Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Small Change by Sheila Roberts

First line: There it sat, a Cloud Nine queen-sized luxury gold comforter with red ribbon applique and metallic embroidery.

From the back cover: Take a trip to the charming little town of Heart Lake, and meet three best friends who you’ll never forget…

Rachel, Jessica and Tiffany have money problems - major money problems. Tiffany’s whipped out the plastic one too many times, and now a mountain of debt is about to come crashing down on her.  Jessica’s husband lost his job - thrusting this longtime stay-at-home mom out into the cold, cruel workforce.  And Rachel’s divorce has transformed her from an upper-middle-class mom to a strapped-for-cash divorcee.  What are three best friends to do?

Get financially fit, that’s what!  Together, Rachel, Jessica and Tiffany start a financial support group called The Small Change Club - challenging each other to bring balance back to their checkbooks, and their lives.  Even though frugality is a lot harder than they ever imagined, these women are about to learn some very important lessons: that  small changes can make a big difference…and that some things in life, like good friends, are truly priceless.

My thoughts: This was a fun story about the power of friendship. It follows three friends who, due to circumstances in their lives, find themselves in financial straights and need to adopt more frugal ways of living. 

I was able to see a little of myself in each of the main characters - Tiffany the emotional spender, Rachel having to live on a shoestring budget, and Jess thinking she is in a better place financially then she really is. In order to not let their financial issues keep them down, they form the "Small Changes Club" - their own version of a support group. They find ways to make their budgets stretch and even put their ideas out there for everyone to see by creating a blog. I have to say that my husband and I practice one of the tips the group came up with - we make one extra payment on our mortgage each year. It is tips like this that are shared throughout the book - tips that are all practical and even a few that are fun. 

This is the third book I've read by Sheila Roberts and I always feel good about her books. She manages to tell a story and at the same time impart practical advice for smart living.

(I won this book.) 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: 1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber

First line: Sunshine splashed into the windows of the Bremerton waterfront cafe.

From the back cover: Dear Reader,
You've probably heard that my wife has left me. Rachel's pregnant, and she says she can't handle the stress in our household anymore. My thirteen-year-old daughter, Jolene, is jealous of her. Maybe it's my fault. As a widower I spoiled her -

Jolene was reading over my shoulder just now and says that's not true. She claims Rachel ruined everything. But that's not true. The real question is: How can I get my wife back? I don't even know where she is. She's not with Teri Polgar or any of her other friends from the salon. The other question is...when will Jolene grow up and stop acting like such a brat?

Of course, I'm not the only one in town with problems. Linc Wise's father-in-law is trying to destroy his business. And you know Charlotte Rhodes? Seems she's becoming forgetful, and the family's worried about her and Ben. Lots of other stuff going on - but Rachel is better at keeping up with it than I am.

If you have any idea where my wife is, give me a call. Please.
~Bruce Peyton

My thoughts: This is the 11th and second to last book in Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series and even though I was excited to read it, I didn't want to finish it because that means only one book left.

The main focus of this book is the story of Rachel and Bruce Peyton, who live at 1105 Yakima Street. They are expecting their first child together, but are experiencing major difficulties because of Jolene, Bruce's 13-year-old daughter, who is not adjusting well to the marriage or the pregnancy. Not wanting to add more stress to her pregnancy, Rachel moves out and it's up to Bruce to try to convince his wife that things can turn around. 

Of course, throughout the course of the book, we get glimpses into other residents of Cedar Cove. We see Olivia and Will coping with the aging problems of Charlotte and Ben, Gloria trying to fit in with her biological family while dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, Grace learning to love again, and Linc and Lori coming to terms with her parents. We also get updates on Nate, Roy, Corrie, Linnette, Mack, Mary Jo, Terri, Christie, James, Shirley, Miranda, and more.

I've really come to enjoy visiting Cedar Cove through these books and while I am excited to read the next installment, I am also dreading it because it will be the last visit there.

(I purchased this book.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Hide by Lisa Gardner (audio book)

From the back of the audio case: It was a case that haunts Bobby Dodge to this day - the case that nearly killed him and changed his life forever. Now, the gruesome discovery of six mummified corpses, resurrects his worst nightmare: the return of a killer he thought dead and buried.

