Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Witch's Market, by Mingmei Yip {ends 12/1}

Review by: Karen Doerr

As I stared into the water, I felt myself slipping into a trance.

Minutes later, I sense a presence surrounding me. Now I was scared, and froze in place, not daring to move even my lashes and quieting my breathing. Gradually from the surface of the water I began to hear intense whispers seeming to reveal ancient secrets, if only I could make out what they were saying. My eyes and ears seemed to open up to things I had never before seen and sounds I had never before heard. It was in a language I could almost, but not quite understand.

Eileen Chen seems to have it all: budding career as a professor, hopelessly devoted boyfriend, and magical powers. What would make her risk losing it all? According to author Mingmei Yip, a sense that there is more out there, which cumulates as a dream of a talking tree. This was my first experience with the author’s work. While I did find it a bit slow at the beginning, it became hard to put down. The author took Amy Tan’s formula of mixing Chinese culture, self-discovery, and family dynamics and added in a bit of fantasy.   

Official synopsis:
From the author of Secret of a Thousand Beauties and Peach Blossom Pavilion comes a beautifully written novel of self-discovery and intrigue.

Chinese-American assistant professor Eileen Chen specializes in folk religion at her San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition. Yet privately, the subject intrigues her.

When a research project takes her to the Canary Islands—long rumored to be home to real witches—Eileen is struck by the lush beauty of Tenerife and its blend of Spanish and Moroccan culture. A stranger invites her to a local market where women sell amulets, charms, and love spells. Gradually Eileen immerses herself in her exotic surroundings, finding romance with a handsome young furniture maker. But as she learns more about the lives of these self-proclaimed witches, Eileen must choose how much trust to place in this new and seductive world, where love, greed, and vengeance can be as powerful, or as destructive, as any magic.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review & GIVEAWAY: Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester {ends 11/30}

They went straightaway, after changing in the darkness of the attic out of their pajamas and into street clothes. When they emerged into the brisk air, the sky was just beginning to lighten in the east, like a large blue blanket whose corners had caught flame. Max had always loved the city at this hour, when the buildings were like tall black stakes against the sky, and only a few lights flickered in the windows; when the streets were empty; when the whole city felt like a large, slumbering monster, and she could pass unseen in its shadows.

But now that they were on their way to catch a real-life monster, Max felt different. 

I'm a big fan of Lauren Oliver's books - the last novel I read by her, Vanishing Girls, was great, and I like her Delirium series too. Curiosity House is a little different in that it's more for younger readers - the book trailer calls it a "middle-grade" read. That being said, as an adult, I still enjoyed the book.

Official synopsis:
What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Nuts, by Alice Clayton {ends 11/20}




F O R. B U T T E R.

I sat in my car outside Mitzi's house, tucked high up into the hills. I'd packed up my knives, plucked my last check from her perfectly manicured gel tips, then trudged to my 1982 Jeep Wagoneer.

Fired. Over butter. I should have known better than to turn my back on cream being whipped. It can go from stiff peaks to buttery squeaks in seconds. 

I've read a few of Alice Clayton's books, and they're always quite funny, with a dash of sauciness thrown in; her characters are always strong women, who enjoy their love lives.

Official synopsis:
From New York Times bestselling author Alice Clayton, the first in a brand-new romance series telling the humorously sexy tale of Roxie, a private chef who gets a taste of love—but is it to stay, or to go?

After losing almost all of her clients in one fell swoop following an accident involving whipped cream, private chef to Hollywood’s elite Roxie Callahan gets a call from her flighty mother, saying she’s needed home in upstate New York to run the family diner. Once she's back in the Hudson Valley, local organic farmer Leo delivers Roxie a lovely bunch of walnuts, and soon sparks—and clothing—begin to fly. Leo believes that everything worth doing is worth doing slowly…and how! But will Roxie stay upstate, or will the lure of West Coast redemption tempt her back to Tinseltown?

This was a predictable novel, but very cute. Roxie had moved out of her small town in order to attend culinary school in California, about as far away from New York as you can get, but her mother now has the chance of a lifetime - to be on The Amazing Race with Roxie's aunt, her sister - and needs Roxie home for the summer to run the diner. Roxie is now a private chef in L.A., but has recently been fired by one of her clients (over whipped cream turning into butter! Ha), so the timing works out perfectly.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The House, by Christina Lauren {ends 11/17}

Delilah's breath grew trapped in her throat, and the old protective fire flickered to life between her ribs.

He was the same, but not. His shirt was black, jeans were black, and shaggy black hair fell into his eyes. He was so tall he must have been pulled like taffy. When he looked up at Delilah as he passed, the same eyes she remembered from all those years ago - dark and stormy and shadowed with bluish circles - seemed to flicker to life for a moment.

Just long enough for her to lose her breath.

He looked as if he knew every one of her secrets. Who would have guessed that after six years Gavin Timothy would still seem so perfectly dangerous?

Apparently, Delilah was still smitten.

From the passage above, you might guess that this book is a love story - and in a way, it is - but it's more about a house that literally comes to life, and is angry that its son that it raised, Gavin, now has a girlfriend, and some day might not live there anymore.

Official synopsis:
Gavin tells Delilah he’s hers—completely—but whatever lives inside that house with him disagrees.

After seven years tucked away at an East coast boarding school, Delilah Blue returns to her small Kansas hometown to find that not much has changed. Her parents are still uptight and disinterested, her bedroom is exactly the way she left it, and the outcast Gavin Timothy still looks like he’s crawled out of one of her dark, twisted drawings.

