Beauty - Robin McKinley

Beauty: a Retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast
by Robin McKinley
Genre: Adult Fiction
Form: Hardback Book

A strange imprisonment
Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.
When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"
Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple: "Beauty and the Beast."

Source: booksamillion.com

I love the story of Beauty and the Beast. It was my long-standing favorite Disney film for forever. I think I like it mostly because I can relate to Beauty. Her love of books, hope of true romantic love, and down to earth-ness on many aspects of life. Anyhow, someone recommended Robin McKinley’s rendition of Beauty and the Beast to me after I read her book, Sunshine. It took me a while to get a hold of the book (I was waiting on a trade from swaptree.com), and then I just had many things on my to be read list that I just wanted to get to first…so it took me a while to get it. Reading Beauty on the skirt-tails of reading The Thirteenth Tale was perfect, because the authors have a very similar style. There are a lot of details in the writing style. It was a good combination for me.

I was captivated with this story from the start. Again, I think it was mostly because I knew the story, I knew what happened and was really excited to see it unfold. But then again, thinking about to reading Sunshine, I was captivated by that story too. It took me a long time to get into it, but once I was I cared about the characters and was excited for what happened. I think Robin McKinley must have a very unique writing style that does that. I cannot pinpoint exactly what it is that is so great. Maybe in some small way it IS all the details in her books that eventually slam into each other to make this wonderful story. Her books don’t have a lot of action. Well, Sunshine did closer to the end, but still yet, I found the book moved very slow. Her books are also not overly romantic. In fact, in both books I’ve read of hers, Robin McKinley has left me wanting – wanting MUCH MUCH more. More so with Sunshine than Beauty.

As a reader, I do like details, I like full stories with a wonderful happily ever after, I really like romance. I love perfect couples. Beauty did offer most of that to me. It wasn’t until after the book was done and read that I thought, “but what about…?” There were so many things that just didn’t get explained in my opinion. Things like, what DID Beast eat anyway, that probably really aren’t important details in the story, but ended up being important to me. I also wanted more love, more of a connection between the two. I’m afraid that Beast proposing every night to Beauty felt more like desperation than love. It felt like he just wanted to break the curse and move on rather than he was truly in love with her. But, on the other than, there was the scene where Beauty faints and Beast carries her. His tenderness at this, and her shock when she wakes up in his arms, was beautiful – and the most expressed love that I saw from Beast, outside of granting her a week with her family.

So I loved the book, and at the same time it was “eh, just okay” too. It’s weird to have two different opinions, and makes it even more difficult to write about it. It did get me thinking that I’d like to read a book from the Beast’s perspective, since most every rendition is from Beauty’s. A quick search on booksamillion.com brought me to Beastly by Alex Flinn. I’ve never read anything by Alex, and am not sure how this will measure up to the usual story, but I’m sticking this on my TBR list and hoping for the best!


The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Genre: Adult Fiction

Form: Book

Sometimes, when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny.

Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author's tale of gothic strangeness -- featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
Source: booksamillion.com

The Thirteenth Tale surprised me. I had attempted to read this book once, almost a year ago. I probably got to the 2nd chapter and put the book down. There are so many words, so many descriptions and not enough action. I like dialogue and I like stuff to happen. It felt like story was just words for me. Despite that first start, I decided when an online book group wanted to do this book, that I would give it another shot. Once again I found myself slightly lost in it’s descriptions and felt like the book was moving slowly, since this was sort of like an assignment than reading for pleasure, I pressed on. I’m very glad that I did.

When I attempted to describe to my husband what this book was about I said something like, “Well, let’s put it this way; the author of this book is writing about a semi-biographer/bookstore clerk who is writing a biography of an author who is dictating the story I am reading.” So from the perspective of Diane Setterfield, that is some pretty complex writing to begin with. The Thirteenth Tale is filled with so many surprises, twists and turns that it definitely makes up for the slow pace of the book. In fact, I’m positive that the slow pace of the book was rather intentional. Diane does not reveal the next surprise until it is absolutely necessary, and every single time I caught myself thinking, “Man, didn’t see that one coming!”

