Thursday, January 30, 2014

Men Looking for Their Mommies by Jaye Cheríe and Giveaway!

The Cost of Love and Sanity
Jaye Cheríe

Can one woman’s fear undo the rest of her life? Alex Carter’s struggle with love, loss, and faith requires her to face long-held dreams and the man she once left behind.

For Alex Carter, everything is going according to plan—she’s built a successful career and has a steady boyfriend—until life decides to throw a wrench in the mix. Suddenly, her company threatens to downsize and her boyfriend ends their relationship. It is then that she realizes that, like many women, she has neglected to pursue love and family—the goals closest to her heart—in favor of a career.

As a new year begins and Alex decides to focus on personal concerns, she runs into an old flame, Nathan Chestnut. Though she once had it bad for Nathan, she’s careful about trusting him again. Alex’s remedy is to ask him for an unexpected favor, which seems like the perfect resolution to her broken belief in happiness until she realizes that it can only grant her a piece of her dreams for a family.

As her heart and reality get in the way of her request, Alex reaches a major crossroad. Will she gather her faith and fix the situation? Or will she suffer in silence for the rest of her life?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Season Without Rain by Joe Schwartz Giveaway!

Brought to you by the fabulous JKS Communications...

A Season Without Rain
Joe Schwartz
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Page Count: 348
Release Date: November 12th, 2013
Publisher: GMTA Publishing (self-published)

Jacob Miller is angry with himself, the world, and God. Life seems so unfair, so cruel, that he can’t imagine why anyone even tries. After having a nervous breakdown, selling his business, filing for bankruptcy, having a baby, and finding out he owes over twenty grand in taxes, he is hardly happy to be alive.

In the span of a year, Jacob will discover three very important things about life. Things can always be worse. There really is a God. And if you wait long enough anything can change.

A Season Without Rain explores that gray area between poverty and middle class life, the struggling underclass for whom there are no advocates. A powerful story told in a modern, everyday voice that will entrench readers in Jacob Miller’s black world of anger, hate, resentment, lies, and violence.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

8 Heart Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce and Giveaway!

Perfect
Rachel Joyce
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Page Count: 400

Release Date: January 14th 2014
Publisher: Random House
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Random House and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
A spellbinding novel that will resonate with readers of Mark Haddon, Louise Erdrich, and John Irving, Perfect tells the story of a young boy who is thrown into the murky, difficult realities of the adult world with far-reaching consequences.

Byron Hemmings wakes to a morning that looks like any other: his school uniform draped over his wooden desk chair, his sister arguing over the breakfast cereal, the click of his mother’s heels as she crosses the kitchen. But when the three of them leave home, driving into a dense summer fog, the morning takes an unmistakable turn. In one terrible moment, something happens, something completely unexpected and at odds with life as Byron understands it. While his mother seems not to have noticed, eleven-year-old Byron understands that from now on nothing can be the same. What happened and who is to blame? Over the days and weeks that follow, Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Unable to trust his parents, he confides in his best friend, James, and together they concoct a plan...

As she did in her debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce has imagined bewitching characters who find their ordinary lives unexpectedly thrown into chaos, who learn that there are times when children must become parents to their parents, and who discover that in confronting the hard truths about their pasts, they will forge unexpected relationships that have profound and surprising impacts. Brimming with love, forgiveness, and redemption, Perfect will cement Rachel Joyce’s reputation as one of fiction’s brightest talents.

[James] closed his eyes and his mouth began to move. Byron waited patiently, knowing that his friend was forming an idea. They had to think in a scientific way, James said slowly. They must be very logical and precise. "In order to save your mother," he said, "we must form a plan of action."
Byron could have hugged him, apart from the fact they were boys from Winston House. He knew everything would be all right now that his friend was involved.
"Why are you doing that funny face?" said James.
"I am smiling at you," said Byron.

1970's England. Fancy jaguars parked in the garages of upperclass suburban homes. Mothers in dainty white gloves wiping the sugar off their children's mouths. Fathers returning on the weekends with their briefcases in one hand, while expecting a shot of scotch from the bottle in the cabinet, in the other. This is the scene in which the primary portion of Perfect is set.

