Friday, July 13, 2018

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist

Title: Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
Author: Shauna Niequist
Genre: Adult, Nonfiction, Self-Help
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Release Date: July 14, 2010
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

In her follow-up book to Cold Tangerines, author Shauna Niequist shifts her gaze to the challenges and blessings of change in Bittersweet. Drawing from her own experiences in a recent season of pain and chaos, she explores the bits of wisdom and growth we earn the hard way, through change, loss, and transition, and offers her own reflections on what brought her hope along the way.

Bittersweet was a mix between like and repetitive for me. While I appreciated and quite often really enjoyed the author's outlook and words of wisdom, there didn't seem to be enough new ones to completely fill the book. The book also has a very heavy religious tone to it. I knew going in that it had some, but it was a little too much for my taste. 

Also, the food. Detailing every meal she ever had, how it was prepared, and if people liked it or not was too much. I'll be honest, I stopped reading those parts and just skipped right over them with a mental "And then they ate."

I did enjoy her stories about life, and the way she pointed out that bad things do happen to everyone. It's how people react and allow those bad times to shape the rest of their lives that can make or break a person. Learning to enjoy the good moments in the busy lives most of seem to live is a lesson I need to learn sometimes. Her stories of the simple things that stayed with her helped me remember some from my life, and it was very refreshing.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Miss Behave by Nikky Kaye

Title: Miss Behave
Author: Nikky Kaye
Genre: Adult, Romantic Comedy
Length: 226 pages
Publisher: Nonskid Publishing
Source: Review Request
Reviewed by: Jasmyn


When he stormed into my office and said I owed him a date, I thought he was crazy. Okay, crazy and hot. But I couldn’t help it that my advice column blocked his, uh, rooster.

Good girls like me aren’t supposed to fall for dirty-talking men with smoldering eyes and hidden tattoos—especially since now that we’re working together.

If you can call going on blind double dates and researching adult toy stores work…

Why did I want to be a good girl, again?

MISS BEHAVE is a flirty, funny, frisky romantic comedy about putting the “man” back in “manners.” This enemies-to-friends-to-lovers office romance will push all your buttons, then unbutton them…

Miss Behave is everything I hoped for. It's light, funny, super hot, and the characters were amazing. I loved the battle of the sexes vibe that came through with Ash and Lizzy both writing advice columns, and their different approaches were so much fun to read. Where Ash says he's more down to earth, telling it like it is, Lizzy tries to be more neutral and kind. But, to be honest, they both give pretty good advice from what I read.

When they are thrown together to write just one column instead of two, it gives them just the chance they need to fall head over heels for each other. But they seem to be from two different worlds. When Ash sticks his foot in it, Lizzy feels like he's betrayed her trust. Not sure I would have seen it the same way, but it led to one of the best apology scenes ever! It wasn't groveling or Lizzy being overly dramatic. She was hurt, and he made sure she knew he would never mean to do that.

I wish I could have read this in one sitting - but life prevented it. It's the perfect book to just dive into and not come up for air until it's done.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of the book*

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Trouble with Mirrors by Charlotte Elkins and Aaron Elkins ~ Review

Title: The Trouble with Mirrors (Alix London #4)
Author: Charlotte Elkins, Aaron Elkins
Genre: Adult, Mystery
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
Source: Goodreads
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Alix London, the art restorer and FBI consultant renowned as the Art Whisperer, can spot a counterfeit masterpiece before the paint even dries. What she can’t see is why an elite European art dealer would offer her big money for a little mirror that’s no more than a homemade gift from her beloved uncle Tiny. Not that Alix would part with it at any price. But when the mirror is abruptly stolen from her home, she realizes that someone sees more in the looking glass than mere sentimental value.
When her uncle Tiny disappears mysteriously just after the mirror is stolen, the simple art theft becomes a personal and professional challenge Alix can’t ignore. With backup from her friends in the FBI, her game-for-anything pal Chris, and an aging-but-dogged Italian police detective, she delves into the puzzling case, only to find that there is much more to this theft than meets the eye. Once the Mafia shows up on the scene, Alix’s mission becomes a do-or-die race to find the one possible man with all the answers.
The Trouble with Mirrors ties up a lot of loose ends in Alix London's life - many of which revolve around her "Uncle" Tiny. When a treasured mirror that Tiny had gifted her is stolen, it opens a door to an old international art scandal. Leave it to Alex to find herself right in the middle of it all.