My one and only complaint with the book happened at the very end. (I apologize in advance for this spoiler, but I cannot voice my complaint without the spoiler. If you haven’t read the book, you may want to stop now and come back after you read it and continue my review!) The appearance of Margaret’s sister cheapened her entire story for me. For the entire book Margaret is haunted by the twin sister who died at birth. She spends a lot of time mourning over the loss of this person she never actually met in real life. But it’s not exactly the person, but the connection of twins that has her feeling as though she is missing half of herself. There are many instances in which Margaret finds herself looking at her sister, almost communicating with her in away – and every time she is “seeing” her sister, it is actually a reflection of one kind or another of herself. So there is no actual ghost. So to write the entire story in that way, and then at the very end let there actually be a ghost really did nothing for met at all.

In reality, this part of the book was only a very small segement, a side story of the whole. The story of Adeline and Emmeline is the story that had me glued to this book. Okay, “glued” might actually be too strong of the word. Like I have mentioned, there are a lot of descriptions and long paragraphs. This made it very easy for me to put the book down and come back to it. That is not how I usually am, I usually cannot put the book down because I can’t wait to find out what happens next. But, even when I did put the book down, the story and the characters were playing their part in my head, keeping me wrapped up into it’s story.

I highly recommend this book!


One Lucky Cowboy - Carolyn Brown

One Lucky Cowboy by Carolyn Brown
Form: ARC Book
Genre: Romance

Jane Day is on the run from the paid assassin who had been her fiance. In Wichita Falls, Texas, she meets Nellie Luckadeau, a spitfire of an old lady who desperately needs someone to work on her ranch. But Nellie's drop-dead gorgeous grandson "Lucky Slade" is sure he can spot a con artist a mile away. He's determined not to let some upstart like Jane fleece his granny.
When his signature intimidation methods don't convince Jane to leave, he pours on the charm to make her spill what she's up to. She's happy to play along, but she's not going to let this hot, hostile cowboy run her off his land when all she needs is a lucky break.
Source: booksamillion.com
I really enjoyed reading One Lucky Cowboy. Jane is fun, crazy, mischievous and wonderful all wrapped into one, and she gives Slade a run for his money at every twist and turn. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that she wasn’t written as a red-head, as she has all the attributes of a stereo-typical redhead. Slade was very much a cowboy and was so hung up on pride that half the time he had a hard time seeing his nose despite his face, or maybe it was just that he had a hard time admitting to what his feelings truly were. There are so many different scenes and events that really develop Jane and Slade’s characters, you get to know them rather well. Nellie was also an awesome character, and I loved all of her group of friends.

There were a lot of references to music, movies, books and authors in this book – I sort of wondered if Carolyn Brown was throwing in some of her favorites for us to enjoy, (although I have to say that I had never seen The Bucket List and probably won’t now that I know it ends up so sad…). I did like that these everyday things were included in the lives of Jane and Slade, because so often it seems that books have so many other things going on in them – the characters stop being real people doing real things.

The moving line of the book was really the best part of all. The action kept a reasonable pace, and allowed for even more opportunity for Jane and Slade to get to know each other, and became real friends – but there were times when I felt the scenes were crossing the line of believable; i.e. while at the safe house. All-in-all, I found One Lucky Cowboy to be very entertaining.


Wild Blue Under - Judi Fennell

Form: ARC Book
Genre: Adult Fantasy
The underwater kingdom is his as soon as he claims his queen
Rod Tritone has the looks and charm to snag any queen he wants for his Mer kingdom, but unfortunately, it's not up to him. As fate would have it, the one woman destined to rule with him is terrified of water
She lives in land-locked Kansas and has no idea she's a princess
Valerie Dumere thinks Rod is gorgeous and irresistible but why does he keep insisting she has another side to herself that only he can show her?
Source: Booksamillion.com
Wild Blue Under is the second of a Mer-human series by Judi Fennell, the first being In Over Her Head. Judi Fennell has created a very imaginative romance series about Mer-humans and a whole new take on the water and animal world around us. There are many books that are based around the mythical City of Atlantis, and the creatures that reside there, most of them have a darker feel about them, more evil; Judi Fennell’s world is like a breath of fresh air, bright and happy despite the danger and suspense. I think that is what appeals to me the most about her books. I love paranormal/fantasy romance novels; I enjoy the dark, aggressive heroes – but the sweet tenderness of Rod’s (and Reel’s) character and the less evil and sinister feel of the books as a whole provides a nice change.

What I liked most about Wild Blue Under is that Valerie and Rod had a chance to develop their relationship. Sure, there was the obvious instant sexual attraction that usually takes place in a romance novel, but they were given a chance to get to know one another. Each talked about their life, growing up, who they were, who they wish they were. It made the relationship between the two more believable. When they finally joined as a couple, they loved each other; it wasn’t merely an attraction.

