Friday, April 18, 2014

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

***

Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams.  His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O'Hare.  Together they'll go undercover to swindle and catch the world's most wanted - and untouchable - criminals.  

Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency.  Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public.  Nick and Kate must work under the radar - and against the clock - to devise a plan to steal the piece back.  Confronting Grove's elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills of their ragtag crew, including flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate's dad.  

A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal.  But it'll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty's priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O'Hare. 

Ok, I'm really enjoying the Fox and O'Hare series.  It's new and different from the Plum Series (which I adore), but still has flavors of all the plum lovable elements.  In The Chase, Kate and Nick find themselves taking on a dangerous and powerful foe.  Reuniting with characters from The Heist, the team sets out to con the biggest con artist - a politician.  Hilarity ensues.

I liken The Chase to White Collar and I could easily picture Matthew Bomer's wicked smile when Nick is being wicked, and he's wicked a lot.  With fast-paced action and a truly colorful cast of characters, you will love The Chase.

~Shel










Thursday, April 17, 2014

Her Sexiest Mistake by Jill Shalvis

***
Mia Appleby finally has the life she always wanted.  She's escaped her trailer trash childhood and built a nice life for herself with a marketing job and a cute, little condo.  But no matter how much baggage she's ditched from her past, she still hasn't managed to shake her greatest weakness-men.  So when her new neighbor turns out to be single and oh-so-sexy, Mia's worried she's playing with fire...

Kevin McKnight can't get enough of his gorgeous neighbor, but after one amazing night, she's already showing him the door.  Something tells him this is the way she handles most men.  But Kevin is far from your average guy-and he's ready  to prove it to Mia.  When a blast from her past shakes up Mia's life in a major way, will she stick with her self-sufficient solo act... or take a chance leaning on Kevin's strong shoulders?

Hilarious, sexy and fun.  Need I say more?  Yes?  Ok, well Her Sexiest Mistake is about a young professional woman who finds herself playing mother to her teenage niece, whom she has never before met.  And a sexy neighbor, don't forget the sexy neighbor, who, coincidentally enough is a high school science teacher that has the skills to deal with a troubled teen.  

I've said it before and I will say it again, you will never regret a Jill Shalvis book.  She's the queen of the awkward moment and her signature steam will keep you wanting more.  Her Sexiest Mistake is one of her earlier works, but well worth the read.

~Shel




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (100)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.


We Were Liars
By E. Lockhart
Publication Date: May 13, 2014

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi - Review & Guest Post

* * * *




Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen-year-old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good.

You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way.

The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi—she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feelings is harder than she thinks. And when she falls heads over heels for one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what.


Lexi is a very mild-mannered kid. Although she’s on her way to New Horizons to be “cured”of her gay ways, she’s more concerned with her widowed mother who hasn’t been the same since her dad died.  His loss has been a huge blow to them. For Lexi, her mother is all she has left.  She knows she’s gay but out of love for her mother and desperate to keep her remaining family intact, she’s willing to sacrifice her own happiness and go to this conversion camp. Is it right? No, but I can sympathize with where she’s coming from. She views New Horizons not as an adversary but as a necessary step toward reconnecting with her mother.

At camp, she’s grouped together with three other people – Matthew, the jokester who’s out-and-proud, Daniel, a very confused and sheltered boy trying to reconcile his feelings with what it means to be a good Christian, and finally Carolyn, who’s there to fix herself so she can fulfill her idyllic dream of having a family and kids. Sparks fly instantly between Lexi and Carolyn though neither do anything about it. Lexi reminds herself constantly why she’s there and what she has to gain AND lose should this not go well.

Let me count the reasons why I liked this book...

1) The ensemble cast is fantastic. All the characters from the religious counselors, to the confused parents to the frightened camp kids, bring so much substance to this story. 

2) Lexi is great. She’s not antagonistic towards anyone. She approaches her situation gracefully and questions things. She's not easily brainwashed. At one meeting, the kids are told that their gayness is a “sickness”. This statement provides for a very powerful moment of introspection for her as she recollects when she first knew she was gay. At no point has she ever viewed this as a sickness or a disease to be rid of. And it wasn’t like it was this melodramatic journey to get to that point. She just knew and she had clarity. 

3) Every opinion, belief, viewpoint is given equal “airtime”.  Whether you agree with them or not, this book is about each of their individual experiences and their own personal journey. Each of the camp kids has their own reason for being there – some reluctantly like Matthew and some voluntarily like Carolyn. It’s what they figure out for themselves that’s important.

4) This is a difficult story to tell but it's done articulately and courageously with the very emotional and turbulent moments handled delicately. Thank goodness for that because I would've been a wreck. Still that doesn't erase the horrors of the inappropriate and questionable things that happen at camps like this. I'll be honest, I'd heard of such places but had never given them much thought. Now that I've had some insight, how anyone can think it's okay to treat people in such a debasing and sometimes abusive manner like those mentioned here, is beyond me. 

