Monthly Archives: April 2014

Casebook

casebookCasebook
by Mona Simpson
Published by Knopf
336 pages
Genre: fiction 
5 / 5

 

I have been a fan of Mona Simpson since I read Anywhere but Here lo those many years ago. She understood the perspective of an unsettled teenage girl, as well as that of the girl’s mother. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Casebook only solidifies the love.

When we meet Miles Adler-Rich, he is a grade schooler who discovers while eavesdropping that his parents’ marriage is fracturing. He overhears his father say that he has an interest in another woman. Miles’ curiosity is piqued, to say the least, and thus begins his journey into domestic spying.

As Miles grows up, his fascination with his mother only increases. I don’t mean in an Oedipal kind of way, although I’m sure Freud would disagree; Miles seems to truly want to understand her more than anything. What kind of woman gets left by her husband, forced to raise a son and two daughters (twins whom Miles refers to as Boop One and Boop Two), and doesn’t give up? That’s the thing about Miles’ mother: she never stops believing that better is just around the corner. She refuses to allow the divorce to defeat her.

Mirroring this somewhat is Miles’ friend Hector’s parents, also divorced, but perhaps not as amicably as Miles’. Hector joins Miles in the spy game, which becomes increasingly vital and fascinating to the boys as Miles’ mother begins to date. Mims’ Man Friend is a nerdy guy who lives on the opposite coast of Miles and his California home. But Mims likes this guy, and Miles considers it his job of sorts to suss out Eli.

There are comic moments in Miles’ espionage, as well as within his family and friends. But there is a sort of bittersweet sheen to this story, a sense that Miles will uncover some things that could lead to heartbreak and loss of innocence. We watch Miles grow up into manhood, and Simpson expertly delivers those changes of voice that must occur as a character matures. With each nugget he finds, Miles grows a little, and Simpson reveals this with delicacy and affection. She even completes the intricate feat of allowing adult Miles to comment on child Miles’ thoughts and experiences.

Of course, Miles does uncover some somewhat unsavory details about some of his spy subjects. He finds them disturbing enough that he calls in an investigative expert, Ben Orion, who fills in the gaps left in Miles’ life by his divorced parents. Ben Orion is more than just a supporting character, though. He helps not just Miles, but Miles’ family. I found myself wishing I had a Ben Orion in my life.

Miles also sees his hero worship of his father take a dent, although not an awful one. As Miles himself observes, he’s okay with his father’s lady friends because he doesn’t feel threatened by them. One of the few “good” things Miles’ father does is maintain a strong relationship with his children, and even with his ex-wife, and that makes a powerful impact on the boy.

There is a little mystery here – what’s up with Eli? – but the heart of this story is Miles, a boy growing into a man and all of those attendant issues. Remember when you discovered that your parents weren’t the mythical, mystical masters of the universe you thought they were? It’s something you observed and experienced over time, right? Perhaps Miles’ realization is less organic, but its lessons are as real as any you’ve experienced.

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The Accident

the accidentThe Accident
by C. L. Taylor
Published by AVON HarperCollins
Genre: mystery 
4 / 5

 

When Sue’s fifteen-year-old daughter Charlotte steps in front of a bus in a suicide attempt and winds up in a coma, Sue is determined to find out what happened.

We quickly learn that Charlotte had some secrets, but she is not the only one in her family to have them. Her father, a British politician, for instance, seems to have a few. Sue harbors some herself. But as closely as she values her own secrets, Sue is bent on understanding Charlotte’s.

Her investigation leads her down one path after another, and she quickly realizes that there is a whole lot to Charlotte that her mother never suspected.

At times the plot feels convoluted and a bit too reliant on coincidences, but C. L. Taylor tells this story in a way that will keep you turning the pages. One thing I particularly liked is that you’re never quite sure if you actually like any of the characters, just as you’re never quite sure if Sue is reliable and trustworthy.

I don’t want to say much more because there are some plot twists that must be enjoyed as you read them, not ahead of time in a review. But trust this: if you enjoy a good mystery, you will enjoy the heck out of this book.

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Blog Tour: On the Rocks

On the RocksOn the Rocks
by Erin Duffy
Published by William Morrow
322 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; chick lit 
4 / 5
Imagine this: you are shopping for your wedding gown, and as you stand in a Vera Wang confection (your dream dress!), sipping on complimentary Champagne, your best friend and Maid of Honor happens to check Facebook.

And discovers that your fiancé considers himself to be no longer in a relationship.

Such is the nightmare that Abby faces in the opening pages of this book.

She reacts the way most of us would: she digs into pints of Ben & Jerry’s and soothes her aching heart with ice cream and self-pity. When six months passes and she has progressed onto no new stage of grief, best friend Grace drags her by the scruff of the neck and hauls her out to a rental cottage to spend the summer near a Rhode Island beach.