My least favorite part; all the talking birds. I understand that this is fantasy, and I absolutely 100% agree that in these books anything and everything can happen and is fair game, but the talking birds continued to transform this into a “it could happen” novel to a “this could be a cartoon” novel for me. Most of the time I was just reading and trying to keep the thought that Livingston was just another character in the book, and kept his bird status deep in the back of my head.


The Lovely Bones and Dear Zoe

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold

This past week I read two books that were very similar in topic matter: The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold and Dear Zoe, by Philip Beard. Both books dealt with the death of a girl. In The Lovely Bones, it was Susie, a teenage girl who fell prey to a sick man who rapes and murders mostly teenagers, but sometimes older women. In Dear Zoe, the girl was a toddler named Zoe who was about the age of my youngest daughter, and probably the hardest of the two for me to deal with.

The Lovely Bones was surprising in a super natural sort of way. The brief glimpses of Susie in the human world, and her ultimate appearance near the end. The way the book was described to me, I was expecting more of her and her heaven, when in reality this is her telling of the story from heaven of the years after her death. I knew the healing aspect for her family would be there, and I counted on it from the beginning, because I would never put myself through a book like this without expecting something happy to end on.

Still yet, while in the end Susie felt released from her role on earth, I still was left with an bit of a melancholy feel about the whole thing. I think the biggest disappointment for me was that her murderer was never officially caught. While there was some vindication and resolve there – it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted him busted and shut away. Some resolution in the murder, thus a more rounded resolution in Susie’s family. I know I have made this sound like I was not enjoying the book, but that is not true either. I’m just telling you what I expected. This book was very lyrical in a way. The descriptions and feelings were powerful throughout the book, and probably very real. The emotions and all. This is a good book, if you can deal with the topic matter. It’s not real heavy or graphic on the crime itself, but the grief of the family is very real.

Dear Zoe by Philip Beard

Dear Zoe was not near as emotional in it’s verse. It’s told from the perspective of Tess, the teenage sister of Zoe. She is distraught, to say the least, and not just because her baby sister is gone, but because she was the one responsible for her when the accident happened. She feels very much an outsider, since she is the daughter she suspects her mom didn’t mean to have, and her step dad is not really her dad, but then neither is her dad. There’s no where she feels like she belongs.

This book was particularly hard for me, because when the book described the actions of Zoe, I would imagine my daughter and her face and her smiles and it would just break my heart. So while the book itself had a very teenage quality about it, the writing, the content, etc. the grief portion of the book was very very difficult for me.


The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Form: Paperback Book

a long, hot summer

That's what sixteen-year-old Macy Queen has to look forward to. Her boyfriend, Jason, is gonig away to Brain Camp. She's stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And all of her free time promises to be spent studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father's death.

But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother's open house events, and she meets with the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy ditches her library job and joins up with hte Wish gang: bighearted Delia; quiet, introspective Monica; and fun-loving, fashion-conscious Kristy. But best of all, there's Wes - artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes - who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way.
Source: back of book

One word summary: rewarding

The Truth About Forever is another good one, to say the least. I really like the story that Sarah Dessen tells. She's got great character development, and the storyline draws you in from the beginning. In this story, the walk through Macy's emergence from "perfect" is almost slow in some areas, but so good that you suck in all the details. There are many wonderful parts to this book - one of my favorite parts would be at the climax - when Macy's sister lays out the grief and pain that she and Macy are still suffering over the death of their father. That moment just lays all the cards on the table and spins the book to an solid ending.

Wes is a great character. I love the game of Truth he plays with Macy throughout the book, and how he's solid and a nice guy. I got chills when he finally passed on a question, because I just knew that the one thing he wanted to do had to do with her. It was very heart-thumping because he knew she wasn't ready. How perfect and wonderful is that?

Jason was awful. Completely weird and annoying. The thing is, if I haven't known people who dealt with life in a similar fashion, I would say that his character was completely unrealistic. But the truth of the matter is, there are people who look at life as a grand "to-do list" and it sucks all the character and passion out of a relationship. I love how Macy just leaves him hanging, she didn't even give him an answer when he wanted to reestablish their relationship.


Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Form: Book
Series: Tales of Faerie

Don't Stare at invisible faeries.

Don't speak to invisible faeries.

Don't ever attract their attention.

