Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Club Picks - June

Hi Y'all!  So, you all know I love books.  Also, I love book clubs.  What could be better than sitting around with a group of friends talking about a book you just read?!  So, if you are in a book club, you are going to love my new monthly (sometimes more than monthly if I have a lot of ideas) book club post.  In each book club post, I will have three to five titles that you HAVE to read at book club.  They may have a theme, they may not. One thing is certain though - all the book club picks will be fabulous!

So, without further ado - here are my book club picks for June:




The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, has been stuck in my head since I read it 4 years ago.  It is amazing in it's plot development and imagery.  There is so much that happens in this book, that your book club will have a lot to discuss! 


Stieg Larsson started a masterpiece trilogy with his book The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.  It's too bad that he died before he had a chance to continue his series.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will keep you hooked from page one, and give your book club plenty to talk about. 


Room, by Emma Donaghue, was introduced to me from my book club.  It is a book that broke me open and made my heart ache.  It is so well written and well plotted that I couldn't stop reading, and I loved every page.  The touchy subject will be interesting to get through, but it will leave you grateful and will leave your book club talking.


Audrey Niffenegger created an instant classic with her book The Time Traveler's Wife.  When Claire first meets her husband, she is a young girl, and he is fully grown.  He waits as Claire gets older, and they develop a relationship that will make you yearn and take your breath away.  The book is a must pick for any book club. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder - Rebecca Wells






I picked up The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder on audiobook at my local library.  This was the first book I've read by Rebecca Wells, despite knowing who she is because of the success of her Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. 

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder, to sum it up quickly, is the story of Calla Lily, a girl born in the town of La Luna, Louisiana.  Calla Lily grows up surrounded by her dad, her mother (called M'Dear), and her two brothers, as well as a whole town of people who all look out for and love Calla Lily.

The Crowning Glory was, from what I can tell, the perfect book to read for someone who loves when their books are ALL sunshine and roses.  The story was mediocre, there wasn't a ton of tension or unease in the book, and everything happened so easily for Calla Lily.  For example, when she was a teenager, she and Tuck realized that they were attracted to each other.  Then, all of a sudden, with no discussion about it, and no talking to each other about said feelings, they were just a couple - together until Tuck moved to California and never once wrote to or called Calla.  And she just got over her broken heart like that, moved to New Orleans, and went to beauty school.  Then, there's the move to New Orleans itself.  She was working at a diner to save money, then suddenly her dad presents her with this savings bond that suddenly makes it easier for her to move right away, and he acts like he forgot all about it.

Things continue to go easily and smoothly for Calla her entire life, even in spite of massive heartache and loss.  When her mother dies from cancer, the move from death of M'Dear, to Calla moving happens so quickly that one wonders what Calla actually felt about her mother's death.  When her husband is killed in an off shore oil rig explosion, the actual feelings Calla is experiencing are never discussed.  She doesn't get angry and yell at people, or throw things, or express any emotions of anger or sadness at all.

The characters in the book all seem... sort of flat.  They all seemed to have the same voices, and the same personalities for the most part.  The most distinct character in the book was Sookie, Calla's best friend.  Other than that, they see seemed to blend together.  None of them seemed particularly memorable.

Overall, this is a 2 star book, at most.  Read it if you want, but got into it with the knowledge that it is not Wells best work.  Had this been her first book, it probably would not have made it past the editor's desk, at least not without some major improvements.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Broken Pieces - Kathleen Long

 
DISCLAIMER: I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley.  All thoughts and opinions about this book are my own.

Title: Broken Pieces
Author: Kathleen Long
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: July 19, 2016



Broken Pieces, by Kathleen Long, is a book that will break your heart into pieces, and yet still make you believe in the goodness of people and the power of love and forgiveness.  From the first page, I was drawn in by the characters and their weird, kind of crazy lives. 

Destiny, the heroine of our book, finds herself in an interesting situation when her dad, Albert, shows up at her house out of the blue.  Throughout the novel, a series of discoveries come about that all leave Destiny reeling, and change her life.  I won't spoil everything - but let's just say that once you get drawn into this book, you won't want to put it down until you finish.

The characters in this book were fantastic, and real, and well-developed.  They all had their own distinct personalities and they all grew and changed in the best ways throughout the book.  Each character learned something about themselves and the other characters throughout the story. 

In addition to the great characters, the story is well thought out and written very well.  I wasn't left with questions about the ending or plot, and that was good.  Even when the story was sad, it never sucked. 

Overall, this is a must read book - I give it 5 stars all the way.  When it comes out, you have to get it!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Life Swap - Carol Wyer





Title: Life Swap
Author: Carol Wyer
Publisher:
Release Date:

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley.  All thoughts about this book are my own.

