Sunday, July 31, 2016

Deep Dish - Mary Kay Andrews

Deep Dish, by Mary Kay Andrews, was a book I picked up when I was looking for a "light and fluffy" book to read.  This book definitely did not disappoint in the light and fluffy department. 

To summarize (hopefully briefly): Regina Foxton, of Georgia, is a cooking show host who tries to keep her recipes fresh and local - which is why she's the perfect host for Fresh Start with Regina Foxton.  When she learns that her produce/boyfriend lost their sponsorship and the show is being cancelled, she starts to wonder what will happen next.  Then an opportunity arises for her to partake in a Food Fight Competition against cooking show rival Tate Moody.  Sparks fly between the two almost instantly, despite Tate's insistence that he finds "Reggie" to be annoying as all get up.  I won't go into any more detail about what happens - you'll just have to read the book and find out for yourself!

Let's talk about the real important stuff now.

Characters: When you have as many characters coming and going as this book has, it can sometimes be hard to keep them all separate from each other.  I did notice a few similarities between Iris and her twin sister Inez, but other than that, the author did a decent job of keeping the characters distinct. Each character has their own personalities and played off each other well.

Plot: The plot was certainly interesting, even if it wasn't the deepest book I've read this year.  The most complex thing the characters had to deal with was when Tate and Gina got stranded on Rattlesnake Key during a storm.  Other than that, the plot was pretty steady.  I enjoyed the aspect of having Tate and Gina face off against each other in a food fight, and there was enough going on to keep me interested - but I can't say that I would read it again or recommend it.

The writing: Mary Kay Andrews has written several books - but this is the first one I've read.  Although I certainly enjoyed the book for what it was, the writing was freshman in college level at best.  If you read this book, the writing won't be what keeps you going to the end. 

Overall, I'd give this book 3 stars.  I didn't love it to pieces, but I didn't hate it either.  If you read it, read it with the knowledge that it's no Game of Thrones.

Monday, July 25, 2016

July Book Club Picks

It's almost the end of July - can you believe it?!  In keeping with my promise to do at least monthly book club picks, here are the books I pick for the month of July!

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, will leave your book club with plenty to discuss.  There is a lot happening in this novel.  There are a lot of twists, and you may even find yourself debating the actual marriage of the two main characters as well as the mystery of the wife's disappearance. 

American Gods is easily my favorite Neil Gaiman book.  There is no way I could sum up everything I feel about this book, so I'll just tell you that your book club will surely have a heated debate about this book, and close this part with my favorite literary line ever: "You're so full of shit, I'm surprised your eyes aren't brown."  - Odin, from American Gods.

 The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards, takes place in a time when kids with disabilities are treated as less than, simply because they have a disability.  I won't say much more than that.  I will simply tell you that this novel will break you open and leave your book club with more than enough to discuss after you read it! 

 The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is always a sure fire hit with book clubs.  There is so much tension, and anger, and so much to discuss about the racial inequalities that occur throughout the book.  You'll find yourself simultaneously loving and hating this book, and your book club will have plenty to talk about!

I picked two Gillian Flynn books this month, because they are both so good.  Sharp Objects, I thought, was slightly better than Gone Girl.  It has mystery, some mental health issues, and a cast of characters that will draw you in and make you go "Oh, god, no what just happened?!"  Your book club will love this book and it will keep you talking for sure.

Friday, July 22, 2016

First Position - Melissa Brayden

Book: First Position
Author: Melissa Brayden
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: August 16. 2016

Anastasia Mikhelson is the rising star of the New York City Ballet. She’s sacrificed creature comforts, a social life, as well as her own physical well-being for perfection in dance. Even her reputation as The Ice Queen doesn’t faze her. Though Ana’s at the peak of her career, competition from a new and noteworthy dancer puts all she’s worked for in jeopardy.

While Natalie Frederico has shown herself to be a prodigy when it comes to ballet, she much prefers modern dance and living on her own terms. Life is too short for anything else. However, when the opportunity to dance with the New York City Ballet is thrust upon her, it’s not like she could say no. Dealing with the company’s uptight lead is another story, however. When the two are forced to work side-by-side, sparks begin to fly onstage and off.