Upon witnessing a terrible lapse of time and in awareness, Byron Hemmings is caught in between the worlds of childhood and adulthood, as he is reluctantly forced to make a choice: reveal this secret about his precious, faultless mother, Diana, or keep quiet in his own mind forever. When his genius friend, James, excitedly concocts a plan to fix this intangible error, Operation Perfect is born; as the judgment of two adolescent boys goes, the procedure will either go according to plan, just as imagined in their hands... or it will end it utter disaster.

Byron's balmy, yet increasingly paranoiac summer days, are interspersed with Jim's portion of the story, set in a bitter present-day winter. Jim is a middle-aged obsessive-compulsive, who lives in a van, who works as a busboy, and whose condition worsens when reminiscing about his past and his haunting experience at Besley Hill, the sanitarium he was shoved into as a teenager.

The two seemingly unrelated narratives catch up to each other in a collision of time; they swerve together and explode into one another in a fateful, alarming twist that will leave readers breathless. For the majority of the novel, however, the prose is—however flowery and fanciful—languidly, almost sluggishly, set. I found Joyce's writing enjoyable, but very thick and puzzling, especially in the first half. Almost Ian McEwan-esque, her prose isn't particularly difficult to get through, but at times it was just thoroughly boring, which is why it took me a while to finish.

In characterization, in plot, and in tone, however, Perfect is a masterpiece. Each of the characters, even the ones that only make small appearances, are so vivid and intimately portrayed. Readers will cherish the characters they are meant to like, and loathe the ones they are meant to dislike. The eerily calm but inherently alarming mood sets up a domestically freakish story; while plain and placid in technique and style, the undertones of Perfect not only illuminate upon values of mistakes, redemption, and the human condition, but also bewilder, perplex. This is definitely a book that makes you think hard.

Pros


Substantial, exquisite writing // Contains one of the most elegantly executed, shocking plot twists ever // Deeply meaningful // The way Byron's mind runs in fascinating // All the characters are fabulously depicted; I fell in love with the protagonists and hated the antagonists deeply

Cons


Very confusing at first // Moves extremely slowly, even in the end // I liked the prose but it was a little sludgy

Love

Besides, the big things in life do not present themselves as such. They come in quiet, ordinary moments—a phone call, a letter—they come when we are not looking, without clues, without warning, and that is why they floor us. And it can take a lifetime, a life of many years, to accept the incongruity of things: that a small moment can sit side by side with a big one, and become part of the same.

Verdict


The injustices of adulthood and the restrictive bindings of upperclass society are brought to light in Rachel Joyce's newest British novel. Byron Hemmings's brilliantly fleshed, intimately portrayed character will make you think twice about the role of children, the responsibility of—or vindication from—accidents, and the faults of trust—the faults of humanity. One young boy's naïveté and misplaced guilt, as well as his mother's faultless crime, ignite this slow deterioration of an outwardly immaculate, perfect household. With grand allusions to the philosophy of time and the significance of deep thinking, Perfect questions the disastrous consequences of our every choice Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)

Giveaway!


Like what you see? Books à la Mode is giving away one PRINT copy to one lucky reader! Woohoo! To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is tell me:
Why do you want to read this book? What makes it seem unique?

Don't forget to include your email address in your comment so I know who to contact when I randomly select winner. Don't make me track you down!!!!
Easy peasy, just one entry. Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Rachel and I really want to hear from you guys! :)
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to Random House!
Giveaway ends February 5th at 11.59 PM (your time).

Open to US residents only. Sorry, rest of the world! Please check my sidebar at the top for a list of giveaways that are running internationally :) There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

7 Heart Review: Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

Love Water Memory
Jennie Shortridge
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Page Count: 326

Release Date: January 14th 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Gallery Books and Literati Author Services!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

If you could do it all over again, would you still choose him?

At age thirty-nine, Lucie Walker has no choice but to start her life over when she comes to, up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay, with no idea how she got there or who she is. Her memory loss is caused by an emotional trauma she knows nothing about, and only when handsome, quiet Grady Goodall arrives at the hospital does she learn she has a home, a career, and a wedding just two months away. What went wrong? Grady seems to care for her, but Lucie is no more sure of him than she is of anything. As she collects the clues of her past self, she unlocks the mystery of what happened to her. The painful secrets she uncovers could hold the key to her future—if she trusts her heart enough to guide her.
"I'm not unhappy. I'm... I don't know what I am. I don't even know that." [Lucie] lowered the napkin. This was all coming out wrong. "Who am I, Grady? What makes me me? Why am I here with you?"