Bobby's only lead is wrapped around a dead woman's neck. Annabelle Granger's childhood was a blur of new cities and assumed identities. But what - or who - her family was running from, she never knew. Now a body is unearthed from a grave, wearing a necklace bearing Annabelle's name, and the danger is too close to escape.

Dodge knows he must solve the mystery of Annabelle Granger, and to do that he must team up with his former lover, partner, and friend, D.D. Warren from the Boston P.D.

From its tense beginning to its shocking climax, Hide is a thriller that delves into our deepest, darkest fears. Where there is no one to trust. Where there is no place left to hide.

Read by: Maggie-Meg Reed

My thoughts: I have really been enjoying going back to the beginning of this series. I read books four when that book first came out as part of the author's blog tour and then did the same with book five. Before any more books come out in this series, I decided to go back and start at the beginning. I was able to find this book on audio and really enjoyed listening to it - the suspense kept me hooked.

In Hide, the second in Lisa Gardner's Detective D.D. Warren series, we see some familiar characters - Bobby Dodge, D.D. Warren, and even Catherine Gagnon. We are also introduced to some new characters, mainly Annabelle Granger.

Bobby Dodge and D.D. Warren are called to the grounds of a mental hospital where a grim discovery has been made - the secret underground lair of a long-ago serial killer of little girls. The hospital was closed years ago, and the killer was never caught. The gruesome evidence in the bunker includes an old locket on the remains of one victim. The name on the locket is Annabelle Mary Granger. Imagine their surprise when a grown woman arrives at their police station, claiming to be the owner of the locket.

Hide is part puzzle and part romance. It alternates between first person - Annabelle's voice - and third person - for describing the two detectives investigating the case. This is not only the story of sexual predators and lives of crime, but also it is the story of Annabelle Granger and the tragic loss of her childhood. I have a feeling that this will not be the last time we see Annabelle - not because she is involved in another crime, but for other reasons.

(I borrowed this audio book from the library.)

FIR '11: Reading Question #1

FIR is hosted by Katrina at Callapidderdays.

Every Wednesday this fall, Katrina will be posting a question about reading.

Today's question: How much do book reviews influence your decision to acquire and/or read a book?

As I tend to read the most among my friends and family, I tend to rely on reviews from other bloggers as to whether I will read a book. Of course, there are certain authors that I pick up regardless of the reviews, just because I know I like their style and read just about everything they write. For new authors, I tend to see what everyone in the blogging world has to say before picking up a new book. 

I rarely, if ever, pay attention to professional reviews. I might look at those just to see what's hot, but often don't look any further than to see what they are reviewing.

What about you? How much are you influenced by others’ reviews when picking books?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

First line: More than a few residents of Wynette, Texas, thought Ted Beaudine was marrying beneath himself.

From the inside cover: R.S.V.P. to the most riotous wedding of the year...

Lucy Jorik is the daughter of a former president of the United States.

Meg Koranda is the offspring of legends.

One of them is about to marry Mr. Irresistible - Ted Beaudine - the favorite son of Wynette, Texas. The other is not happy about it and is determined to save her friend from a mess of heartache.

But even though Meg knows that breaking up her best friend's wedding is the right thing to do, no one else seems to agree. Faster than Lucy can say "I don't," Meg becomes the most hated woman in town - a town she's stuck in with a dead car, an empty wallet, and a very angry bridegroom. Broke, stranded, and without her famous parents at her back, Meg is sure she can survive on her own wits. What's the worst that can happen? Lose her heart to the one and only Mr. Irresistible? Not likely. Not likely at all.

Call Me Irresistible is the book Susan Elizabeth Phillips's readers have long awaited. Ted, better known as "little Teddy," the nine-year-old heartbreak kid from Phillips's first bestseller, Fancy Pants, and as "young Teddy," the hunky new college graduate in Lady Be Good, is all grown up now - along with Lucy from First Lady and Meg from What I Did for Love. They're ready to take center stage in a saucy, funny, and highly addictive tale fans will love.

My thoughts: The very first Susan Elizabeth Phillips book that I read was Fancy Pants and I thought it was such a fun book. I loved 'little Teddy' and was excited when his story was finally written.