Take a chance on a new life and maybe you’ll find your happy ever after. Because true love is always worth the risk…

Handsome prince, beautiful house, fabulous job? Polly has none of these. All she has to her name is a string of failed relationships and she’s up to her ears in debt. She sees herself as a hopeless case and would do anything to change her luck.

Simon is approaching the big 50. He’s off his game at work, his kids don’t seem to notice he exists and his wife seems to think he’s made of money. As for sex …what’s that?

So when the opportunity comes for both of them to swap their lives for a life of luxury, they jump at the chance. For Simon a life of helicopters, fast cars and hot babes beckons. For Polly, it’s all diamonds, spa days and celebrity parties. What more could they want?

Trouble is, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Is life in the fast lane more than either of them can cope with? 


When I read the description for this book on Netgalley, I thought - Hey that sounds like a good book.  I won't say I was completely disappointed, but it was a bit...different than I thought it would be.  I was expecting something a bit more lighthearted - more of a comedic book.  That was not really the case with Life Swap.  While there were funny moments in the book - like when Polly spent the day painted up in gold to work for a friend that had broken her leg - this book was more serious than anything.  That's not bad - just keep that in mind should you choose to read the book.  

The characters: I found them to be distinct from each other, yet not all that fulfilling.  They all just felt flat to me.  There was nothing really to cheer for in any of the characters.  They were just kind of there, ambling through life, having a go at whatever came their way.  The characters were definitely not what kept me reading this book.

The plot: It took a while to get into the actual dirt of the story, but once I did, it was worth it.  I enjoyed reading what happened as Polly and Simon went through their "life swaps."  It can be interesting to see what happens anytime someone is taken out of their normal life and plopped into a life completely different than their own.  Wanting to know how it all turned out was what kept me going til the end.

The actual writing of the book was okay - not excellent, not terrible, just okay.  The author does a fair job of describing the events, locations, and people in the book, but like I said, were it not for my interest in finding out what happened, the actual writing would not have been enough to keep me reading.

Overall, this book would get 3 stars - I could take it or leave it. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Cracked Spine - Paige Shelton


Title: The Cracked Spine
Author: Paige Shelton
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Published: March 29, 2016

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley.  All thoughts about this book are my own. 

The Cracked Spine, a mystery novel taking place in Scotland, is an excellent read for anyone who loves mystery and books in one package.  Delaney, a Kansas girl, moves to Scotland, where she works in a bookstore called The Cracked Spine.  While there, she encounters a unique cast of characters, and likely more mystery and intrigue than she thought she would. 

When I first got this novel, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I was drawn in by the cover and the description - and what was inside did not disappoint.  The characters are all well-developed.  I especially loved Rosie, one of the bookstore employees.  She was an older lady who was kind to everyone, and just really loved her job. 

The story was well plotted as well.  It wasn't too easy to figure out what had happened, which is nice - I've read mysteries before where I know what's going on before I am even half way through the book.  It was nice to read a book that held out a bit. 

The only thing that was hard to get used to in the book was the dialogue.  Since most of the characters were Scottish, the author used a lot of Scottish dialect and spelling - sometimes I had to re-read a sentence just to get the hang of it.

Overall, I'd say this is a solid 4 star, must read book.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cover Reveal - Seam Stalkers 1 & 2



Hi there, friends!  Happy Wednesday.  Today is another fun day here at The Book Nerd - I have a cover reveal for you!  YEAH.  Today, you get a sneak peak at the covers of not one but two books: The Shattered Seam and Silencing the Seam.  They are by author Kathleen Groger, and will be released later this year.  You're excited - I know it.  There's info about the books below, so read on and enjoy.

BOOK & AUTHOR INFO:

The Shattered Seam & Silencing The Seam
by Kathleen Groger 
(Seam Stalkers, #1 & 2) 
Publication date: Late Summer/Early Fall 2016
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Young Adult



The Shattered Seam
Seam Stalkers Book One
Spending spring break on an isolated island rumored to be haunted is not sixteen-year-old Sam’s idea of fun. Spending spring break with her uncle and his ghost-hunting film crew on an isolated island is even worse.

Way worse.

Her family’s secrets—and a genetic ability she can no longer deny—surface, along with the ghost of a rich serial killer who left behind a trail of trapped souls.

And he’s not through yet.

With only one chance for escape, Sam must embrace her family’s curse and close the Seam between the living and the dead. Or be lost, forever.