Lucie Walker used to be the kind of Type-A woman who meticulously planned everything: what she did at her day job, what she ate for breakfast, what she would wear to her wedding. Losing her memory two months before her 40th birthday was not on the agenda. After she is found knees-deep in the water hundreds of miles from home, she is sent to the hospital, where she is greeted by a handsome man who pulls her into a painfully unfamiliar lover's embrace. She finally realizes she is Lucie Walker, the Lucie Walker who planned everything and has a caring fiancé; the Lucie Walker whom she does not remember. Now, in the world her previous self left behind, Lucie is alone, without even her own memory to keep her company... and in this world, she needs to trust someone since she can no longer trust herself.

The entire process of Grady and Lucie reacquainting—finding love and companionship in each other all over again—was clever, well-paced, and inevitably romantic. Grady's pain of missing the old Lucie—his meticulous, aloof Lucie—but struggle over falling for the new one—the warm, sweet Lucie—is relatable and raw, while Lucie's inability to remember everything about the man she's supposed to love, equally difficult. Shortridge accurately portrays the helplessness that the couple fall into during this tragedy, which, as Lucie discovers as she slowly recovers her memory through various environmental triggers, occurred in the wake of different kind of tragedy that Grady is reluctant to bring up.

Grady is plagued by the guilt of what happened at home that caused Lucie to flee in the first place, but he can't bring it up with the new Lucie—not when he's feeling first-time butterflies all over again, not when, this time around, he actually may have a shot to make her happy. Grady is a flawed, but in essence, perfect hero; he is a man to fall in love with. I love how he is sensitive and thoughtful, and sometimes recedes into his own thoughts. He is a beta hero who, although shy and rather fragile, listens to his gut, thinks too deeply, and always acts with passion.

We get both new Lucie's and Grady's perspectives in the third person, so it was difficult to really sympathize with either character intimately. I felt bad for the characters because of the frustration and impossibility of renewing their original relationship, but I couldn't really side with either of them, especially Lucie. Because she pretty much doesn't have an identity throughout the novel (although it does slowly build up as she learns more and more about her repressed past), her perspective is like that of an infant's; she continuously discovers people, places, and things around her, but not very deeply. However, this curiosity leads her to reconnecting with a part of her family that she strictly kept silent about before her amnesic episode. Old Lucie was the kind of woman who was so damaged by childhood that she couldn't even speak of it, but now that she's not only willing to talk to Grady about whatever "it" is, but also actively trying to find out why she might have entered dissociative fugue, the hideous, inconceivable demons of her past begin to surface.

This is the part I really couldn't get into. The loss in Lucie's teenage years is terrible, yes, and the trigger that caused her to completely blank out, even more traumatic, but there is no twist or no heart-pounding discovery. Small snippets of old Lucie's life flicker in her now empty mind alluding some sort of ghastly experience, but when readers are finally enlightened, it's a bit of a letdown. The climax is predictable, and I'll admit it's not like it's no big deal, but it was just poorly executed. Afterwards, the closing action just drooped... nothing is really resolved, and the ending doesn't offer much either.

While the book is wholly about Lucie's dissociative fugue, it does very little to entertain the subject of mental illness. It's an obvious fact that trauma and repression can lead to memory loss; Shortridge does not elaborate upon this. In fact, Lucie does not even visit a psychiatrist, so if you're thinking about trying this one solely because you like stories about mental disorders, this isn't really the best book to pick up.

I was also not a huge fan of the writing. Shortridge can tell a damn good story with a fresh voice—very readable, very modern—but her style just isn't eloquent. The subject matter is fascinating, and the story illuminates upon how obstacles can be overcome by the power of love, but the writing just seemed very clumsy to me. There is nothing poetic or expressive in Shortridge's hand; I was anticipating it to be gorgeous, sentimental, and detailed, but instead found it to be rather mediocre.