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. When the rules that have kept Aislinn safe from them stop working, everything is suddenly on the line: her freedom: her best friend, Seth: her life; everything.

Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning twenty-first century faery tale.
Source: back of book

One Word Summary: Poetic

I say “poetic” because I think Melissa Marr’s writing style is just that. She may not be making a poem, but she is very descriptive and imaginative, for some reason the entire book sort of reminded me of a beautifully done poem.

I read a few reviews prior to reading Wicked Lovely that made me put off reading the book for a little bit. Mostly reviews where people were having a difficult time getting into the book. I didn’t feel the slowness at all, in fact I really enjoyed the pace of the book. I felt that most any questions you might ask were there, and relationships between characters were well established. It really made the book alive for me, very believable in an unbelievable way.

I like how this isn’t a typical love story. I was afraid that Melissa Marr was going to establish two beautiful relationships and then split them up again in some drastic, over-the-top love scene. So thank you Melissa, for not doing that!

Okay, so my only complaints? Seth was entirely too understanding. Aislinn did some stuff that would have made any guy mad. She kissed another guy for starters, also she changed drastically and suddenly. Yes, it wasn’t her fault, but his temper didn’t flair once. He didn’t seem overly protective of her either – which is an attribute I do love in a book (not so much in real life), but he was just all around a laid back guy. Second, I wanted more drama at the end. I know, I know - Seth was taken, Donia was taken, there was a small battle over control at the end, but it wasn’t nearly as big as I was expecting. I think I was expecting something a little more Holly Black at the end of Tithe; but different author, different set of Fae.

All-in-all, I’m looking forward to reading more of Melissa’s books. Very entertaining, in reality; exactly what I was looking for in a fantasy novel!

Remember Me - Sophie Kinsella

Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella
Genre: Chick Lit
Form: Audio Book

When twenty-eight-year-old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital, she's in for a big surprise. Her teeth are perfect. Her body is toned. Her handbag is Vuitton. Having survived a car accident--in a Mercedes no less--Lexi has lost a big chunk of her memory, three years to be exact, and she's about to find out just how much things have changed, Somehow Lexi went from a twenty-five-year-old working girl to a corporate big shot with a sleek new loft, a personal assistant, a carb-free diet, and a set of glamorous new friends. And who is this gorgeous husband--who also happens to be a multimillionaire? With her mind still stuck three years in reverse, Lexi greets this brave new world determined to be the person she...well, seems to be. That is, until an adorably disheveled architect drops the biggest bombshell of all. Suddenly Lexi is scrambling to catch her balance. Her new life, it turns out, comes complete with secrets, schemes, and intrigue. How on earth did all this happen? Will she ever remember? And what will happen when she does?
Source: booksamillion.com

One Word Summary: Typical

Typical in an atypical setting is more like it. I’ve never read a book about anyone who had amnesia, and was unable to recover from it. But as a romance novel goes, it was pretty typical.

There seems to be a rash of books about highly successful women who get the best guy around (it IS fiction afterall,) I guess it’s okay to have everything and more), and personally in most cases I find the whole thing sort of shallow. But in Remember Me I feel like Sophie Kinsella addresses the shallowness, by having Lexi realize that the more she finds out about who she has become, the more she has become someone completely different – and she didn’t like it. I felt like she wafted between being okay with it and being disappointed with herself a little to much. Also, I wasn’t feeling the electric vibes between her and Colin so much – perhaps maybe because the book’s focus wasn’t really about her love, but about her life and getting a chance to undo the monster she’d created the first time around.


Ghostgirl - Tonya Hurley

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Form: Audio Book

Ever feel invisible?... Charlotte Usher did. Ignored by classmates, overlooked by teachers, beneath contempt of the popular and unnoticed by the guy of her dreams, she barely registered on the map at Hawthorne High - the kind of girl no one would ever miss if she died tomorrow. And then she did. The End?
Not exactly.
Ghostgirl is the story of a misfit teenage girl who dies in a freak accident, and "wakes up" as a ghost in a parallel world, only to find that she still needs to go to class, i.e., Dead Ed, a "finishing" school for other departed teens waiting to cross over. Worst of all, she is still obsessed with all the issues of her previous life, especially her fantasy of befriending Petula, the most popular girl in school, and going to the big school dance with Petula's hot boyfriend Damen - a desire so powerful it transcends death itself. For Charlotte, resting in peace is apparently not an option.
Source: back of audio book

One Word Summary: Bland

I have a feeling that my opinion comes mostly from the narrator. The audio book was approximately 5 hours worth of a monotoned woman’s voice, sometimes fumbling over words and rushing through phases. I was absolutely unimpressed with the performance. In fact, most of the time I was very annoyed because hearing the words that were being read – I could actually tell what type of tone and impression the author was intending, and the narrator just wasn’t getting it. Just because there was one Goth in the story (and it wasn’t Charlotte, she was just a quiet wallflower) did not mean that the entire book needed to be done in a Gothish “I-don’t-care” tone.