First Position, by Melissa Brayden, will knock your socks off.  It has well-developed characters, a plot that is steady and believable, and a cover that I absolutely am in love with.

Ana has been a dancer with the City Ballet for years - she started in the corps and moved her way up to principal dancer.  In her first year as principal, a new dancer is brought in as a soloist - Natalie.  From the first day that Natalie and Ana meet, the attraction is obvious.  There is no denying that Natalie and Ana are great for each other and attracted to each other.  The hitch is that Natalie has a girlfriend.

The attraction between the two builds, and a series of events leads to them finally becoming a couple.  The rest of the book takes us on an unexpected turn of events that I never saw coming.  You will be surprised, yet thrilled with the ending! 

I appreciated that the author treated this as any other romance - the fact that Natalie and Ana are both women is never an issue.  I think it's good to see so many authors finally realizing that same-sex couples are just like everyone else, with the same issues and emotions and every thing else as other couples. 

The events the occurred in this story moved it along well and worked within the context of the book. I never once found myself thinking "Oh that would never happen!"  The characters were also very distinct from each other with their own personalities and quirks.  Each character worked well with the others, and they all developed in a way that as realistic to themselves and the story.

Due to some mature scenes, this is a book that's only appropriate for readers 18 and older.  Other than that, as long as you're old enough - I will definitely recommend you read this book!  It gets 5 stars all the way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Evolution of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

This review contains some pretty heavy spoilers for the book.  If you don't like spoilers, and you haven't read the book yet, save the review for later.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer, by author Michelle Hodkin, is the second book in the Mara Dyer series.  This book starts with Mara waking up in a hospital after having been sedated for what her family and therapists are likely calling a psychotic breakdown behind her back.  At the end of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Mara saw her ex-boyfriend Jude, who supposedly died when an asylum collapsed on him, at a police station.  This led to a full on screaming, calling people names, acting the part fit in the middle of the police station. 

After being released from the hospital, Mara is enrolled in an outpatient program that she must attend in place of school.  The program is run through a mental health center, and if Mara "misbehaves" she will be placed in the residential treatment program and forced to live on site.  Mara plays along as well as she can, partly because she doesn't want to live in a residential treatment center, and partly because her friend Jaime is at the same program she is - because apparently people took his threat to shoot some of the popular kids seriously. 

Anyway, a series of Jude sightings, a crazy fellow patient, and doll that won't die, and some learned information about Noah as well as her family all lead to one helluva trip for Mara.  This book is filled with enough tension, unease, and turns that you won't know what to expect.  There are changes that occur in the characters throughout this book - each of them grows into something different from the beginning.  They are all true to who they are, but they evolve in ways that every good character should.  The writing in the book is nothing less than perfect and the story is well thought out. 

As with the first book, I never once found myself thinking "Oh, that could never happen."  The plot was believable, and the characters were well-fleshed out with different aspects to each of their personalities.  I think, as I expected, that the author handles Mara's battle with PTSD very well and doesn't resort to cliche's or anything like that. 

Overall, I think this is a book you'll love to read - doll burning and Santeria priests and all! I give it a solid 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

I just finished reading The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer last night.  I had to review it right away because ever since I read the first page, this book has been stuck in my head.  I can't stop thinking about it, even now that I've finished it.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is part psychological thriller, part romance, part struggle with mental illness, and completely amazing.  The whole plot works well together - all of Mara's flashbacks and hallucinations, all of her insecurities, all of her wondering if she's going totally crazy - it fits together well.  I didn't have any "Wait this doesn't belong," or "What the hell just happened" moments.   The pacing of the story was well-done - nothing happened to quickly or to slowly.  Everything just came about in its own time. 