Pros


Characters are vividly formed; seem so human // Gradual mystery // Complex family dynamics portrayed // Very easy to read; kept me on edge and wanting to read more // Complicated emotions regarding identity // Strong message on the power of love

Cons


Writing isn't that substantial // While the subject matter is grave, Lucie's path to discovery is nothing profound // Difficult to sympathize with situation and characters // Mental illness is not deeply portrayed

Love

[Grady] reached for her hands, held them inside his. "I want to know," he said. These were the details he'd yearned for when they first met, the ones he'd pressed too hard to get. And now that she was going to tell him, finally—now that she could tell him—he felt something inside crumbling. He held her hands to keep her as close as possible as she revealed what she'd learned... the ugly, the poignant, the mundane... He could handle these truths, he realized, because the sum of them was Lucie.

Verdict

Thoroughly moving and provocative, Love Water Memory examines the effects of trauma, the principles and necessity of family, and the miraculous gift of second chances. Although I was not impressed by the unembellished writing style and the fact that mental health isn't significantly addressed, I did enjoy this luminescent novel of the certain magic of love—the magic that, for Lucie and Grady, separates a brand new start from the misfortune of reliving the same pain. The emotions are heavy, while the carefully hidden, agonizingly uncovered secrets, extremely grave in Jennie Shortridge's newest; this is a tender, serious story about being stronger than the sum of your weaknesses, and the opportunity to reconcile after inevitably hurting the ones you love Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Author: Jacquelyn Frank Interview and Giveaway!

I'd like to welcome Jacquelyn Frank to the blog to celebrate the release of the third book of her wildly popular World of NIghtwalkers series, Forsaken, from Ballantine Books, a division of Random House. In honor of this latest installment's publication, TLC launched a tour for the entire series—an entire PRINT set of which you lucky readers will get the chance to win today! Be sure to stick around for the giveaway!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Jacquelyn! Let's get this interview started.


Will you please share a brief bio with us?

Jacquelyn Frank is the New York Times bestselling author of the World of Nightwalkers series, the Three Worlds series, the Nightwalkers series, the Shadowdwellers novels, and the Gatherers novels. She lives in North Carolina and has been writing romantic fiction ever since she picked up her first teen romance at age thirteen.

The World of Nightwalkers is an exciting and sensual spin-off series in which the Bodywalkers, an ancient race of the night, battle the evil forces who prey on them.


Forbidden (World of Nightwalkers #1)
The unexpected happens in an instant. On her way to work, secretary Docia Waverley hurtles into a crashing crossroads, and she quickly begins to suspect that things will never be the same. Then, when a tall, blond, muscular stranger intervenes on her behalf, telling her it is his duty to protect her at all cost, what is just a feeling turns to proof positive. That is, as long as Docia’s savior doesn’t turn out to be a crazed kidnapper.

When Ram finds Docia, he has no doubt that she is his queen. But as this golden warrior sweeps in to protect her, he feels something more than body heat every time they touch. He is overwhelmed by a searing connection that goes deep into the twin souls inside him. A desire rises in him that is forbidden—this woman is his queen, the mate of his king, his leader, his best friend. And yet Docia is so vulnerable and attractive that she awakens a hunger in Ram that is undeniable, a carnal craving he cannot yield to... not without risking the very survival of the Bodywalkers.
After being brought back from death, police officer Jackson Waverly receives the shock of his life: he has become host to a Bodywalker, a spirit that is reborn in flesh and blood, and part of a proud, ancient race that uses its extraordinary gifts to battle dark, evil forces. Jackson’s spirit is a powerful one—none other than the Egyptian pharaoh Menes, who longs to reunite with his eternal love, the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut.

While Menes is obsessed with finding the perfect vessel for his queen, Jackson cannot stop thinking about Dr. Marissa Anderson, the gorgeous precinct shrink who keeps pushing him to confront his grief over the loss of his K-9 partner. But what Marissa really arouses most in Jackson is intense desire, which is exactly what Menes is looking for. To fight a great enemy, pharaoh and queen must join; but to host Hatshepsut, Marissa will first have to die. Fate has given Jackson a profound choice: save Marissa from Menes’s plan or keep an entire species from the brink of extinction.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Sony eStore | Kobo | Publisher

As a mercenary, Leo Alvarez has signed on for a lot—but he never signed on for his best friend becoming host to the soul of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. Jackson is now inhabited by a Bodywalker, and Leo is forced to grapple with a realm of supernatural beings far more dangerous than anything he’s ever encountered.

