - Seaside Sunsets (Love in Bloom: Seaside Summers, Book 3) by Melissa Foster

December 22, 2014 - Winter Falls (Twin Willows Trilogy) by Nicole Maggi
December 23, 2014 - Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen
December 23, 2014 - This Shattered World (The Starbound Trilogy Book 2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

December 30, 2014 - After We Fell (The After Series Book 3) by Anna Todd
December 30, 2014 - The Assassination Option (A Clandestine Operations Novel) by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
December 30, 2014 - Blood Assassin (The Sentinels Series Book 2) by Alexandra Ivy
December 30, 2014 - Carnival of Lies (Untamed City) by Melissa Marr (43-page prequel)
December 30, 2014 - Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire (Love at Stake) by Kerrelyn Sparks
December 30, 2014 - Die Again: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel by Tess Gerritsen
December 30, 2014 - Dogwood Hill (A Chesapeake Shores Novel Book 12) by Sherryl Woods
December 30, 2014 - The Duke of Dark Desires (The Wild Quartet) by Miranda Neville
December 30, 2014 - Hush by Karen Robards
December 30, 2014 - Ignite (Defy Series Book 2) by Sara B. Larson
December 30, 2014 - Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass
December 30, 2014 - Love Me If You Dare: A Coral Cove Novel by Toni Blake
December 30, 2014 - The Loving Daylights by Lynsay Sands
December 30, 2014 - Low Midnight (Kitty Norville Book 13) by Carrie Vaughn
December 30, 2014 - Murder at the Book Group (Book Group Mysteries) by Maggie King
December 30, 2014 - No Fortunate Son: A Pike Logan Thriller by Brad Taylor
December 30, 2014 - Rain on the Dead (Sean Dillon) by Jack Higgins
December 30, 2014 - Say Yes to the Marquess: Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare
December 30, 2014 - Saving Grace by Jane Green
December 30, 2014 - Silver Deceptions by Sabrina Jeffries
December 30, 2014 - Spirit of the Wolves: A Novel (The Wolf Chronicles Book 3) by Dorothy Hearst
December 30, 2014 - Wedding Cake (Culinary Mysteries) by Josi S. Kilpack
December 30, 2014 - Wickedly Wonderful (A Baba Yaga Novel) by Deborah Blake

For fans of Kelley Armstrong, she has what I'm assuming is a graphic novel coming out:

December 31, 2014 - Bounty Hunt by Kelley Armstrong
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