Using her "Art Whisperer" intuition and her extensive knowledge of everything art related (which was a bit over the top because you can't be an expert in all of it - there's just too much.) This was far more exciting and thrilling than the past books in the series. There's mafia, Italian police, FBI, and all of Alix's crew back home. Each group with their own objectives and ways to accomplish them.

In the end, we have a tad bit rushed reveal and another case solved by Alix and her friends. This book stood out more as a group effort to solve the case, involving all of Alix's friends and family. This appears to be the last book in the Alix London series so far, but I'd definitely read more if they are written.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Monday, July 9, 2018

Her Dark Half by Paige Tyler ~ Review

Title: Her Dark Half (X-Ops #7)
Author: Paige Tyler
Genre: Adult, Paranormal Romance, Military Romance
Length: 348 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Trevor Maxwell
Coyote shifter with an attitude
Covert operator
Trusts no one, especially his devastatingly beautiful new partner

Alina Bosch
Former CIA, newest operative on the covert team
Hired to spy on her partner
Motto: "Never be deceived again."

Coyote shifter Trevor Maxwell is teamed up with CIA agent Alina Bosch to catch a killer. But when the mission becomes much more dangerous than they expected, they're going to have to ignore the attraction between them and learn how to trust one another to come out on the other side...

X-Ops is a favorite of mine, and coyote shifter Trevor Maxwell is a great example of why. He's sarcastic, witty, and loyal to his team above all else. Even when he knows that his teammate has been sent to spy on him. Alina was hit and miss for me. I understood her trust issues, but I didn't understand why they weren't universal. She wouldn't trust her teammate because she trusted someone else that said he was bad. But why did she trust that someone else? 

Aside from my hesitation over who Alina chose to trust, she was a really fun character. There are several undercover scenes that were just perfect. The dialog and interactions between Trevor and Alina were hot! And the way they build up the tension.....I wasn't sure if they were going to implode before they got together or not.

There's also a cute dog that the neighbor watches who has an amazing habit of busting in at inopportune times to help lighten the mood. However, it wasn't all fun and laughs. There are some pretty serious things happening in the world of X-Ops. Just when you think the bad guys have been dealt a death blow - they seem to jump right back up with some new back pocket plan and ally. Tons of suspense and I was on the edge of my seat for many reasons throughout Her Dark Half.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*


Thursday, July 5, 2018

You Made Your Bed by Cornelia Goddin ~ Review

Title: You Made Your Bed
Author: Cornelia Goddin
Genre: Adult, Thriller
Length: 364 pages
Publisher: Backstreet Books
Release Date: June 20, 2018
Source: Review Request
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Out of her f***ing mind. 
From the outside, Caroline Crowe has everything: famous father, pretty much all the money, the freedom to live any kind of life she wants. On the inside, it's another story. 

This girl daydreams about murder and how to get away with it. And it sure looks like she's got the resources--including a heart of stone--required for the job. 

You're only as sick as your secrets. 

But Caroline's never, ever going to tell.

You Made Your Bed is quite a dark story about the Crowe family - primarily their only daughter Caroline. Goddin brought me right into this troubled woman's head and I took up a perch alongside the Jeerlings (which I pictured as crows) to listen to her thoughts and watch her every move as she plans a murder. She's been planning a murder in her head for quite a while now, she just doesn't really know whose it is yet.