But when Jackson is wounded by an attack from a demon god, Leo must team up with another supernatural creature—a Night Angel—to save his friend from utter destruction. With skin as black as midnight, hair as white as snow, and a body of pure perfection, the Night Angel arouses a burning desire in Leo, even as he refuses to be intimidated by her power—or the power of those who would destroy his friend. An unusual alliance is forged, electrified by sexual temptation, and together the two must unite their strengths to bring down a supreme evil.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Sony eStore | Kobo | Publisher

Describe The World of Nightwalkers in six words.

An exotic, dangerous world where anything can happen! (O0ps, that’s seven. So sue me ;))

How did you arrive at writing paranormal romance? Are there any other genres you’d like to try your hand at in the future?

Actually, I am trying my hand at a short horror story that will be in an anthology... though I don’t know when yet!

What was your inspiration for the storyline in Forsaken?

Leo, the hero, is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder... and I got the feel for it when reading an author friend’s latest work at the time. I thought, that’s exactly what Leo is going to face! Also, I always enjoy the idea of a quest. A journey. And that is what Leo and Faith, the heroine, embark on together.

Readers, click "Read more" to find out how Jacquelyn handles negative reviews, what kind of kid she was in high school, and what she's currently reading. We're also hosting a giveaway for the entire World of NIghtwalkers series, so you don't want to miss that either!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Koolertron Messenger Bag Giveaway!

The folks over at KoolerBuy have been kind enough to offer this sturdy messenger bag, exclusively for Books à la Mode readers!
This vintage-style bag works as a casual shoulder bag, but is roomy enough to fit most DSLR camera models (with space for extra lenses!), and even other everyday electronics like tablets.
It's made out of PU leather and comes with a handy strap... and did I mention it's also WATERPROOF? How cool is that?

Giveaway



I absolutely love the retro look! One lucky reader will get the chance to take this fancy bag home! Here are the ways you can gain entries for the drawing:
  1. Follow me on Bloglovin'
  2. Visit Koolerbuy.com and take a look around. Comment on this post with a bag or accessory that caught your eye
  3. Like KoolerBuy on Facebook
  4. Tweet about this giveaway (once daily for even more entries!)
Make sure you fill this Rafflecopter form out to keep track of all your entries:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the retailer—a huge thank you to KoolerBuy!
Giveaway ends January 24th at 11.59 PM (your time).

Open internationally! That means anyone in the world can enter! Woohooo!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ Plus, you get extra entries ;)
Good luck!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

9 Heart Review: What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell

What I Had Before I Had You
Sarah Cornwell
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Page Count: 288

Release Date: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Written in radiant prose and with stunning psychological acuity, award-winning author Sarah Cornwell’s What I Had Before I Had You is a deeply poignant story that captures the joys and sorrows of growing up and learning to let go.

Olivia Reed was fifteen when she left her hometown of Ocean Vista on the Jersey Shore. Two decades later, divorced and unstrung, she returns with her teenage daughter, Carrie, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Distracted by thoughts of the past, Olivia fails to notice when Daniel disappears from her side. Her frantic search for him sparks memories of the summer of 1987, when she exploded out of the cocoon of her mother’s fierce, smothering love and into a sudden, full-throttle adolescence, complete with dangerous new friends, first love, and a rebellion so intense that it utterly recharted the course of her life.

Olivia’s mother, Myla, was a practicing psychic whose powers waxed and waned along with her mercurial moods. Myla raised Olivia to be a guarded child, and also to believe in the ever-present infant ghosts of her twin sisters, whom Myla took care of as if they were alive—diapers, baby food, an empty nursery kept like a shrine. At fifteen, Olivia saw her sisters for the first time, not as ghostly infants but as teenagers on the beach. But when Myla denied her vision, Olivia set out to learn the truth—a journey that led to shattering discoveries about herself and her family.