Silencing The Seam 
Seam Stalkers Book Two

Sixteen-year-old Sam Drake thought she’d left the horrors of spring break and Defiance Castle behind her. But back home, the spirits swirling around her are more demanding, more aggressive.

Fear of being institutionalized by her skeptical mother drives Sam to follow her dad to New Orleans. There she hopes to take back control of her life. But the French Quarter and the cities of the dead have other plans. Hour by hour they drain her, making it next-to-impossible to fight off a ghost who is determined to use her for its own revenge. 

Ensnared in an ancient power struggle where Voodoo rituals, betrayal and murder rule, Sam must determine who to trust. One step in the wrong direction will lock her inside the Seam to walk among the dead for eternity.



AUTHOR BIO:
Kathleen wrote her first story in elementary school about a pegasus named Sir Lancelot. It had no plot or conflict, but it sparked a dream. After serving a fifteen-year sentence in retail management, the bulk in big box bookstores, she turned her love of reading into a full-time career writing dark and haunting characters and stories. She writes paranormal, fantasy, suspense, horror YA books. She is a contributing member of READerlicious, writers who love readers. Check out her blogs here.

She lives by the mantra that a day is not complete without tea. Lots of tea. Kathleen lives in Ohio with her husband, two boys, and two attention-demanding dogs. When not writing or editing or revising, you can find her reading, cooking, spending time with her family, or photographing abandoned buildings.

Author links: 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Lost and Found - Elle Casey




Lost and Found, by Elle Casey, is the first book in the Love in New York series.  The story takes place in Manhattan and revolves around Leah, a bohemian living in Manhattan and working at Belinda's New Age shop.  Leah is clumsy, a little spacey, and (obviously) single.  When Leah finds a lost engagement ring, she goes out of her way to find the owner.  Little does she know that her search for the owner will lead her on some crazy adventures.

Now, friends, let's get down to the review.  This was the first book I've read in a long time that had NO redeeming qualities.  None.  You may think I'm being dramatic, but really, I'm not.  I had a hard time finding anything that I liked about this book.

Let's start with the characters.  There's our heroine, Leah, who works and lives in uptown Manhattan.  She works for a woman who runs a natural foods store - part time - and is always complaining about her lack of money.  She can't afford to pay her rent (but yet her landlord never kicks her out), but does nothing to remedy the situation.  She never looks for another part time job, or even full time job. She's just content to stay at her job, making less than a pittance.  Leah is flaky, and quite frankly, I am surprised that anyone could find this to be an endearing trait.

James, the hero of Lost and Found, is angry, obsessive-compulsive, and feels like he has the need to control everything. These are not good qualities.  They are unattractive in even the most good looking of guys.  For example, when James's alcoholic brother gets drunk and pisses into a fountain, then goes on some crazy bender, James forces him into Bellevue Psych Ward, where he notifies the staff that his brother is to stay for at least 15 days.  After the initial 72 hour hold is up, his brother is released, because, hello, you can't force someone into the psych ward with justifiable cause.

Those are the two major characters.  The other characters are seen intermittently throughout the book, and include James's sister, who is apparently filing for guardianship of her three month old niece, the flaky natural foods store owner, who is an even bigger airhead than Leah, and a jewelry store employee who somehow manages to convince Leah to dress up as a rapper named Shay Dee in order to pawn off a ring she found.

Now, the story.  Let me sum it up: Leah finds an engagement ring after running through the middle of a fountain.  She then spends a majority of the book trying to locate the owner of said ring to return it to him or her.  That's it.  That's the story. She bumps into James a couple of times - literally bumps into him - and then suddenly they want to have a relationship. There is no real reason in this book for them to fall in love with each other, or even like.  For all intents and purposes, it seems as though James doesn't even really *like* Leah. 

Let's add in to that the fact that there is NO character development in this story.  The characters do not grow, change, or learn anything about themselves in this (ahem) book.  They are stagnant and so ridiculous that they are unlikable at all costs.  The characters underdevelopment and the lack of plot should be enough to scare a reader away from this book.  However, I have an even bigger reason: The author uses a slur word for transgender people not once, but THREE TIMES in the book.  I found this to be not only disappointing, but downright sickening.  It is apparent that Elle Casey knows nothing about transgender men and women, or she would not have dared use this abhorrent word (which I have not included in the review for obvious reasons.  It's never okay to refer to a transgender person by this word.)  Not only that, but at one point, Elle says that her mother married a woman who was really just dressed up as a man.  The whole thing was incredibly transphobic, and that, dear readers, is the NUMBER ONE reason I cannot, in good faith, recommend this book to anyone.  I won't even rate it on Amazon, because I don't think it's worth the 1 star I'd have to leave to give it a review.  Save your money for a better book! 