I think the way this book deals with Mara's PTSD is important.  Too many books that deal with mental health issues will trivialize it, or make it seem almost comical.  This book didn't do that.  The PTSD was there, and it was a part of Mara's life, but the author showed that Mara was doing the best she could in her life with PTSD.  We saw the good days and times that Mara had, as well as the bad moments and the triggers.  There was never a moment where I thought she was faking it, or where I thought that the author didn't handle it well.

The characters in the book were, in a word, amazing. They all complemented each other well. They were all believable, and had emotional ranges that I haven't seen in a lot of YA books.  All too often, people think that characters in YA novels need to be one dimensional.  They shouldn't be though.  The characters should be fleshed out, and deep, and have more than one or two interests, and have multiple friends - and that was the case in this book.  There were characters I didn't like (Anna the conniving twit, for example,) but that's just because they were so well written that I even though I didn't like them I still liked them.

I can't think of a single bad thing to say about this book.  The tension, the characters, the story and plot - everything was on point.  From the moment when Mara woke up in the hospital, to the day they moved to Florida, to that day when she and Noah went to see some crazy possibly cult leader who made Mara drink blood to heal her, to the end when Mara sees her ex in a police station, there was not a moment when I wanted to be done with this book.

So, to end: This is a 5 star book - if you haven't read it yet, you need to! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cover Reveal - Damage Me: Shana Vanterpool

Hey y'all!  Happy Tuesday.  Today is a good day: I have a COVER REVEAL for you!  Welcome to Damage Me, by Shana Vanterpool!  Enjoy.

Book & Author Details:

Damage Me by Shana Vanterpool
(Crystal Gulf #2)
Published by: Swoon Romance
Publication date: July 5th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

*** AUTHOR’S NOTE and CONTENT WARNING: This story contains triggers for rape victims and soldiers. I did my best to remain respectful to the healing process for both. Hillary’s feelings are hers alone and ONLY represent how she feels about her attack. Dylan’s emotions about his time at war are his ALONE. You are all strong and beautiful, and you will soar again! ***

A broken soldier …
Dylan Meyer lived his life fast and hard, doing anything to keep his emotions masked. In Crystal Gulf, Texas, women, drugs, and alcohol are in abundance. After all, it’s a college town. But eventually, his lifestyle caught up to him. The birth of his daughter, Aubrey, forced him to grow up and take responsibility for his actions. He let his vices go, cleaned up his act, and allowed himself to fall for Harley Evans.

But Dylan is a liar.

He lied to himself. To Harley. To his best friend, Bach. And then he lied himself right into a U.S. Army uniform. When he went to war, he left Harley with his best friend in hopes that he’d look out for her while he was deployed. Not in his darkest nightmares did he think Bach and Harley would fall in love.

A fallen angel …

Hillary Hayes is an eighteen-year-old sophomore in college who understands the importance of rules. She’s followed them her entire life. She gets perfect grades, avoids dating, and won’t stray from the future her mother mapped out. On the outside, she’s perfect. Inside, she’s drowning.

That carefully crafted future disappears when she downs a beer at a party. What’s left of that night is the wreckage of the girl she used to be.

Until she meets Dylan. Her brother’s best friend.

When Dylan returns from war, he can’t move past the betrayal. His daughter’s growing up without him. Flashbacks and PTSD from his time in Afghanistan consume him. He loses himself in a dark depression. There is no light in his darkness …until he meets Hillary. His best friend’s little sister is the only good thing among all the bad.

He’s her safe place.

She’s his light.

Can two damaged souls ever find peace, or is the damage too much to overcome?

When I walk into a book store I feel at home. When I smell the pages of a brand new book things make sense. When I read I am who I always wanted to be. I read to escape and I write so others can as well. My family, my actress dog Bella, coffee, and a steamy love story are a few of my most precious things. My Sweet Demise is my debut new-adult contemporary romance novel. Keep up to date with future releases by following on Twitter: @shanavauthor


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This is all so exciting - but there's even more exciting news.  You can go enter a giveaway to win a $5 Amazon gift card, and a copy of Damage Me.  The giveaway contest ends July 7th, so enter quickly! Just click on the link below.  Have fun.