Caroline appears to be an incredibly smart woman, but as the story unfolds and I learned more about her, I quickly realized that there was something seriously wrong. This is what the first half of the book seemed to be. Goddin was trying to show me just how messed up Caroline was. While this let me into her head and helped build a sense of sympathy for her, it also caused the book to get off to a very slow start.

Eventually, someone "forces" Caroline's hand, and she must kill them to protect herself and her family. As the murder plays out and we follow and listen to Caroline's thoughts, the author does a great job of portraying just how desperate she felt. How she had no choice. How it wasn't really her fault.

The ending was just amazing. All the family tension and issues finally boil over and while I don't think I'd call it an actual resolution - some of Caroline's problems to disappear. But that isn't the end, now Caroline needs to decide what's next, and as she walks out the door I have to wonder if everything that happened will allow her to live a normal life.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sweet Home Highland Christmas by May McGoldrick ~ Review

Title: Sweet Home Highland Christmas (The Pennington Family 1.5)
Author: May McGoldrick
Genre: Adult, Historical Romance, Christmas
Length: 102 pages
Publisher: Swerve
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Freya Sutherland is a desperate aunt trying to keep custody of her precocious young niece, Ella. After the death of her father, Freya is willing to do anything to prove she's capable of being Ella's guardian, even if it means marrying for security instead of love.

Recently retired from the military, Captain Gregory Pennington wants nothing more than to make it home in time for Christmas. When his brother hears of his plans to return to the family estate for the holidays, he asks Penn to escort some travelers to the bordering estate.

When Freya and Penn meet their chemistry is instant. Once they realize he's their escort for the journey, there's no escaping their attraction. But Penn has plans that do not include a wife and child. And Freya has responsibilities as Ella's guardian, no matter her growing discontent with her upcoming marriage. With Ella conspiring to get them together, Penn and Freya might just experience a little magic during the holidays.

Sweet Home Highland Christmas really stood out for me because of the hero. Captain Gregory Pennington isn't your typical soldier or spare to inherit a title. He's an engineer! This really excited me, and I think the authors did a great job showing his intellect, curiosity, and problem-solving skills all along the journey as he escorted Freya and her five-year-old niece, Ella.

Ella really steals the show. I love when a child can be such a central part of a romance, and I don't see that very often in the historical genre. If there are just tons of these out there that I haven't heard of yet, feel free to drop the title in the comments so I can check them out. Ella is also very intelligent, and when she meets Pennington, she promptly decides that he would be a much better husband for her aunt than the cousin Freya has been dreading to marry.

While this isn't a love at first sight story, it is a case of falling in love quickly. As the small party journeys through the Scottish countryside in the winter, I was able to get to know these characters through an ice-skating break, bedtime stories, and midnight confessions. The story takes place during the Christmas season, but it really wasn't mentioned too much until the very end, which I found a tad rushed, like the authors were running into a word or page count limit, but overall a very satisfying story.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood ~ Review

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Adult, Dystopia
Length: 311 pages
Publisher: Anchor Books
Release Date: March 16, 1985
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

I read this book a long time ago. With the recent rise of making mini-series for books on NetFlix, Hulu, and prime cable channels, book club selected it so they could read it before watching (at least most of them did). I loved having a chance to pick this incredible story up again. The TV show was quite different the further I got into it. It was a great way of highlighting things that I “liked” better or worse between the two and opened a whole new conversation about the events as well.

Most of you will know the basics of the story – a dystopian somewhat futuristic society that has reverted to extreme religious views (of a sort) and certain class of young fertile women are related to basically be breeding stock for the military higher-ups and the elite. Not a very pleasant situation.

I think what I enjoyed most about the book was the ending – so I won’t say too much other than it surprised me. It’s quite open-ended, which I usually don’t like. But in this case, it just seemed to fit. I highly recommend this book – and it seems to be a quite fitting read in our current political climate as well.