Delilah is instantly smitten.

Gavin has always lived in the strange house: an odd building isolated in a stand of trees where the town gives in to mild wilderness. The house is an irresistible lure for Delilah, but the tall fence surrounding it exists for good reason, and Gavin urges Delilah to be careful. Whatever lives with him there isn’t human, and isn’t afraid of hurting her to keep her away.

Double Book Review: Rebel Belle (#1) and Miss Mayhem (#2), by Rachel Hawkins

Review by: Rebecca Schweitzer

“Shouldn't I get to fly? Or at the very least, shoot laser beams out of my eyes? Feeling like a complete moron, I stood up and focused as hard as I could on my closet door. No matter how hard I stared, no laser beams. I even tried muttering “laser” under my breath, but nothing. That done, I gave a few experimental hops, trying to see if I could levitate even for a second. When that didn't work either, I briefly considered trying to jump out the window, but then I remembered Mom's expression when she'd found me in the pool. So no laser, no flying, but superstrength and the ability to kick some major ass. That was something.”

Harper Price runs her school. She's the student body president, homecoming queen, head cheerleader and every other important position available. After a lipgloss crisis, she finds herself in possession of mysterious super powers that seem to be forcing her to protect her nemesis since kindergarten, student newspaper editor, David Stark. Harper is used to balancing a few different tasks, but with cotillion coming up and her boyfriend feeling neglected already, Harper's new super strength isn't feeling like such a strong point.

Imagine Buffy the Vampire the Slayer as a southern belle instead of a valley girl. That's about what you get with Harper Price. In fact, Harper herself wonders where her “Giles” is when she figures out she's now some sort of super hero called a Paladin. Rebel Belle, the first book in the series, crashes into Harper's new and confusing life. It's a fun ride with plenty of action and a side of romantic tension. Harper may be the model student, but she's not always the best as making perfect decisions, which makes her all the more compelling.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Quick Pick: Surviving Ice, by K.A. Tucker

  • Opening lines: Ned pauses to stretch his neck and roll his right shoulder once ... twice ... before lifting the needle to his customer's arm again, humming along with Willie Nelson's twang, a staple in Black Rabbit for as long as I can remember. After all these years, the aging country singer still holds a special spot in my uncle's heart. He even sports the matching gray braids and red bandanna to prove it.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a huge fan of K.A. Tucker's Burying Water series, and this is the fourth book in the series.
  • And what's this book about?
  • The USA TODAY bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths series and Burying Water—which Kirkus Reviews called “a sexy, romantic, gangster-tinged page-turner”—returns with a new novel packed with romance, plot twists, and psychological suspense.

    Ivy, a talented tattoo artist who spent the early part of her twenties on the move, is finally looking for a place to call home. She thinks she might have found it in San Francisco, but all that changes when she witnesses a terrible crime. She’s ready to pack up her things yet again, when a random encounter with a stranger keeps her in the city, giving her reason to stay after all.

    That is, until Ivy discovers that their encounter wasn’t random. Not at all…
  • Favorite Paragraph: I begin on the outline of the reapers' head, the side of my palm ever so gently resting against him as I work, his body heat warming my skin through the latex.

    This is where my clients usually begin talking. They're excited, they're nervous, it's a bit awkward to have a stranger touching their flesh and they want to get comfortable ... there are plenty of reasons for them to strike up a conversation. It always starts with small talk - the basics about the person, the all-too-common "What's the weirdest tattoo request you've ever had?"

    Depending on how detailed the piece is and where I'm doing it, at some point the conversation usually veers into personal territory.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Not That Easy, by Radhika Sanghani {ends 11/3}

"So, this must be the famous girlfriend," said Chris. I looked at him weirdly. Why was he talking about Holly like that? "Ellie, right?"

I stared at him. He was smiling at me, waiting for an answer. I turned to look at Nick. He was smiling too. What the fuck? Why wasn't he correcting his brother?

No one had spoken yet and Chris's smile was beginning to wane. Holly looked at me curiously as she puffed on what I had now realized was an e-cigarette.

OH GOD. HE'D TOLD THEM I WAS HIS GIRLFRIEND. Nick wasn't my fuck buddy at all - he was my goddamn boyfriend and he hadn't bothered to tell me.

Oh fuck fuck fuck. It was fine. This was a good thing. I could do this. 

This book is the sequel to Virgin, which I reviewed last year, and the main character, Ellie, is back, and still making me laugh. In the first book, she was 21 and looking to lose her virginity; now that she has, she's looking for some one-night stands, so that she can talk with her friends about them and have more in common. She reminds me a bit of Georgia Nicolson in another series I like, and the result is a funny read.

Official synopsis:
Ellie used to be a virgin, but now she’s a woman with sexual experience. Well, some sexual experience. She also has debt, an unpaid magazine internship, and three flatmates who left her with the single room to match her single status.

That’s okay. She doesn’t want a boyfriend anyway—she wants several. And if the sex is exciting enough, her ruthless magazine editor boss can exploit her dating life for a column.

After countless hook-ups, a disastrously fiery encounter with some heat lube, and one orgasm class, Ellie is faced with the sad reality of her sexual ineptitude. But when she starts to witness the emotional wreckage she’s leaving in her wake, Ellie realizes that sex can be hard, and there’s a down side to giving it up too easy.

This book also reminds me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (movie) because Ellie is Greek, and her mom is a "typical" Greek mom; always worrying about Ellie and Ellie asks her for loans (since she's at an unpaid internship currently), saying she wants to make moussaka or other Greek foods.