Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: It Had to Be Him

Title: It Had to Be HimSeries: It Had to Be Series
Author: Tamra Baumann
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Romance
278 pages
Release Date: April 2015

Even though Meg Anderson’s hell-raising days are over, coming home to Anderson Butte isn’t easy, especially when her impossible-to-please dad is the mayor and her do-gooder siblings run the place. But with another job lost and the gorgeous father of her daughter trying to make contact after disappearing three years ago, a break is definitely in order. Hopefully the little town filled with big, juicy secrets can help.

After being off the grid for years, Josh Granger, a man with his own secrets, wants Meg and his daughter back. But first he has to get past townspeople as protective as a pack of rottweilers. He’s not the man Meg thinks he is, but he can’t tell her why…not yet.

As Meg slowly warms to Josh, it’s clear the old spark is still there. But when his secret is exposed—along with Meg’s own shocking revelation—will it tear their family apart again, or bind them forever?
-taken from Goodreads

I'm kind of weird about the order in which I read books. If I read a complex mystery or something really heavy and dark, then I can't just switch to a YA novel or a comedy memoir immediately after that. For some reason in my brain, making that switch harms my perception of the lighter/younger stuff, so that's where romance novels come in.

Romance novels are my palette cleanser.

Now I'm not trying to be rude to romance novels so let me also say I LOVE romance novels. That's pretty much all I read growing up (my grandmother ran her church library and clean romance novels are the heart's blood of church libraries) and I still read a lot of them. They're the perfect escape from reality - they're usually light fluffy reads intended to have a feel-good ending.

Anyway, after reading the long epic novel, Kushiel's Dart, I needed a palette cleanser so I downloaded It Had to Be Him from Amazon's Kindle First program. It was very cute - what really made it stand out to me was the variety of unique characters. Meg's gun-toting grandmother is hilarious and doesn't hesitate to shoot trespassers - even if the trespassers are part of her family. Meg has a strained relationship with her father, and yet fixing that relationship isn't really a focus in the story. Her siblings are all very protective of each other in very different ways - all in all, I just really loved everyone. I'll probably be looking into books in the same series in the future.

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Buy it: Amazon (free with Kindle Unlimited!), Barnes and Noble

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Reddit Gift Exchange: Books

For any of you not familiar with the Reddit Gift Exchange...familiarize yourself. It's a really fun way to exchange themed gifts with strangers. I've been participating in select exchanges for almost 2 years now and I love it so much.

Here's how it works: every couple of months they open up a new round of themed exchanges. For example, a Harry Potter exchange, a board game exchange, a socks exchange, or even a condiments exchange (these are all exchanges I've participated in). You sign up for as many as you want and have credits for (you start out with a small number of credits but earn them exponentially as you participate) and then wait for matching day when you'll be able to see whose name you drew and check out what they're hoping to receive (the person you draw did not draw your name). Then you find the perfect gift and mail it off - super easy. If you don't receive a gift for some reason, never fear, there's a rematch program as well.

What does this have to do with a book review blog? Every year they have a book exchange! Whoever drew my name was amazing because they ordered and shipped books to me ON matching day and the books were straight from my to-read list on Goodreads. Matched, by Ally Condie, and The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. Score! I can't wait to delve into these!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: Kushiel's Dart

Title: Kushiel's Dart
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Publisher: Tor Fantasy
Genre: Fantasy
1015 pages
Release Date: September 2003

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear. 
-taken from Goodreads

A friend of mine recommended this book to me a while back and I finally got around to reading it recently. I really knew nothing about it - my friend mentioned it when I was talking about loving the Outlander series (Diana Gabaldon) and the A Song of Ice and Fire series (George R.R. Martin). I assumed it was another sort of epic series based in a well imagined world.

I was correct.

What a great book! I was immediately sucked in. I love how this imagined world was so different than mine and yet there were also certain aspects of my world shadowed in this one. The story of their gods and demigods is very similar to our stories of God and Jesus - some of their religious words even mimic ours. It was great to walk a line between familiar and yet unfamiliar storylines.

I did have a hard time keeping up with all the names and histories and places and intrigue - there was just so much going on with so many people. Luckily this is a long book so the further in you get, the more you start to put things together with ease. I also didn't realize that BDSM is involved - however I will say that, for me at least, the use of BDSM didn't feel jarring. Props to Jacqueline Carey for making such seamless transitions to and from the sex scenes and making it all seem normal and a genuine part of living in this story. The age of a couple of the main characters (Phedre and Alcuin) is also a little hard to swallow, but again, it fits the story and just seems to work.

Overall this was a wildly imaginative book with compelling characters and interesting plot twists. It's impressive how much thought was put into creating an entirely made up world as well as weaving the threads of a complicated mystery.

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Buy it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Review: The Fair Fight

Title: The Fair Fight
Author: Anna Freeman

Publisher: PenguinGenre: Historical Fiction480 pages
Release Date: April 2015

Born into a brothel, Ruth's future looks bleak until she catches the eye of Mr. Dryer. A rich Bristol merchant and enthusiast of the ring, he trains gutsy Ruth as a puglist. Soon she rules the blood-spattered sawdust at the infamous Hatchet Inn.

Dryer's wife Charlotte lives in the shadows. A grieving orphan, she hides away, scarred by smallpox, ignored by Dryer, and engaged in dangerous mind games with her brother.

When Dryer sidelines Ruth after a disastrous fight, and focuses on training her husband Tom, Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition. As the tension mounts before Tom's Championship fight, two worlds collide with electrifying consequences.
- taken from Goodreads

I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program.

The story was a little bit slow to start, but it only took a few chapters to draw me in. It follows three main characters: Ruth, a female fighter who had been born and raised in a brothel, George, a middle class gambler trying to make his way in the world, and Charlotte, the sister of George's best friend. The majority of the plot revolves around the world of fighting in the rings of Bristol, a subject I knew next to nothing about, especially female fighting, so I was intrigued and happy to learn something new.

One of my favorite things about the story is how the three different POVs overlapped so that you could read multiple perspectives on a single scene. Initially I was disappointed in the characters themselves because I didn't really feel a connection with any of them (I like for books to make me feel). But then it seemed that as Charlotte started to grow and change (and her story was my favorite to follow), so did my feelings for these characters. Suddenly they were much more real and I was transformed into a raving feminist on the sidelines, cheering for these poor tragic women to win in life.

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Buy it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Last year I got serious about keeping track of every single book I read. In addition to noting every one of them through Goodreads, I also started trying to leave reviews for all of them. I discovered it's something I enjoy doing and since I'm constantly trading book recommendations with my friends, I decided to find a place where I could share what I think of all the books that cross my path.

So here we are. Enjoy!