Meg is the child of very famous parents, and as the novel opens we find out she's never had to do anything for herself. Suddenly finding herself cut off from her parents, she is forced to stand on her own. In the wake of the wedding that wasn't between Ted and Lucy, her best friend, Meg is left broke, homeless, and ostracized by the town that puts the blame for Lucy's running out squarely on her shoulders. It's how Meg handles the aftermath that really makes her character come to life. Watching
her roll up her sleeves and build a life all on her own had me cheering for Meg as she discovers she is strong, capable, and worthy all along. 

Ted is determined to make Meg pay for her part in his non-wedding, as are the rest of the towns people. But everything Ted throws in Meg's path she overcomes and ends up turning the tables on Mr. Irresistible. While we don't get into Ted's head until more than halfway through the story, it works - the reader sees exactly what Meg sees when it comes to Ted and we get to figure it all out as she does.

I loved Meg and Ted's impossible tale and how both characters grew and matured, becoming extremely likable people as they journeyed from bitter opponents to wary allies, to friends, lovers and soul mates. It was also great to catch up with all the familiar characters from Susan Elizabeth Phillips' earlier books. I can't wait to find out what Lucy ends up doing - which SEP is currently working on!

(I borrowed this book from the library.)

September Giveaway Winners

The winners of this month's giveaway are:

By: Julie Metz

Winner: Jane
This Must Be the Place
by: Kate Raccula

Winner: Lindsey
With Friends Like These
By: Sally Koslow

Winner: Kritter
Tick Tock
By: James Patterson

Winner: Mamabunny

Thanks to all who entered and don't forget to stop by next month to see a new set of books up for grabs!

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (9.26.11)

It’s Monday What Are you Reading , hosted by Sheila, is the perfect way for me to begin my week and allows me to focus on what needs to be read and to see what I have or have not accomplished the previous week. I also enjoy discovering new books by visiting other participants blogs.

Last week I managed to get a quite a few reviews done, but didn't get that much reading's always a balance. I am super excited, though, for the start of The Fall into Reading 2011 challenge - this is my second year participating and it's always so much fun!

Books Completed last week:
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (review book)
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg (library audio book) 
  • Navy Woman by Debbie Macomber (library book)
Reading Now:
  • Angel Lane by Sheila Roberts
  • Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (book club book, mine)
  • Larceny and Lace by Annette Blair
  • The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
  • Night Road by Kristin Hannah (library audio book)
Reviews completed this past week
Other Posts related to books:
Books for which I need to finish reviews:
  • Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Hide by Lisa Gardner
  • 1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber
  • Small Change by Sheila Roberts
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
  • Navy Woman by Debbie Macomber
Contest information:

What about you?  What does your reading week look like this week?  Whatever it is, happy reading and have a good week!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In My Mailbox (67) 9.25.11

In My Mailbox (IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren. Every week I'll post what books I've received either by mailbox/library/store.

*** This week was a crazy week as far as getting books - last few weeks have been pretty light and this week I ended up with 10 if only I can read as fast as I seem to be acquiring these books!!!
For Review (3)
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller

Library (2)
Angel Lane by Sheila Roberts
Navy Woman by Debbie Macomber

Purchased (2)
The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis

The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper

Free Downloads (0) 

Borrowed from family member (1)
Falling Home by Karen White

From Paperback Swap (2)
Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg
Say When by Elizabeth Berg

Won (0)

What's in your mailbox?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Virtual Book Tour & Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

First line: For eight years I dreamed of fire. 

From the back cover: The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market inspires her to question what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

My thoughts: Every once in a while you come across a book that just moves you and you can't stop thinking about it. This is that book, an emotionally powerful novel that will definitely be finding a permanent spot on my bookshelf so that I can read it again and again.

The Language of Flowers tells the story of Victoria, a child of the foster care system, that is angry at the world and believes no one could ever love her and that she can never love anyone. The story is told in chapters alternating between the present and events that occurred when Victoria was 10 years old. This is when she had her last chance at a family and a normal life, when she was placed with a potential adoptive mother, Elizabeth, until something goes catastrophically wrong. We get a surprisingly vivid picture of both the 10 year old Victoria and the 18 year old Victoria.