Abby’s summer of self-discovery is as rocky as they come. She doesn’t want to go, even if she realizes that Grace has a point. Abby likes feeling sorry for herself; she enjoys the sadness that comes from her broken heart. Ben, the ex-fiancé, texts her occasionally, and Abby jumps at those texts like a dog to a bone. How self-flagellating can you get?

Grace knows, though, that Abby needs to remove herself from memories of Ben and to create new ones. In doing so, Abby will prepare her heart for a new romance, perhaps even with someone she meets in Rhode Island. Not that Grace is much of an expert in the ways of love, mind you. Grace’s boyfriend has a wife of his own, rendering Grace one of those women who thinks her lover will forsake his marriage and commit to her.

And so Abby heads to Rhode Island, where she first meets one of Grace’s co-workers, and then begins meeting others. She goes on dates, she makes new friends, she winds up enjoying herself, which surprises her most of all.

She also – more importantly – learns to be her own person, something that Grace observes. Can Grace apply these lessons to her own life?

This is a wonderful story of friendship, first and foremost. Yes, Grace has little romantic interludes, but it turns out that Whitney Houston had it right: the greatest love of all is learning to love yourself.

You will enjoy meeting all of the quirky characters in this book, but most of all, you will enjoy tagging along on Abby and Grace’s voyages of self-realization. We want them to be happy, internally more than anything. Erin Duffy knows this, and she crafts characters who seem like us, like our friends, like people we know and are. By rooting for them, we root for ourselves.

 

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Promo Blitz & Giveaway: Deadly Revelations

 

Deadly Revelation – PROMO Blitz
By Andrea Johnson Beck
Psychological Romantic Suspense
Date Published: April 8, 2014
 

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Love.
Dr. Anne Montgomery’s heart and soul belongs to Adam Whitney but her tyrannical husband, Carter Montgomery, continues his ruthless reign by punishing Anne with another murder. Will Carter succeed and take away everyone Anne has ever cared about?
Family.
Something Anne has craved since childhood. Dr. Casey Adler has been the only one Anne considered a sister, until Claire Monroe enters her life. Can her newfound sister be trusted?
Betrayal.
 
Someone close to Anne is helping Carter and everyone is a suspect. As revenge consumes her, she slips further away from Adam but will unexpected news thrust her into the darkness, or will Anne battle the demons and take her life back?
EXCERPT
                    If Anne had ever felt Montgomery blood course through her veins it was in that moment. Every cell boiled beneath her skin. Murder was the only thought in her mind—severe, merciless murder. The kind that would tantalize viewers to gawk at their television screens as helicopters flew over the grotesque scene as a dismembered body was rolled into the back of a black windowless van. The headline would read, “Wife attacked psychotic drug-addicted husband.” And won.

Anne’s emotion paralyzed as did her muscles. She knew fear. Experienced loss, anger, and hatred, tasted betrayal and revenge. What skimmed along her reasoning was new. Darker than anything she had ever felt before. The smell of death burned her nostrils and blood seeped into the floor like crimson polish.
                    In the early morning hours, as Anne slept in Adam’s arms, Carter had invaded the house, cut out another piece of her sanity and then vanished into the night. Carter was the phantom in children’s bedtime stories. The monster that could slip through the shadows, steal souls and taint dreams. Carter was not only Anne’s husband, but also her nightmare.
                    Bites pricked her heart the longer she stared at Robert’s executed body. Anne’s vision blurred and moved and at times tricked her mind into seeing movement from him but he was dead. Robert was dead. Carter had invaded Michael’s home to make a statement. He would never let Anne go.
Dr. Anne Jamison, a brilliant neuropsychiatrist, is living the concrete jungle life in Minneapolis with her fiancé, prominent attorney Adam Whitney. But the mysterious death of Carter Leeds, her beloved former boyfriend, still haunts her…
After three years of unanswered questions, a mysterious package finds its way to Anne. The note inside reveals the possibility that Carter may, in fact, be alive. Even more shocking, her very own fiancé may have had a hand in his attempted demise. Anne doesn’t know what—or who—to believe, and the deeper she digs, the more she is overcome by a dangerous game of cat and mouse. But will Anne’s trust be restored—or will she be the one left plotting revenge?
About the Author: Andrea Johnson Beck
 photo 1001276_432126610237253_1411837118_n_zps3785b185.jpgAndrea was born a Midwestern girl, grew up in Iowa and South Dakota. She came out of the womb writing, her parents have recorded evidence of Andrea’s whimsical imagination. She has had many poems and short stories published over the years, even did free verse sessions at a local coffee shop but there aren’t any recorded evidence of that. Andrea is thankful for the lack of technology in the 90’s.
After twenty-nine trips around the sun, she decided it was time to sit down and write her first book. And, she did. Two weeks before her 30th birthday, Andrea completed, Deadly Deception. Sadly, it sat in her laptop for two years before she decided to self-publish in November 2012.
Montlake Romance loved Deadly Deception and Deadly Redemption so much, they wanted them and their author. Andrea and Montlake Romance decided to interweave the two stories into one novel. The “new” Deadly Deception released October 8th, 2013. The 2nd book in the series, Deadly Revelation, released April 8th, 2014.
Andrea resides in North Carolina with her quirky family, where she homeschools her son and writes about the craziness that pours from her mind. Her son, Logan, has caught the writing bug. He talks about being on the Autism Spectrum and homeschooling at his very own blog, The Quirky Mustache. Logan has touched many lives and is her hero.