Okay, enough of that. The book would be decent for around 11-13 year olds. It was entertaining enough, but not over-the-top with anything. The lesson of the book was more-or-less a “you don’t have to fit in/be yourself” type message. I found it interesting that while Charlotte was the one doing everything she could to be popular and get noticed and belong, Scarlett was just being herself, and it just came naturally. She got the guy, and the popularity (to her surprise) by just being herself. Charlotte was changing who she was in an attempt to become popular, even in the afterlife she was bound and determined to do whatever it took to be noticed. This is the only part I wish Tonya Hurley would have pulled out a bit more. Charlotte does learn to accept who she was, and stop living for the living and join the dead, but it would have been nice if she had also seen that Scarlett was good enough just being who she was, she didn’t need to go through a “makeover” or anything of that nature to have friends and get a boyfriend.


Bloom - Elizabeth Scott

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
Genre: Young Adult Romance
Form: Book

Lauren has a good life: decent grades, great friends, and a boyfriend every girl lusts after. So why is she so unhappy?

It takes the arrival of Evan Kirkland for Lauren to figure out the answer: She's been holding back. She's been dneying herself a bunch of things because staying with her loyal and gorgeous boyfriend, Dave, is the "right" thing to do. After all, who would give up the perfect guy?

But as Dave starts talking more and more about their life together, planning a future Lauren simply can't see herself in - and as Lauren's craving for Evan and, moreover, who she is with Evan becomes all the more fierce - Lauren realizes she needs to make a choice...before one is made for her.
Source: back of book

One word Summary: Genuine

The summary for the back of the book really does this book justice. Bloom truly is about Lauren coming into her own, figuring out for herself the difference between what looks good on the outside, and what feels right on the inside. She is able to work through wondering if she'll be like her mother, and her hard feelings for her father and his lack of attention in her life. Her personal growth throughout the book is noticeable.

Elizabeth Scott has really captured the heart of a teenage girl in Lauren. Every insecurity that she has, I'm pretty sure went through my head as well. The insecurity of not being good enough was a major part of my high school career, as well as the idea that everyone around you has the best life possible. I think that if the story was told from the perspective of Dave, his life would not have seemed nearly as perfect.

The best part of this book was the connection between Lauren and Evan. From the moment that Lauren noticed Evan next to her in World History, the sparks started flying. They had chemistry that was so perfect and true. Evan seeing Lauren for who she was, and understanding her insecurities, just made him even more perfect in my eyes than Dave ever was.


Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Form: Book
Series: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Sparks are Igniting.
Flames are Spreading.
And the Capitol wants Revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Millark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katnis and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are even higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
Source: Flap of Book

One word summary: AMAZING!

I think that of all the books that I have read this year (and it's been a lot), this was probably the best. I was surprised more than once at the turn of events that Suzanne Collins took me on in this book. This being said, when I picked up the book earlier this week I was a little leery, due to a review I read in Entertainment Weekly which wasn't bad nor that great. Looking back on it now, I wonder if the author of the article even read beyond the 3rd chapter. Oh well, we all can't like the same things.

Katniss is a strong teenage girl. She's practical. She aims to survive, and protect those that she loves. But she finds herself stuck in an awkward love triangle that a little more than a year ago would never have existed, seeing as how she had no intentions of marrying or having children. Now she's got Peeta who revealed his love for her during the previous year's Hunger Games, a confession that helped them to win the hearts of all the inhabitants of the Capitol as well as helped them to win the games in the end. Then there is Gale, her best friend, hunting partner and confidant since their fathers died in a mining accident. They have relied on each other to live, to keep each others families alive. Gale, who is forced out of the picture because of Peeta, and the fact that everyone outside of District 12 believes they are cousins.