This novel offers many different models of motherhood, from Renata and Elizabeth's pseudo-maternity that looks an awful lot like the real thing, to Victoria's mother who abandoned her as an infant, to mothers who smother or panic or simply go insane. Flowers is the common thread running through the book. The title derives its name from the Victorian practice of communicating through flowers. Each common flower was given a meaning, and by presenting a given flower to another, one could communicate that meaning. I loved the dictionary in the back with all the flower meanings and found myself looking up the meanings of the flowers I had in my bridal bouquet - calla lily (modesty) and delphinium (levity) - as well as some of my favorite flowers - lilacs (first emotions of love), tulips (declaration of love), and lupines (imagination).

I will definitely be recommending this book to all my reader friends...and I hope to see more great books from Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

About the author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children: Tre’von, eighteen; Chela, four; and Miles, three. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Diffenbaugh and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.

You can visit Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s website at

 I received a complimentary copy of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh from Pump Up Your Book  as part of the tour.

Fall Into Reading 2011

Katrina over at Callapidder Days is hosting the Fall Into Reading Challenge. The challenge is to pick books you would like to read this fall and then keep a record of how you do. The challenge runs from September 23 to December 21. If you'd like to join, head over here to sign up.

Here's my list as of now:
  1. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
  2. Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpack
  3. A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
  4. Paris Noire by Francine Thomas Howard
  5. Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
  6. It's a Waverly Life by Maria Murnane
  7. Inseparable by Dora Heldt
  8. The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts
  9. True Colors by Kristin Hannah
  10. Larceny & Lace by Annette Blair
  11. Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook
  12. Peony in Love by Lisa See
  13. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  14. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
  15. Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
  16. The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis
  17. Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs
  18. The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson
  19. Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson
  20. By Royal Decree by Kate Emerson
  21. The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson
  22. Angel Lane by Sheila Roberts
  23. Night Road by Kristin Hannah
  24. An O'Brien Family Christmas by Sherryl Woods
  25. 1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber

This is a combination of books I need to review as well as books I have on my TBR pile. Most of these books were strategically picked so that I can complete all the other reading challenges I am participating in. I think I should be able to get through all these, plus a few others.

Wish me luck! Let me know if you are joining so I can see your list!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Navy Blues by Debbie Macomber

First line: Seducing her ex-husband wasn't going to be easy, Carol Kyle decided, but she was determined.

From the back cover: Despite her ex-husband's bullheadedness, Carol Kyle knew he'd be the perfect man to father the child she so desperately wanted. Yet she also realized that the strong, honorable man would never allow his child to be raised without a father. So Carol needed to plot, to plan, to maneuver, to seduce Steve into her bed for one last time...And then once more. Still, the passion when they were together was never the problem - it was the absences that tore them apart. Had they grown enough to chance trying again - especially when Carol's plan seemed about to work?

My thoughts: I have been reading Debbie Macomber for almost as long as I can remember. I think I first came across her Dakota series and then started reading anything of hers that I could. Of the six books in this Navy series, I had only read three, so I decided to try to locate the other three at the library and read them. I certainly wasn't disappointed with this one.

Navy Blues is the tale of a divorced couple that is still in love. Carol wants one thing out of life and figures ex-husband Steve can give it to her - a baby. She sets up a plan and hopes that one thing will lead to another and they will wind up in bed, where they never seem to have any problems. It seems that Steve, though, can't seem to get out of his own way...he is quick to misjudge situations and sees only what he wants to see at times. Can he learn to listen and hear before jumping to conclusions or are these two destined to stay apart?

I enjoyed this story and am looking forward to reading the rest of this series as soon as I can find them at the library.

(I borrowed this book from the library.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: The Queen's Captive by Barbara Kyle

First line: They came for her at dawn.

From the back cover: England, 1554. In the wake of the failed Wyatt Rebellion, a vengeful Queen Mary has ordered all conspirators captured and executed. Among the imprisoned is her own sister, twenty-one-year-old Princess Elizabeth. Though she protests her innocence, Elizabeth's brave stand only angers Mary more.