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Giveaway
1 ebook of Deadly Deception and 1 ebook of Deadly Revelation

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The Last Best Kiss

last best kissThe Last Best Kiss
by Claire LaZebnik
Published by Harper Teen
384 pages
Genre: YA; teen lit 
4 / 5

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s novels translate pretty well into today’s teen lives. Let’s begin with Emma, which worked very nicely in Clueless.

With The Last Best Kiss, Claire LaZebnik takes Persuasion and rewrites it with teenagers in the starring roles. It turns out this was a pretty smart move on her part.

On the cusp of her senior year, Anna Elliott is in a reflective mood. She’s seventeen, making college plans, and thinking about her high school years with a mix of regret, and anticipation. Yes, she looks forward to all of the milestones to come her way, but she has a twinge (more than a twinge – an ache) when she recalls how she treated her first love, Finn.

They met during freshman year, and dorky, awkward Finn clicked immediately with popular girl wannabe Anna. Their relationship was progressing smoothly and happily until it interfered with Anna’s quest for “It Girl” status. Finn was just a little too … socially unacceptable. When Anna’s embarrassment over him becomes palatable, Finn withdraws himself from her life, eventually moving away with his family.

Now it’s two years later, and Finn is back. And, yes, he’s better than ever.

Immediately embraced by Anna’s friends, Finn clearly bears a grudge against Anna, who is overwhelmed by the rush of feelings she has for him. It doesn’t help that Finn has grown up – literally. He’s tall, gorgeous, and confident, and quickly becomes the object of interest for some of Anna’s friends.

Just as her namesake did in Persuasion, Anna has to get over herself. She has to face the mistakes she made and try to rectify them, even if it means suffering heartache in the process. She still cares about Finn, but every time she begins to get the sense that he returns her affection, he withdraws. She still cares deeply about him, and she realizes the extent of the mistakes she made when they were freshmen.

While Finn remains something of a mystery (we never quite understand the extent of his relationship with Lily, especially since she seems to engage in behaviors he does not approve of. Then again, Finn tells Anna on several occasions that what he likes about Lily is her complete lack of concern over what others think about her. As annoying and occasionally one-note as Lily is, LaZebnik acknowledges this by having a character ask if Lily is like “one of those John Green characters” bent on being free spirited and a bit destructive.

The subplot with Anna’s father and a barely-out-of-college friend of her sister’s is nicely done. Just as with Mr. Elliott in Persuasion, Anna’s father is pretentious and vapid, a man who preens for others to compensate for his lack of depth.

What makes Persuasion such an interesting choice for a young adult novel is its message: do not allow others to dictate your relationships. As frustrated as we get with Anna – as much as we want to scream at her – we understand. This is a high school girl who cares (too much) about what others think about her. Granted, if I had her parents, I doubt I’d be much different.

LaZebnik knows her characters and knows their voices. She respects them, even as she teaches them lessons. She knows that Anna needs to learn how to follow her own heart, that she needs to listen more to herself and less to others.

It’s a lovely book with a timeless message, perfect for teenagers – and those of us slightly out of our teen years …

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Every Part of You

every part of youEvery Part of You
by Megan Smith
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
256 pages
Genre: erotica 
4 / 5

 

Before I begin this review, allow me to point out that this book – all 256 pages of it – represents a compilation of five (count ’em, FIVE) novellas, originally published separately. Each one was less than 40 pages long.

The hell?

Am I the only one thinking “money grab” when I see this?

Mad props to St. Martin’s Griffin for DOING THE RIGHT THING and publishing this as it should be: all together, one book, one price.

Now, on to the review.

Most nights when Simone is at work, she can see into the window of a man who works in her building. She is intrigued by this guy – Elliott – largely because he seems to bring in different women on different nights and enjoys sex with them. He also appears to enjoy a little spanky panky.