Sarah Cornwell seamlessly weaves together the past and the present in this riveting debut novel, as she examines the relationships between mothers and daughters, and the powerful forces of loss, family history, and magical thinking.
What if all the transcendent moments of your life, the sound-track moments, the radiant detail, the gleaming thing at the center of life that loves you, that loves beauty—God or whatever you call it—what if all this were part of your illness? Would you seek treatment? I have, and sometimes I wonder if the greatest passions are just out of my reach. And sometimes I am so grateful.

As Olivia Reed's family begins to fall helplessly apart in the wake of a dry affair and along with her recently diagnosed son's growing instability, she whisks her children away from their once-comforting ranch in Texas, doing the one thing she does best: run. She knows she's out of her mind going back to the place she left behind long ago, the place where she is certain her ghosts still reside, but in an act of desperation, she has no choice; she's hometown-bound, and the moment she steps onto the long-missed boardwalk and breathes in the salty ocean air, she knows she has made a mistake.

Losing her son, combined with the familiarity of Ocean Vista, conjures various memories—of her first love, of her best friends, and most painfully, of the one person she never fully forgave: her mother. What I Had Before I Had You exposes Olivia's life in its slow, harrowing full, alternating between her unfairly influenced, unsupervised childhood and the unsettling, untold present-day. It sweeps readers through the lonely adolescence, teenage rebellion, and liberal prominence of the 1970's and 80's, all the while describing the frenzied, unnerving search for Daniel in the present, before escalating to the fateful summer when everything changed—when Olivia first indulged in her art of abandonment.

Reading this book was an experience itself. The brief glances into Olivia's shaky childhood—the result of a mentally ill but in-denial mother and the burden of independence that came much too early—as well as the current frustrations over muting her disorder while simultaneously muting herself, are penetrating, completely eye-opening. Cornwell masterfully balances the struggles of hereditary bipolar disorder—not only a diagnosis, in Olivia's bloodline, but also an inheritance—and the struggles of being a mother—of being human—in this glittering narrative.

Olivia's past is told with a vintage filter, a dusky, dreamy undertone; deeply periodic and exquisitely lush, it involves Myla's divine convictions, sleepless nights spent alone, and the unaware suffering she felt as a child—both unmedicated and uninformed. This is the childhood that adult Olivia has tried so hard to forget, the childhood that her family now knows nothing about, and as it unravels with ruthless precision and targeted blows, it culminates into the story of what happened when she was fifteen—the summer of extreme emotions and ultimate betrayal.

I was even further impressed by how complex the storytelling is; it isn't simply a factual retelling, it isn't just a secret revealed. Olivia's past is narrated with the haze of an unreliable brain, a time-worn rememberer; readers are only given the version of events that have become Olivia's own, tempered by her imagination and improved by the million small revisions of memory. We will never know whether the emotions presented, as intense as they are, have been dulled by time, weathered by maturity, and this is the entire essence of the novel—this is Olivia's pain, which, through Cornwell's rare gift for detailing and piercing hearts, readers feel, themselves.

Pros


Emotionally searing // Evocative; beachy, warm setting // Nostalgic; memories of childhood revealed with a tragic veil of time // Writing is powerful and poetic // Biting, wounding, affecting // Insightful; psychologically and stunningly precise // Phenomenal incorporation of the past into the present // Historically and culturally rich, vivid

Cons


Slow start // Disorienting at times

Love

Pam never came after me. I don't blame her. I didn't look for her, either. I hear that she's a math teacher in West Orange. There are those people in your life who matter instantly, on another plane, and you have to marry them or kill them or run the hell away, you can't do it halfway. I hope her house is full of paintings. I hope somebody loves her.
We walk down the boardwalk, close to the storefronts, scanning the crowds for Daniel, his lime-green swim trunks, his gray T-shirt, his thick brown curls. Of course I would lose him here; this is where I lose people. My past is leaching into my present, and even in the midst of this panic, I feel a sensation of walking a few steps behind myself. 