Elizabeth longs to gain her liberty - and her sister's crown. In Honor and Richard Thornleigh and their son, Adam, the young princess has loyal allies. Disgusted by Queen Mary's proclaimed intent to burn heretics, Honor visits Elizabeth in the Tower and they quickly become friends. And when Adam foils a would-be assassin, Elizabeth's gratitude swells into a powerful - and mutual - attraction. But while Honor is willing to risk her own safety for her future queen, aiding in a new rebellion against the wrathful Mary will soon lead her to an impossible choice...

Riveting, masterfully written, and rich in intricate details, The Queen's Captive brings one of history's most fascinating and treacherous periods to vibrant, passionate life.

My thoughts: This is the third book in Barbara Kyle's Thornleigh series and it was captivating! I had a hard time putting this one down.

The Queen's Captive begins with Princess Elizabeth in captivity. Under suspicion of supporting the failed Wyatt Rebellion, Sir William Cecil is afraid the young princess will break from the constant harassment and questioning by Queen Mary's councilors, which will then give the queen the excuse she needs to execute her. Not knowing where to turn, Cecil contacts Honor Thornleigh, devising a plan that would place Honor as Princess Elizabeth's advisor. When Honor's son, Adam, meets the young princess, sparks fly and when Adam foils an assassination attempt on the young princess, he is handsomely rewarded. At the same time, young Frances Grenville has declared her love for Adam and so begins a complicated, blackmailing relationship that only contributes to the animosity between the Thornleighs and the Grenvilles. Both Adam and Frances are guilty of using the other, but at what cost to each of their families? Will this feud between the families ever be put to rest?

Barbara Kyle does a masterful job of weaving intrigue, suspense, loyalty, treachery and betrayal into a novel that you can't put down. Filled with the fictional characters we've come to love and in some cases dislike, as well as historical figures from this time period, it is a well-written account of life from a non-royal perspective - and even more than that, it shows just how far people are willing to go for their own beliefs of right and wrong, regardless of the danger.

(I purchased this book.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: The King's Daughter by Barbara Kyle

First line: Snow crunched under the feet of three cloaked figures - a queen, her lady, and a gravedigger - as they hurried along a moonlit path in Windsor Castle's lower ward.

From the back cover: Upon the death of her father, Henry VIII, Queen Mary assumes the throne after a long and bitter wait. Her first order of business is to wed the devout Prince Phillip of Spain, creating a powerful alliance that will transform Mary's fanatical dream of ridding England of Protestantism into terrifying reality. And so beings the reign of Bloody Mary...

Even as she plans for her own nuptials, Isabel Thornleigh is helping to lay the groundwork to overthrow Mary and bring Elizabeth to power. But none of the secrets Isabel has discovered compares to the truths hidden in her own family. With her beloved father imprisoned by Queen Mary, only Carlos Valverde - a Spanish soldier of fortune - can help Isabel. Now with England's future at stake, Isabel risks all to change the course of history...

Filled with lavish period detail and fascinating characters, The King's Daughter mesmerizes readers as it takes them into a riveting world of riches, pageantry, passion, and danger...

My thoughts: This is the second in Barbara Kyle's Thornleigh series and I found it to be as exciting as the first one. I had the opportunity to read this entire series back to back (to back to back) and felt that each subsequent book picks up where the previous one ends.

In The King's Daughter, we are introduced to Honor Thornleigh's daughter, Isabel during the reign of Mary Tudor. As Mary prepares to marry the incredibly devout Prince Philip of Spain, Isabel prepares to marry herself, but unwittingly finds herself caught up in a scheme to dethrone the Catholic Mary and replace her with the Protestant Elizabeth. The stakes rise even higher when Mary puts Isabel's father in prison, and her only hope lies in a mysterious and roguish Spaniard, Carlos Valverde.

The King's Daughter brings to life the religious cleansing under the reign of Bloody Mary as well as the counter insurgency. As we follow the fictitious characters Isabel Thornleigh and Carlos Valverde, along with the rest of the Thornleighs and the Grenvilles, we do meet up with some historical characters - Queen Mary, Sir Thomas Wyatt and his supporters, Prince Phillip of Spain and numerous others.  There is danger, intrigue and romance in this novel and again, my favorite aspect of this series is that we get a chance to see the life of non-royals during the Tudor reign.