When Simone engineers a way to meet him, Elliott is not immediately taken with her. But he is intrigued.

The two begin a dance of sorts, a push and pull as they try to determine whether or not they want to – or will – have a relationship.

One thing they know for certain is that they are quite simpatico between the sheets.

Oh, are they EVER.

Strap on your vibrators, girls, because Elliott and Simone are going to rock that headboard right into next month.

The thing with breaking this up into novellas is that it appears to be nothing more than a little plot – just enough – to get you from one sex scene to another. But when you read it in its entirety, you can see character development. Simone and Elliott each have Issues that must be addressed (he more than her), but what they may not necessarily realize is that they can address them more successfully together than apart.

Yes, there are a couple of plot points that sort of evaporate (particularly one involving a Louisiana politician … I’m still not quite sure what was going on there). But Simone and Elliott are a compelling couple, one whose story you will enjoy reading.

Plus, those sex scenes? THOSE DELICIOUS SEX SCENES?

Fabulous.

Don’t read the five separate novellas. Read this one, with all five together. Megan Hart can write some erotica, people, and you will enjoy it.

 

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Fixed on You

FIXEDONYOUblogtour

Fixed On You (Book 1)
by Laurelin Paige
Published by Laurelin Paige
228 pages
Genre: romance; New Adult 
4 / 5

Summary
Stalking and restraining orders are a thing of Alayna Wither’s past. With her MBA newly in hand, she has her future figured out—move up at the nightclub she works at and stay away from any guy who might trigger her obsessive love disorder. A perfect plan.

But what Alayna didn’t figure on is Hudson Pierce, the new owner of the nightclub. He’s smart, rich, and gorgeous—the kind of guy Alayna knows to stay away from if she wants to keep her past tendencies in check. Except, Hudson’s fixed his sights on her. He wants her in his bed and makes no secret of it.

Avoiding him isn’t an option after he offers a business proposition she can’t turn down and she’s drawn further into his universe, unable to resist his gravitational pull. When she learns Hudson has a dark history of his own, she realizes too late that she’s fallen for the worst man she could possibly get involved with. Or maybe their less than ideal pasts give them an opportunity to heal each other and finally find the love their lives have been missing.

My Review
There are different types of addictions.

There are the ones we all know about – alcohol, drugs, gambling – and then there are those we hear 17828418about and think, “Oh, yeah. That’s an addiction too.” Eating too much or shopping or eating too little.

But what about an addiction to being addicted?

On the heels of earning her MBA, hopeful nightclub manager Alayna meets Hudson Pierce (oh, that name), the piercingly (GET IT??) hot, gorgeous, and sexually compelling owner of the nightclub Alayna hopes to manage.

Hudson wants to hire Alayna (aka Laynie) to help him throw his mother off the scent of a forced marriage of sorts between Hudson and his childhood friend. Laynie agrees – Hudson will pay her enough to wipe away her student loans – but she’s worried. Laynie, you see, is easily addicted to the menfolk. She has a tendency to obsess over the guys she dates, to the point that she has restraining orders against her.

And if ever there was a man to whom she could become addicted, it’s Hudson Pierce.

I’m sure you think you know how this will end.

Given that it’s the first in a trilogy, though, you may be surprised.

What I enjoyed about this book – aside from the scorching headboard rockin’ that I will discuss in a moment – is how evenly matched Laynie and Hudson are. They each bring certain compulsions to the romantic table, and despite Hudson’s immense wealth, he never comes across as if he’s got all the advantages to her disadvantages. They seem well matched. It’s a nice departure from the Dominant Man and Submissive Woman thing that can permeate erotica these days.

Instead, we have two people who are fairly close in age and even closer in spirit. However much she may care for Hudson, Laynie does not roll over and let him take command. She fights for herself and what’s best for her.

Yes, Hudson repeatedly tells us that he’s “dominant” and has a “dominant” personality. In this post-Fifty Shades apocalypse, when we see the word “dominant,” we think of belts and red rooms. Laurelin Paige never quite takes us there; instead, Hudson’s dominance is largely personality-driven.

That isn’t to say that the sexy times are wanting. Strap on your vibrators, girls, because Paige delivers some hot headboard rockin’. If the story and characters don’t inspire you to check out the rest of the series, the horizontal hula-ing sure will.
About the Author
Laurelin Paige is the NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Fixed Trilogy. She’s a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Mad Men and the Walking Dead, or dreaming of Adam Levine.

Buy Links
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17828418-fixed-on-you
Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Fixed-You-Laurelin-Paige-ebook/dp/B00IFVAAGA
B&Nhttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fixed-on-you-laurelin-paige/1115288520?ean=9780991379637
iTuneshttps://itunes.apple.com/us/book/fixed-on-you/id820484086?mt=11

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