The Summer I Wasn’t Me is thoroughly engaging, disturbing and inspiring. The characters involved keep you invested but the camp and its procedures are horrifying. My hope for anyone who reads this is not to just cling to the same old arguments or any religious predisposition. Set all that aside if you can. In the end, I hope the thought turns to the importance of treating a fellow human being with compassion. And then I hope that thought turns to daily practice.

~ Bel


Now that you've read my take on the book, I am pleased to have the author herself, the brilliant Jessica Verdi join us today to discuss her book in further detail. Welcome Jessica!


Hi, Bel! Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about my research process for The Summer I Wasn’t Me, so I’m hoping I can use this opportunity to discuss that a little!
This was a very research-heavy book, being that I personally have never been to a conversion camp. But because this world is so secretive, so purposefully hush-hush, there was only so much research I could do before hitting a brick wall. The things that go on at these camps are not only incredibly morally unethical, but emotionally (and often physically) abusive, and in many cases illegal. These kinds of programs have already been outlawed for youths in New Jersey and for all people, regardless of age, in California.
The bulk of my research consisted of doing a lot of technical research on so-called “reparative therapy” (the techniques and methods they use, the argument for the work, etc.), reading first hand accounts from people who have been to camps like these, and watching several documentaries. Every single “exercise” you see in the book came from research—I didn’t make any of that stuff up, including the horrifying events that happen (no spoilers!) in Chapter 29. In fact, one of the hardest parts of my research was watching YouTube videos of that very type of thing. It was extremely difficult to watch kids going through something like that, but I knew I owed it to the accuracy of the story to get every detail, even ones as awful as that, correct.
I was recently asked if I came across anything in my research that was just TOO much to put in the book, and I said no. Not that I didn’t come across some of the most terrible forms of abuse I’ve ever encountered, but I NEVER felt compelled to protect the people who run these programs, or downplay anything that happens there. This book was, from the beginning, going to be real and raw and honest—I’ve never had any interest in sugarcoating it.
The people in The Summer I Wasn’t Me of course are all fictional, and I made the physical setting up as well—the multiple cabin setup in the Virginia mountains felt right to me for the story, but I can’t be 100% sure of its accuracy. Basically after I did all the technical research, I let the characters and setting and story build up around it. It was interesting to be able to almost create a new world for this book, sort of like one would do when writing fantasy—the only difference being, sadly, these conversion programs are all too real.



Thank you Jessica for sharing your eye-opening research with us! You can learn more about Jessica Verdi and her other books by visiting her website at www.jessicaverdi.com or follow her @JessVerdi  And thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for arranging this guest post.

~ Bel

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

* * * * 



From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs.

When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.

*Bonus Backmatter includes a note about the author's CIA past, and a commentary by RAND researcher and president of ARCH International, Dr. Cheryl Benard. Recommendations for further reading are also included.



I happened upon this when I saw it included in a Stacking The Shelves post a few weeks ago. It’s different from my regular fare and I was grateful for the change of pace it provided.

Layla’s experience as a newly arrived exile is described so eloquently. There were even moments where I could easily relate to her cultural shock moments. But Layla’s perspective on life in general is eye-opening. The differences she encounters don’t necessarily scare her or deter her. She even allows herself to enjoy aspects of her new life though there may be constant clashes between the old and new that confound her.  But what is truly earth-shattering for her is learning that the whole world sees her overthrown murdered father as a dictator which is a very bitter lesson for her to swallow.  This even causes her to reassess her life and family as she has known it up to now, especially her mother. What we have here is not just a displaced teenage girl who has lost her father and her country but also a girl having to grow up too fast and be schooled in politics.

Seeing typical American experiences from the mundane like that of grocery shopping to the milestone high school dance through Layla’s eyes, will offer a fresh new perspective to the reader. Even the concept of having friends and “hanging out” is something new to her.  

I say read this. It’s one of the best books I’ve come across this year. It’s an absorbing story that grabs you and will also enhance your own view of typical every day life.

~ Bel




Thursday, April 10, 2014

If Only by A. J. Pine

If Only (Entangled Embrace, #1)
* * * 1/2

Sometimes it takes crossing an ocean to figure out where you belong.


It's been two years since twenty-year-old Jordan had a boyfriend—which means it's been forever since she, well, you know. But now she’s off to spend her junior year in Aberdeen, Scotland, the perfect place to stop waiting for Mr. Right and just enjoy Mr. Right Now.

Sexy, sweet (and possible player) Griffin may be her perfect, no-strings-attached match. He’s fun, gorgeous, and makes her laugh. So why can’t she stop thinking about Noah who, minutes after being trapped together outside the train’s loo, kisses Jordan like she’s never been kissed before? Never mind his impossible blue eyes, his weathered, annotated copy of The Great Gatsby (total English-major porn)…oh, and his girlfriend.