(I purchased this book.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (9.19.11)

It’s Monday What Are you Reading , hosted by Sheila, is the perfect way for me to begin my week and allows me to focus on what needs to be read and to see what I have or have not accomplished the previous week. I also enjoy discovering new books by visiting other participants blogs.

This weekend we went up to our cabin. It was the perfect fall weekend up there and I got quite a lot of quality reading time in while hubby was outside doing the lawn and cleaning up fallen trees and fishing. Even the dog loved being up there!

Books Completed last week:
  • Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (library book)
  • Hide by Lisa Gardner (library audio book)
  • 1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber (mine)
  • Small Change by Sheila Roberts (mine)
Reading Now:
  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (review book)
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg (library audio book)
  • Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (book club book, mine)
  • Larceny and Lace by Annette Blair
  • The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
  • Night Road by Kristin Hannah (library audio book)
Reviews completed this past week
Other Posts related to books:
Books for which I need to finish reviews:
  • The King's Daughter by Barbara Kyle
  • The Queen's Captive by Barbara Kyle
  • Navy Blues by Debbie Macomber 
  • Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Hide by Lisa Gardner
  • 1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber
  • Small Change by Sheila Roberts
Contest information:

What about you?  What does your reading week look like this week?  Whatever it is, happy reading and have a good week!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In My Mailbox (66) 9.18.11

In My Mailbox (IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren. Every week I'll post what books I've received either by mailbox/library/store.

For Review:

Pumpkin Roll
by Josi S. Kilpack

I love this series and am excited to be participating in the blog tour for it - look for my review and a guest post by Josi to  be posted Oct 11th and 12th. In the meantime, Josi and her publisher are having an awesome giveaway for an iPad here for details.

What's in your mailbox?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle

First line: She would remember this forever after as the night she watched two men die, one at peace and one in terror.

From the back cover: London, 1527. Marry or serve: for Honor Larke, the choice is clear. Unwilling to perish of boredom as an obedient wife, she leaves the home of her ward, the brilliant Sir Thomas More, to attend Her Majesty, Queen Catherine of Aragon. But life at Henry VIII's court holds more than artifice for an intelligent observer, and Honor knows how to watch - and when to act...

Angered by the humiliation heaped upon her mistress as Henry cavorts with Anne Boleyn and presses Rome for a divorce, Honor volunteers to carry letters to the Queen's allies. It's a risky game, but Honor is sure she's playing it well - until she's proven wrong. Richard Thornleigh may cut a dashing figure at court, but Honor isn't taken in by his reckless charm. Only later does Honor realize that Richard has awakened something within her - and that he, too, has something to hide...

For the King's actions are merely one knot in a twisted web that stretches across Europe, ensnaring everyone from the lowliest of peasants to the most powerful of nobles. Swept away in a tide of intrigue and danger, the Queen's lady is about to learn everything: about pride, passion, and greed - and the conscience of the king...

My thoughts: I have had this book and the next two in the series sitting on my shelf for a while now. I've been meaning to read them and just never got around to them. When I saw that Barbara Kyle was going on tour with the fourth in this series, The Queen's Gamble (click on title to see review), I jumped at the opportunity to be part of it. Of course, me being the stickler I am with reading series in order, I had to start with book one.

In this first book of the Thornleigh series, we meet Honor Larkin. A ward of Sir Thomas Moore, Honor joins the court of Henry VIII as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon, who the king has put aside in his bid to demand Rome grant him a divorce so he can marry Anne Boleyn. It is during this time that Honor discovers the deception going on as well as the religious persecution that is happening to Protestants. And then the burning of her beloved servant for heresy sends her off on a quest to destroy the man behind the witchhunt - and to save any more innocents from being burned for their beliefs.  She convinces Richard Thornleigh to allow her to use his ships to help transport the "heretics" to Europe, a dangerous task that could end up with both being burned at the stake. And of course, to add to this danger, their plans become further complicated when Honor falls in love with Thornleigh, who happens to be married.
The Queen's Lady is  an intriguing venture into the dark days of the church during the reign of Henry VIII and into the heart of the religious turmoil going on. Following the fictitious characters of Honor and Thornleigh, we are able to see beyond the famous figures of the time to the people who were simply trying to live their lives in the shadow of the king's destructive behavior.