President Snow reveals that Katniss best convince EVERYONE of her and Peeta's love, and that she/they had no intention of starting the sparks of rebellion that have seemingly arose in many of the other district. Unintentionally, Peeta and Katniss seem to add fuel to the flame instead of calming the crowds down, and before they know it - they are off on an another "adventure."

I cannot to express to you how much I love these books, these characters. There are surprises, tender moments, and love. There is hope, fear, and pain. I will be pinning for the 3rd book all year, because I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens next.


The Treasures of Venice - Loucinda McGary

The Treasures of Venice by Loucinda McGary
Genre: Adult Romance (Suspense)
Form: ARC Book

He's a charming Irish rogue who never met a lock he couldn't pick...

Keirnan Fitzgerald is desperate to locate the missing Jewels of the Madonna. With danger at every corner and time running out, he must use whatever means possible to uncover the stolen jewels in time to save his sister's life....

She's simply in Venice to relax and heal her broken heart...

Samantha Lewis is shocked when a dashing stranger approaches her in a Venetian cafe pretending to know her. She's ready for something new and exciting in her life, so she throws caution to the wind and accompanies the Irish charmer into his dangerous world of intrigue, theft, and betrayal... As the centuries-old story behind the Jewels' disappearance is revealed, Samantha must decide whether the man she's so compellingly drawn to is her soul mate from a previous life, or if they are merely pawns in a relentless quest for a priceless treasure...

Source: back of book

One Word Summary: Creative

The Treasures of Venice was a nice break from my typical paranormal itinerary. I enjoyed the action and the adventure of the hunt for the Jewels of the Madonna as well as of a kidnapped sister who possess the only solid knowledge of the Jewel’s whereabouts. This book was a little bit Indiana Jones meets sexy Irishman.

The story started out very strong, with Keirnan spotting Samantha and using her as his cover, from that moment the relationship between the two did not cease to gain momentum. They had an unexplainable electricity and attraction from the start. Their interaction and relationship are what made this book so good. But then the story-line surely helped in the building of the characters and moving the story along. I enjoyed learning about history of the sought after jewels and the characters surrounding them, and felt like I was getting 2 books in one.

My favorite parts include Keirnan and Sam's first encounter and their tour through Doge's Palace; the beginning of their adventure. I also enjoyed pretty much every time Samantha ends up taking care of Keirnan. My one and only [minor] complaint was the number of times Keirnan mentioned his "libido," not that I have objections to the word or topic matter - I just felt that in a place or two a synonym could have been used.

I really enjoyed The Treasures of Venice, and the adventure it took me on, and I look forward to seeing more books by Loucinda McGary in the future.


Guest Blogger - Loucinda McGary - The Treasures of Venice

Happy Thursday! Today is a special day at I Loves To Read, as I am having my first ever guest blogger, Loucinda McGary. As a special celebration in honor of our guest, I am also hosting a book give-away for her brand new book The Treasures of Venice. I have read this book and can testify (as I will tomorrow in my review) that this book is worth it. So enjoy our special blog, and post a comment at the end for your chance at winning your own copy. (I forgot the rules...)
Rule #1: Only comments on this blog post can win.
Rule #2: Name and e-mail please. And if you'd like, a link to your own blog, for my own pleasure! :)
Rule #3: Contest ends September 10th

Loucinda McGary, author of The Treasures of Venice
I Loves 2 Read; September 3, 2009

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog and talk about my new release The Treasures of Venice. This is my second romantic suspense novel for the Sourcebooks Casablanca line and it is now on the shelves of bookstores and available to order online. Like my debut release The Wild Sight, this book is a contemporary romantic suspense with some paranormal elements. It also has an Irish hunk hero, but instead of being set in Ireland, the story is set in Venice, Italy and has a secondary storyline set in 1485.

I’ve recently had several opportunities to speak in person to groups of writers and readers about my writing process in general and both my books in particular. I’d like to share a few of the most frequently asked questions and my answers about The Treasures of Venice.

What gave you the idea for your book?

I heard a piece of music on the radio. I listen to classical music and when an unfamiliar piece came on that I liked, I listened carefully when the announcer said, “That was the incidental music to the opera ‘Jewels of the Madonna’ by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.” I went home and googled the opera and the composer, who happened to be a Venetian.

Venice is such a romantic city, and I loved the idea of setting a book there. After I started reading the summary of the opera (which is actually set in Naples), I started thinking “what if…” and the idea for The Treasures of Venice was born.

Did you have a tough time coming up with character names and personalities?