Friday, June 3, 2016

Smoke & Mirrors - Jess Haines

 
 
 
Smoke and Mirrors by Jess Haines
(Blackhollow Academy #1)
Publication date: May 1st 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis:
A girl who uses her illusions to fool the world into thinking she’s just like all the other magi.
A dragon who sees through her lies.
Together they just might survive a world that wants to control or destroy them both.
Kimberly may wield ultimate cosmic power, but even a mage has to pay the rent. No one will hire her for her magic talents until she’s got the credentials, so she’s stuck in a crappy rent controlled apartment with her mother, yearning for treats she can’t afford at her part time job in a cafĂ©, counting down the days until she graduates the secret Blackhollow Academy school for magic. Only then will she have the certificate she needs to land her dream job in a coven.
The problem? She needs a familiar to graduate.
As an illusionist, she doesn’t have the ability to summon or create a familiar of her own. Her only option is to convince a supernatural creature to let her bind it instead. Since having a powerful Other at her beck and call would guarantee her a place in a coven after she graduates—and legendary treasure hoards are an added bonus—she thinks binding a dragon as her familiar will solve all her problems…
Because sometimes a girl needs a dragon, not a knight.


You can read an excerpt from Smoke & Mirrors here!

EXCERPT: SMOKE AND MIRRORS
Blackhollow Academy – Book 1
By Jess Haines

Viper made a soft hissing sound of irritation between his teeth, pulling back from her. “Cormac has no vision. I know what I want and I’m prepared to offer anything to get it. You have but to ask.”
Well. There was one thing. Her cheeks flared crimson and she squirmed a bit before stuttering out another question, swallowing back her embarrassment. 

“You keep a hoard like a dragon, right? I don’t suppose you would consider loaning me a little? I swear I’d pay it back.”

His head tipped to one side, and he looked her up and down anew. She suspected he was just noticing her frayed cuffs and cheap shoes. He’d been so intent on getting whatever it was he wanted out of her that he hadn’t paid attention to the package it came in until now. When she caught the very slight curl of his lip, there and gone in a flash, embarrassed heat filled her cheeks.

Feeling both dirty and humiliated, she ducked her head. “Never mind. I shouldn’t have asked. I’m sorry, I don’t think I can do this.”

“Come now, I’m sure it’s not that hard. All it takes is a yes.”

“No,” she said, this time with a bit more vehemence. Cormac was right. There was something off about Viper, and never mind what a perfect ass she’d just made of herself. Worst of all, that flash of disgust showed he obviously had no respect for her. At least Cormac never made her feel tolerated.

“Thank you for the offer, but I’ll find some other way of getting what I need.”

He slowly rose to stand, heaving a sigh as he settled back on his heels.

“That’s unfortunate. This would have been much easier if you had agreed.”

Kimberly would have asked what he meant by that, but the look in his eyes froze her in place. 
His eyes burned a molten gold as he spread his arms, which were expanding and shifting at an alarming rate. Faster than she might have thought possible, he was growing, his clothing melting and skin disappearing under a layer of metallic scales. Nearby, people were noticing, shouting and screaming in fear as they stampeded in every direction to escape the shapechanging Other in their midst.

When he ceased growing, from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail, he was over thirty feet long, with a wingspan half again that size. 

Kimberly sat immobile, unable to so much as squeak in terror as the beast before her lurched back to arch its neck and spread its wings, barbed tail lashing as it growled at her. One thick, talon-tipped paw lashed out, flattening her on the grass and squeezing the air out of her lungs. It gave an awkward, one-legged hop forward to catch its balance before clenching its claws to dig deep furrows in the grass and close around her waist and legs, pinning her.

Then those wide, ribbed wings began to flap, the sun playing off the tones of brass and copper and gold. The ground fell away, people scattering before the airborne monster.

And Kimberly could do nothing but pray, staring up at this great beast that had her in its claws.
She’d gotten what she’d asked for. Now she would have to pay the price.
 
Find More from the Author and the Book on Goodreads and the Buy Links below!

Purchase:


AUTHOR BIO:
I'm a displaced New Yorker with a penchant for the silly, the obscure, and the fantastical. Tampa, Florida is home for the time being. I'm currently working on the H&W Investigations urban fantasy series and the Blackhollow Academy young adult contemporary fantasy series. Find out more about my books, drop me a line, or join my mailing list at www.jesshaines.com!

Author links:


If you love Smoke & Mirrors, and you want to enter the giveaway, just stop by the link below to enter!  Have fun!

$10 Visa/MC gift card, a signed physical copy of Smoke & Mirrors, and a plush dragon

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