(I purchased this book.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (audio)

From the back of the audio case: Birdie Cousins has thrown herself into the details of her daughter, Chess's lavish wedding, from the floating dance floor in her Connecticut backyard pond to the color of the cocktail napkins. Like any mother of a bride-to-be, she is weathering the storms of excitement and chaos, tears and joy. But Birdie, a woman who prides herself on preparing for every possibility, could never have predicted the late-night phone call from Chess abruptly announcing that she's canceled her engagement.

It's only the first hint of what will be a summer of upheavals and revelations. Before the dust has even begun to settle, far worse news arrives, sending Chess into a tailspin of despair. Reluctantly taking a break from the first new romance she's embarked on since the recent end of her thirty-year marriage, Birdie circles the wagons and enlists the help of her younger daughter, Tate, and her own sister, India. Soon all four are headed to beautiful, rustic Tuckernuck Island, off the coast of Nantucket, where their family has summered for generations. No phones, no television, no grocery store - a place without distractions where they can escape their troubles.

But when sisters, daughters, ex-lovers, and long-kept secrets come together on a remote island, what might sound like a peaceful getaway becomes much more. Before summer has ended, dramatic truths are uncovered, old loves are rekindled, and new loves make themselves known. It's a summertime story only Elin Hilderbrand can tell, filled with the heartache, laughter, and surprises that have made her compelling, bestselling novels as much a part of summer as a long afternoon on a sunny beach.

Read by: Denice Hicks

My thoughts: It's not the summer unless I get to read an Elin Hilderbrand book and this summer I got to read three. This last one, The Island, I listened to and thought it was fantastic! Perhaps it's because I have two sisters that I  could relate to the sibling relationships and therefore felt this to be quite a realistic story.

The Island follows a family of four women as they spend a month on Tuckernuck, a remote island off the coast of Nantucket. The women are two sets of sisters, Birdie and India, and Birdie's two daughters, Chess and Tate. The trip comes about in the midst of Chess' broken engagement and the tragic death of her ex-fiance. Although the women arrive on Tuckernuck hoping the quiet and remote place will heal Chess, each of the four women finds a type of healing and rebirth on the island that they had never expected. The novel is told from the rotating perspectives of the four women, which gives the reader the opportunity to identify with each of the women and her story. Each woman brings her own unique set of problems and issues and the stories interweave and make for a heartfelt read. Each story grabs your heart and twists with a vengeance. I found myself rooting for each of the four women and wanting the best for them.

I have now read all of Elin Hilderbrand's books and each one was great. I love that she uses Nantucket as her setting - I hope to one day get there but feel like I get to go there with each book I read of hers. I look forward to next summer when her latest comes out.

(I borrowed this audio book from the library.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger

First line: Failure wasn't a feeling; it was a taste in his mouth, an ache at the base of his neck.

From the inside cover: After giving up his post at the Hollows Police Department, Jones Cooper is at loose ends. He is having trouble facing a horrible event from his past and finding a second act. Then, on a brisk October morning, he has a visitor. Eloise Montgomery, the psychic who plays a key role in Fragile, comes to him with predictions about his future, some of them dire.

Meanwhile, Michael Holt, a young man who grew up in The Hollows, has returned, looking for answers about his mother, who went missing many years earlier. He has hired local PI Ray Muldune and psychic Eloise Montgomery to help him solve the mystery that has haunted him. What he finds might be his undoing.

Fifteen-year-old Willow Graves is exiled to The Hollows from Manhattan when six months earlier she moved to the quiet town with her novelist mother after a bitter divorce. Willow is acting out, spending time with kids that bring out the worst in her. And when things get hard, she has a tendency to run away - a predilection that might lead her to dark places.

Set in The Hollows, the backdrop for Fragile, this is the riveting story of lives set on a collision course with devastating consequences. The result is Lisa Unger's most compelling fiction to date.

My thoughts: Last year I read Lisa Unger's Fragile for a blog tour and when I was contacted to read and review her new book, I jumped at the chance.