Verdict


Heartbreaking, silver-lined, and deeply meaningful, What I Had Before I Had You meditates on one mother's frantic search for her son, as well as on the even more hazardous search for herself. Sarah Cornwell elegantly constructs the thin membrane that separates childhood from parenthood in this luminous debut; as if slipping in and out of consciousness, the storylines alternate—unwinding slowly, lazily at first, and then gaining torque, and consequently, destructive power—a depiction of the debilitating effects of a mental illness such as bipolar disorder. This novel blends together the tenderly told story of a failed first love, the bittersweet flavor of resurrecting family ghosts and family history, and the delicate, learned craft of holding on and letting go—indeed, an intoxicating melange Americanflag

9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf (x)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 Heart Review: Breathe by Lauren Jameson

Breathe (In Vino Veritas #2)
Lauren Jameson

Page Count: 304

Release Date: December 3rd, 2013
Publisher: NAL Trade (Penguin Group)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Signet Eclipse!)
Rating♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Two people learn what it really means to give up control in the sizzling new novel from the author of Blush and Surrender to Temptation...

When business mogul Elijah Masterson travels to the Mexican coast for his chain of luxury resorts, he purchases an emerald green glass sculpture for one of the properties. He is soon fascinated by the fiery temptress who created it. The attraction between them is instant and explosive, but Elijah resists, unsure that a woman as strong-willed as Samantha would ever yield in the way he needs her to.

Headstrong glass artist Samantha Collins hides a secret desire to submit to the right man. Samantha sees everything she wants in Elijah, but apart from one steamy night, he seems determined to keep his distance. She has always held back, but refusing to let go now that she’s found the dominant man she’s always wanted, Samantha makes Elijah an offer he can’t refuse: a month of absolute submission.

But after a month of incredible passion, will either of them be able to walk away?

Review


But being restrained—that had been a major turn-on. More than that, the manner in which Elijah had taken her in his arms after she'd had her momentary panic attack had filled something deep inside her. The way he'd wrapped her in a blanket, held her close, fed her—it had been strange and some kind of wonderful to be taken care of.
That was what she wanted, more than anything she'd seen in the BDSM club. She wanted a strong man, a man who would take care of her without questioning her endlessly about it. A man who wasn't put off by the fact that she could be argumentative and stubborn.
Elijah was that man. She was absolutely sure of it.

Considering how much I adored the first book in the In Vino Veritas series, Blush, which I reviewed back in May, I thought I would love Breathe, but I was actually very disappointed. With backdrops of breezy José del Cabo and colorful Las Vegas, Breathe is business tycoon Elijah Masterson's story—the story of how he finds the girl who steals his heart, and how he responds to her touch—even though she isn't fully available for his taking.

Samantha, our heroine, is running away from a deep, terrible past that still haunts her in the flesh today. I don't know what it is in recent trends that has glamorized childhood trauma, but as you can imagine, this "escaping the past" trope was predictable, superficial, and left a bad taste in my mouth—not because it was too horrible for words, but because it was so recklessly developed. Samantha has always had to be the responsible one, the one who had to pick up the scattered pieces of her broken family, but when she meets Elijah, a relationship as fiery as her personality ignites, and for once, she gets the chance to give up control.

There are two problems here that I can name already: first, the degree of "heat" of the relationship, and second, Samantha's "sassy" attitude—both the result of poor characterization. Whatever chemistry there is supposed to be between Elijah and Samantha is unconvincing; I felt nothing for them, and didn't care enough to root for their romance either. While the more explicit sex scenes are taboo and decently written, the character interaction, the entire presumption of their so-called relationship, is stinted and utterly painful (and not in the good way!).

Samantha is portrayed as your typical contrary, smart-mouthed redhead who's so uptight that she can't ever be fully submissive. The heart of the book's tragedy lies here: while Samantha wants to surrender to Elijah's kinky ways, she is too much of a "strong, independent woman who don't need no man" to do so; and while Elijah is intrigued by this adorable, passionate character, he is a true Dom and cannot be with a sort-of, kind-of sub. She's the kind of girl that could make him get way over his head—fall in love too quickly and get hurt—again. The dilemma of the impossible power play, as well as the secret he wants to coax out of her without damaging her, is really well elaborated, but that's about all I can praise.