Jordan knows everything this year has an expiration date. Aberdeen is supposed to be about fun rather than waiting for life to happen. But E. M. Forster, Shakespeare, and mistletoe on Valentine’s Day make her reconsider what love is and how far she’s willing to go for the right guy.


Review:

Jordan is on the last leg of the trip that is taking her to Aberdeen University.  The nine hour train ride from London to northern Scotland should be fairly uneventful, right?  Well, apparently, the fates have decided that this train ride and her subsequent stay in Aberdeen will everything BUT uneventful.   Jordan strikes up an instant friendship (and attraction) with they guy sitting next to her.  Griffon, another American student attending Aberdeen, is a self professed serial monogamist.  He’s fun and easy to be around and all the girls love him – as Jordan learns when another female passenger writes her unsolicited phone number on Griffon’s hand.  But on the trip to the loo, Jordan runs into Noah.  Or should I say he runs into her when he trips out of the toilet.  When Jordan exits the bathroom, she finds Noah still standing in the vestibule because the doors are stuck.  Their close proximity and Noah’s growing anxiety over being trapped leads to a discussion learning their shared love of literature which THEN leads to a fabulous first kiss that made my romantic heart go all a flutter.

But when they arrive in Aberdeen, Jordan finds that Noah has a girlfriend that is also attending the University.  No big deal.  They just met.  Their kiss couldn’t have really meant anything.  And besides, this is supposed be Jordan’s big year of experiencing flings and being someone completely different.  So she continues a relationship with serial monogamist, Griffon.  But things get sticky when Griffon starts to fall for Jordan and Jordan and Noah can’t be in the same vicinity without sparks flying.  Instead of the fun care-free time expected of her first semester in Aberdeen, Jordan experiences months of emotional turmoil that she doesn’t know how to fix.

Griffon and many of the secondary characters were absolutely lovely.  With the exception of Griffon, many of the secondary characters seemed to lack depth.  Fortunately, it was not a major issue for me as they were still enjoyable to read and they played their part in furthering the story.   As for our main characters, Jordan and Noah?  I found myself disliking them just as much as I found myself liking them.  Much like their relationship with each other, my relationship with them was tumultuous.  You know me. I love a good angsty romance.  But these two seemed hell bent on being martyrs.  It takes them entirely too long to start fighting for the relationship they each want to have. But in the end they do fight and the chemistry between the two is just so well written that I couldn’t put it down.  Seriously.  I got 3 hours of sleep because I had to know what happened next.  So, yeah, these two may have driven me a bit batty but I still wanted to see them make it in the end.

If you enjoy a good angsty romance (with plenty of hilarious awkward moments to lighten the mood) and you are a fan of New Adult then this will be a great title for you.

Nat

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting and Wednesday (99)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.



The A-Word (Sweet Dead Life, #2)By Joy Preble
Publication Date: May 13, 2014

Jenna Samuels is about to turn fifteen. It's been almost a year since her stoner brother, Casey, bit the dust. Almost a year since he returned as her guardian angel, along with his "angel boss," Amber Velasco, the hot twenty-something former EMT. Almost a year since Casey and Amber used up their one-time-only angel power of flight to save Jenna from the evil Dr. Renfroe, swooping down to catch her as she tumbled off the balcony at the Houston Galleria. In short, a lot of A-word shenanigans and a mostly happy ending.

Except now Casey's begun to wonder why he's still hanging around—not that he minds protecting Jenna. She's a handful, but there's got to be a bigger picture, right? Something to distract him from his on again/off again, doomed relationship with cheerleader Lanie Phelps, who has no idea her boyfriend is, well, dead. After all, he can't use his angel wings anymore. Neither can Amber.

Enter Bo Shivers, Amber's "angel boss"—a mysterious A-word guy Jenna and Casey didn't even know existed. Whiskey-guzzling. Handsome in a grizzled way. Unpredictable. Okay, make that crazy. Bo lost his angel wings in an earthly flight a long, long, long time back—and he's been a thorn in Angel Management's side ever since. But Bo knows something is coming. Something big. Something that was worth forfeiting wings for Jenna... something that might just change everything for everyone.


Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend (Broken Hearts & Revenge, #1)By Katie Finn
Publication Date:  May 13, 2014

Summer, boys, and friendships gone sour. This new series has everything that perfect beach reads are made of!

Gemma just got dumped and is devastated. She finds herself back in the Hamptons for the summer—which puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friend that she wronged five years earlier. Do people hold grudges that long?

When a small case of mistaken identity causes everyone, including Hallie and her dreamy brother Josh, to think she’s someone else, Gemma decides to go along with it.

Gemma's plan is working (she's finding it hard to resist Josh), but she's finding herself in embarrassing situations (how could a bathing suit fall apart like that!?). Is it coincidence or is someone trying to expose her true identity? And how will Josh react if he finds out who she is?

Katie Finn hits all the right notes in this perfect beginning to a new summer series: A Broken Hearts & Revenge novel.