Darkness, My Old Friend is a tale about change and the darkness in our lives. It delves into how hard it is to make difficult changes in our lives, either good or bad. The story explores the lives of the people living in a small town as they unravel the mystery of Marla Holt's disappearance many years ago. Adding to the intrigue, the point of view changes between the various characters, so you get to see the first hand perspectives of the son, Michael Holt, retired police officer Jones Cooper, new town residents Bethany and her daughter Willow, town psychic Eloise, and mistreated housewife Paula who is in a controlling marriage - among others. The mystery hovers around the edges as the characters all come to terms with various things in their own lives, the common thread being abandonment.

This is an excellent mystery that keeps you engrossed until the end with drama, mystery, dysfunction, and secrets and while clues are given along the way,  readers will find themselves mesmerized as pieces of the puzzle begin fitting together to reveal a shocking picture. I read this book in one day and hope Lisa Unger visit's The Hollows again soon.

I received a complimentary copy of Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger  from Rachel at Crown Publishers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Virtual Book Tour & Review: The Queen's Gamble by Barbara Kyle

First line: Isabel Valverde was coming home. 

From the back cover: Young Queen Elizabeth I's path to the throne has been a perilous one, and already she faces a dangerous crisis. French troops have landed in Scotland to quell a rebel Protestant army, and Elizabeth fears once they are entrenched on the border, they will invade England.

Isabel Thornleigh has returned to London from the New World with her Spanish husband, Carlos Valverde, and their young son. Ever the queen's loyal servant, Isabel is recruited to smuggle money to the Scottish rebels. Yet Elizabeth's trust only goes so far - Isabel's son will be the queen's pampered hostage until she completes her mission. Matters grow worse when Isabel's husband is engaged as military advisor to the French, putting the couple on opposite sides in a deadly cold war.

Set against a lush, vibrant backdrop peopled with unforgettable characters and historical figures, The Queen's Gamble is a story of courage, greed, passion, and the high price of loyalty...

My thoughts: This is the fourth in Barbara Kyle's Thornleigh series and when I saw it going on tour, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of it. I had the first three books sitting on my shelf but hadn't gotten around to reading them. Because I am so anal when it comes to reading series, I ended up reading the first three and then read this one. What a great series!!! My reviews of books 1-3 will be posted within the next week, so be sure to check those out, too.

In The Queen's Gamble Isabel Thornleigh is on her way home to London with her husband, Carlos, and their young son, Nicolas. Once there, Isabel finds herself being pulled into the newest threat against the new queen - the religious turmoil threatening to spill into her kingdom. As a Spanish citizen, Carlos is loyal to the Spanish King and Isabel and Carlos find themselves on opposite sides of this harrowing situation. This leads to quite a thrilling, edge-of-your seat page turner. Between the danger and the intrigue and the romance, it was hard to put the book down.

While the focus of this book is on the actions of fictional characters Isabel and Carlos and the rest of the Thornleigh and Grenville families, there are many cameos of actual historical figures such as Queen Elizabeth, William Cecil, and the de Guises. I first came to love historical fiction when I was given some of Phillipa Gregory's Tudor books. Since then, I love reading all the accounts of life at the court. With Barbara Kyle, I found her approach to this time period to be very compelling. I loved how the royal characters were not the forefront of the book. Creating fictional characters and setting them in this time period allows the reader to really get a feel for what life would be like, with all the danger and intrigue that comes with living during this time. 

As I was reading The Queen's Gamble, I didn't want it to end because I got so involved with these characters and I didn't want to let them go. I was thrilled when, in reading the Author's Notes, Barbara Kyle mentioned that there will be another book. The only downside is that I have to wait for her to finish writing it.

About the author: Barbara Kyle is the author of the Tudor-era “Thornleigh” series of novels, which have been published internationally: The Queen’s Captive, The Queen’s Lady, and The King’s Daughter, praised by Publishers Weekly as “a complex and fast-paced plot, mixing history with vibrant characters.” Her new novel, The Queen’s Gamble, was released on 30 August 2011.

Barbara previously won acclaim for her contemporary novels under pen name ‘Stephen Kyle’, including Beyond Recall (a Literary Guild Selection), After Shock and The Experiment. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold.

Barbara has taught courses for writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations. Her popular series of video workshops “Writing Fiction That Sells” is available through her website. Before becoming an author, Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.

You can visit Barbara Kyle online at

 I received a complimentary copy of The Queen's Gamble by Barbara Kyle from Pump Up Your Book  as part of the tour.

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