The characters themselves are hard to sympathize with; entirely two-dimensional and routine. Samantha huffs her breath out and puts her fists on her hips too much, while Elijah does creepy, unrealistic things like call her "kitten" and lust after his best friend's fiancée. Jameson tried too hard to make each character ideal—Samantha the brazen, bold heroine, and Elijah the smooth, rich Dom—but she ended up making them unrealistic and rather ridiculous in the process.

I thought I'd at least enjoy the BDSM aspect, but nope, didn't happen. Samantha's immersion into the world of kink is uncannily Fifty Shades-esque; we've got a pathetically naïve innocent girl with only not-so-witty inner monologues to her name, and we've got a billionaire-slash-handsome-devil who's an expert on whips and chains and gags. On top of this, we have an author trying way too hard to be inventive, to be sexy; it was entirely unsexy. A few nights together and a trip to Elijah's infamous sex club later, and they're already developing separation anxiety. They call it incredible passion. They call it love.

Sorry, but this one just wasn't for me.

Pros


Brief cameos of characters from Blush // Intense love scenes // D/s relationship well explored // Quickly paced; I kept reading, didn't I?

Cons


Physical BDSM is poorly incorporated // Laughable characters // Laughable romance/love/whatever // Stereotypical "rich sex god falls in love with unextraordinary girl" plot // Emotionally artless; Jameson tries too hard to be sentimental, but I got nothing out of it

Verdict


Breathe's pages turned easily and were paced well, but the story itself is insipid, unoriginal, and at times, just too over-the-top. A clear Fifty Shades of Grey wannabe—the two books having nearly identical plots and equally ridiculous characters—the second installment of the In Vino Veritas series disappointed me sorely. Frustratingly, I really wanted to enjoy this novel about giving up and handing over control, but I must have gotten my hopes up too high; even if you're a fan of Blush or Jameson's alter ego, Lauren Hawkeye's other works, I can't recommend this one Americanflag

5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book (x)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Big Sky Secrets by Linda Lael Miller: Exclusive Sneak Peek and Giveaway!

Brought to you by the fabulous Little Bird Publicity...

Big Sky Secrets (Parable, Montana #6)
Linda Lael Miller

The "First Lady of the West," #1 New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller delivers the stunning finale of her acclaimed series set in Parable, Montana—where love awaits.

Self-made tycoon Landry Sutton heads to Hangman Bend's Ranch to sell his land to his brother Zane. Though he's got cowboy in his blood, Landry plans to return to city life before the dust even settles on his boots. Of course, he didn't count on falling for Big Sky Country... or Ria Manning.

Ria's starting to settle into country life herself... until she has a close encounter of the terrifying kind with a buffalo. Turns out the peeping monster belongs to the cowboy next door—and he has her running even more scared than his bison. She wants a home where the buffalo don't roam, and the men don't either. Could Landry's homecoming be her heart's undoing?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop!

The Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Bookhounds, works like this: each participating blog hosts a giveaway and then we link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another. For followers, it means lots of chances to win free books. For blogs hosting giveaways, it means lots of new visitors and followers. It's a win-win! The Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop is scheduled from January 4th at 12.01 AM until January 10th at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


One lucky follower will win their choice of one of the following books. Click on the covers to learn more about them and read my reviews!



What would you choose if you won?

And yes, we'll have ANOTHER winner for this amazing set of eBooks so that my international readers can participate:

That's two winners total! Woohoo!!!!

Friday, January 3, 2014


Geography Club // Brent Hartinger // My review

Elsewhere // Gabrielle Zevin // My review

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society // Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows // My review

Leverage // Joshua C. Cohen // My review

Blood on Silk // Marie Treanor // My review

Blood Sin // Marie Treanor // My review

Blush // Lauren Jameson // My review

Turning Point // Tiffany Snow // My review

In the Country of Men // Hisham Matar // My review

Bordeaux Housewives // Daisy Waugh // My review

All Our Yesterdays // Cristin Terrill // My review

Mother, Mother // Koren Zailckas // My review

Songs of Willow Frost // Jamie Ford // My review

Finding It // Cora Carmack // My review

Forgiving Lies // Molly McAdams // My review

Someone Else's Love Story // Joshilyn Jackson // My review

Hyperbole and a Half // Allie Brosh // My review