No. Generally my characters show up in my imagination with their names and personalities fully intact. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get to know them. Yes, they really do “talk” to me, and I know far more about their lives than is ever written in their particular book.

I will say that coming up with authentic sounding Italian names for many secondary characters was a bit of a challenge. I try not to name my characters the same name as people I know. But I happen to know a lot of people with Italian last names, and I did ‘borrow’ a couple of them just for fun. I’m happy to report, the people involved got a real kick out of it, too!
Are any of the characters like you? Why or why not?

All of my characters have certain aspects that are like me, even the villains! I can’t help myself, because all their thoughts and feelings are filtered through me. While writing this story I would purposely think, “If I were a young woman who’d never had a father, and her fiancĂ© had just jilted her, how would I react if…?” Or, “If I were a guy whose sister has been kidnapped, what would I do if…?”

So in some respects, they are all me, but then again, not really. I would never do some of the things or get myself into the situations that happen to my characters! Thank goodness.

While writing, are you always focused, or distracted?

I’m easily distracted, but I need to stay focused. That’s why I have set writing times and a writing routine. I don’t listen to music (like so many writers do), and I can’t watch TV or carry on conversations (in person or online) while I’m writing. Rewriting and revising are a totally different story, but getting down the first draft requires a lot of concentration. While writing my first drafts I often say I am “in my writing cave” because I sit at my computer all alone, many times until way into the night. Did you ever think your story would one day get published?

I had just about despaired of this book ever being published because it received many rejections over the course of the two years that I submitted it to agents and editors.

To be honest, it did have a few things working against it, the setting of Venice, Italy for one. Editors really seem to want tried and true settings, and all of Italy is not used that often in novels. It also has that dual storyline set in both contemporary and Renaissance time periods that editors and agents weren’t quite sure how to deal with.

But as the saying goes, “it only takes one yes” and I was thrilled when my editor finally said yes to this story! She loved the setting and the dual storyline and ultimately, I think readers will too.
Do you have any other questions about my writing process in general or about The Treasures of Venice? I’d love to answer them!

About the Author
Loucinda McGary took early retirement from her managerial career to pursue her twin passions of travel and writing, and sets her novels of romantic suspense in the fascinating places she has visited. She was a finalist in the 2006 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest in Romantic Suspense. She lives in Sacramento, CA. For more information, please visit http://loucindamcgary.com/.


Summer 2009 Love-to-Read Newsletter

Summer 2009 Love-to-Read Newsletter

I’m trying something new. Every month I am going to attempt to put together a newsletter summarizing the books that I read, giving my recommendations based on my reading, throwing in some fun stuff as I see fit. I’m not the best at actually writing “normal” blogs, so we’ll see how this goes. Since I’m covering the summer (June, July & August) in this edition, the next Newsletter will not come until the beginning of October.

Calling all Young Adult Lovers!

This summer I’ve delved into wealth of Young Adult books that are out there. I’ve stumbled upon not one, but TWO very good sagas I think you will enjoy!

  • The Evernight Saga A Romeo and Juliet-type story; half-breed Vampire Bianca, and vampire-hunter Lucas find themselves helplessly in love.Overcoming their differences, and learning to see the world in a different light; this new vampire series is a new favorite addition to my library.I’m a sucker for “undying” love anyway!These books are not as mature as the Twilight Saga, okay for ages starting at around 13, but obviously entertaining enough for adults.
  • The Darkest Powers Series A wonderful, excellent, awesome, exciting (can I throw in anymore adjectives?) Saga. Chloe has a problem – she sees dead people; ghosts. But that’s not all she can do…. She finds herself in a group home with other teenagers who are just as “crazy” as she is. In this Saga, teens band together, discover they are all “supernatural” and escape. The first two books are about discovery of who they are and what they can do, and I believe, creating a friendship and bond that will last a lifetime. This is a very suspenseful series. I would recommend around 15-16 and up, it has some semi-graphic scenes (not sexual in nature…more un-dead in nature) – nothing a teenager can’t handle. Just the right amount of “fear” for me though, I’m a big wuss when it comes to scary stuff.

I also want to throw out there Barry Lyga and the two books I’ve read by him: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy. Yet another great author that I recommend. Fanboy and Goth Girl is a great book for younger teens, but I absolutely recommend Boy Toy be left to the more mature, it deals with a lot of difficult subject matter, and is quite explicit in details.

Young Adult books I read over the summer, recommended by the number of stars (5=best, 1=worst) after the author’s name:

Valiant – Holly Black**

Ironside – Holly Black***

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling*****

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling*****

Tantalize – Cynthia Leitich Smith***

Vampire Kisses – Ellen Schreiber**

Kissing Coffins – Ellen Schreiber**

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl – Barry Lyga****

Evermore – Alyson Noel***

Someday this Pain Will Be Useful to You – Peter Cameron*

Vampireville – Ellen Schreiber**

Boy Toy – Barry Lyga****

Evernight – Claudia Gray*****

Stargazer – Claudia Gray*****

The Summoning – Kelley Armstrong*****

The Awakening – Kelley Armstrong*****

Nora Roberts is her name, Romance is her game!

Oldie but Goodie:

Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts was recommended to me by some peers on a book website. I decided that I love Nora’s In Death series (under pseudonym J. D. Robb) I would give the book a try. And boy, it did not disappoint. Nora Roberts does an excellent job tickling the senses with this one. The book I received from Swaptree was old, and yellowed and well loved (with good reason) and was almost enough to discourage me from reading it. I don’t typically like older books – I don’t really know why. Magic, dazzle, sizziling love, danger, lawlessness – it’s all there and ready for your taking!

New and just as good:

The new Bride Quartet. I read the first book, Vision in White, and once again, the pictures that Nora Roberts paints using words, unbelievable. If you’re all into the lovey, dovey, gushy happily ever after….well, what better books to read than a series about wedding planners and their own love adventures?

The romance books of the summer, once again rated by stars:

Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband – Melissa Mayhue***

Love Walked In - Marisa de los Santos***

Queen of Babble Gets Hitched – Meg Cabot****

Wife for Hire – Janet Evanovich****

Can You Keep a Secret – Sophie Kinsella**

Honest Illusions – Nora Roberts*****

Because She Can – Bridie Clark**

Vision in White – Nora Roberts****

Catch A Mate – Gena Showalter***

Glitter Baby – Susan Elizabeth Phillips***

What I Did for Love – Susan Elizabeth Phillips***

Acheron – Sherrilyn Kenyon****

There’s just something about Girls who kick butt!

I love reading books about empowered women, and especially one’s who’ve got mad skills. So I’ve been stuck on three series, that are similar and totally different at the same time.

  • The Stephanie Plum series, by Janet Evanovich Stephanie is an Italian who loves men, to eat, and presumably to hunt down bail-jumpers and put them back into custody. She’s got a knack for getting into trouble, for blowing up her car (among other things) and for always getting her man one way or another. She is constantly having to fix her hair, whether it be because some psyco cut it, or because her self-esteem has plummeted and she needs a boost. These books are fun, hilarious, and sexy.

  • The In Death Series, by J.D. Robb LOVE this series. Between butt-kicking cop, Eve Dallas and her sexy husband, Roarke, these books are always steamy and suspenseful. It combines the two things I love the most, getting the bad guys, and romance out the wazoo! Unlike Stephanie Plum, Eve Dallas is super serious about what she does and who she is. She’s got a trouble past, and she has issues getting over it at times. But she’s good…real good. I honestly believe these books are awesome on audio book – the narrator does an amazing job with the voices!
  • Last and absolutely not least – the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning This is a much different take, instead of catching bad guys, Mackalya Lane is fighting evil Faeries (which I guess is the bad guy, sort of). This is a paranormal version of my butt-kicking female. By far, this is my favorite series..er saga of the three. The saga is 4 books long, the 4th has yet to publish, and let me tell you – Karen Marie Moning is classic for the cliff hangers! She leaves the story wayyyyy up in the air. Once again, the combination of good vs. evil and sexual tension makes these books a MUST READ for the paranormal-loving adult.

I’m not going to list out the books for you, because I’m reading them all in order – and there are a lot of them, to be honest it would be a waste of space. They all pretty much have the same rating. Just take my word for it – they’re good!

Coming up!

  • Early next week I’ll be having a guest blogger, Loucinda McGary, who will be blogging about her new book, The Treasures of Venice. Come check out her blog, and a chance to win her new book on September 2nd!!!

  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Releases September 1st. I’ve been waiting a year for this 2nd book of the Hunger Games trilogy.

  • Covet by J.R. Ward – Releases September 29th A new “Fallen Angel” series. If it’s anything like the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, it will be worth checking out.