Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Secret of a Thousand Beauties, by Mingmei Yip, ends 2/6

It was my wedding day.

I was horrified.

Because my soon-to-be-lawful - and awful - husband was not even a man.

He was a ghost.

This novel was very interesting, in that it's historical fiction - it takes place in 1930s China - but it's set against the backdrop of some real events. Spring Swallow ends up leading a crazy life, and it would definitely be interesting to see this novel turned into a movie.

Official synopsis:
Set against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip's enthralling novel explores one woman's defiant pursuit of independence.

Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother's belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws' protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a "bad-luck woman," Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting - a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete--betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman's story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review: Beautiful Beloved, by Christina Lauren

I miss seeing you lost in me, and unapologetic about it.

She was letting me be gentle. She was patiently waiting for it to sink in that she'd asked for more, for real sex, again and again.

She'd say, Do you want to make a movie tonight?

No Petal, it's enough just to feel you.

Do you ever miss the club?

No Petal, I love being right here where we are, with our baby asleep down the hall.

You really want to look at them like this? You like the taste?

I'd wanted to make things easy for her. I'd wanted her to feel safe and cherished. I closed my eyes, absorbed by the paradoxical sensations of relief when Sara began to quietly come beneath me, and heartache in the realization that somewhere along the line, I had forgotten what she needed.

So in my Beautiful Beginning review from December 2013, I mentioned that that novella was the last one in the series - either I was mistaken, or the authors have decided to write more! Beautiful Beloved is also a novella, and Goodreads places it as "#3.6" in the series; Beautiful Secret, the next full-length book, will be out in April, and follows Niall Stella, Max Stella's brother.

In this novella, Max and Sara (from the second novel in the series, Beautiful Stranger) are now married with a newborn, and find that they now don't have as much time for their ... extracurriculars. But Max is determined to start them again now that Sara is recovered, and Beloved follows them on this mission.

Official synopsis:
The seventh work in the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling series that started with the Beautiful Bastard, Beautiful Stranger, and Beautiful Player novels. Featuring all the one tiny new addition to the group.

In Beautiful Stranger , finance whiz Sara Dillon met the irresistibly sexy Brit, Max Stella, at a New York City club. Through the series we’ve watched them learn to balance commitment with their less than private brand of playfulness. In Beautiful Beloved, Max and Sara take it to the next step. But the question is: Will they be able to find a balance between the wild sexcapades they aren’t ready to retire, and the demands of parenthood that come along with their new Beautiful bundle of joy? Parenthood: it’s not for the weak of heart.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Dirty Rush, by Taylor Bell, ends 1/26

"By the way, Taylor. You're gonna get a bid. Obviously, you can't tell anyone until it's official, but the chapter seems to be in love with you and it just makes sense. I guess some things are meant to be."

"Wow." My face starts to crinkle out of some sort of weird mixture of amusement and genuine happiness. Or maybe I was just so overwhelmed by the last hour of my life that I couldn't do much besides smile and nod. I definitely didn't have any burning desire to be a part of this group of crazy girls, but the fact that they wanted me to be a part of their world felt good.

"Thanks, I'm ... um, I'm excited."
"Good. You should be."
"I ... am."
"Good. You should be."
"No, I totally am."

We both looked straight ahead.

"Welcome to the dark side."

I haven't had much time to read lately - most of my reading has been done on my work breaks - but I sped through this novel in about two days. Perez Hilton has called it "Mean Girls at a sorority house," and the rights to the movie have actually already been bought. "Taylor Bell," the author, is actually two MEN (!), which really surprised me based on the content of the book and the first-person POV in which it's written, and they've written similar books before, too.

Official synopsis:
In this shockingly true-to-life novel written by an all-star team of Internet phenoms from the Total Frat Move generation, you’ll get the first true glimpse of “real” sorority life in all its f**ked up glory.

Dirty Rush by Taylor Bell is what happens when you take the creative minds behind Babe Walker (author of the New York Times bestselling White Girl Problems series) and add Rebecca Martinson to the mix. Rebecca Martinson—yes, that bitch—the former Delta Gamma sister responsible for the scathing, expletive-filled email that verbally assaulted her entire chapter for being “so f**king boring” at social functions, and threatened to “c*nt punt” every last one of them if their behavior didn’t shape up. Dirty Rush is a no-holds-barred look at what really happens when you “go Greek.”

Taylor Bell comes from a long line of Beta Zeta sorority sisters, who all expect her to pledge upon starting at the university. But Taylor has other plans: she’s determined to give her family the proverbial middle finger and destroy the rich tradition they hold so dear by eschewing sorority life altogether. However, Taylor’s resolve soon melts when she falls in with a group of hilarious, ultra-saucy girls, who introduce her to all things Greek and soften her to the idea of joining. Resigned to the fate the Greek gods have dealt her, Taylor pledges Beta Zeta and embarks on a collegiate career filled with the kind of carousing sure to make any sorority sister proud.

Soon, Taylor’s experience as a BZ starts to feel like a jacked-up, drug-infused, and X-rated fairy tale—especially when reality comes crashing down and a rather lewd sex tape is leaked. The girl in the video looks a lot like Taylor. Has Taylor gone off the deep end? Or is someone trying to frame her? Unless she can prove her innocence and re-ingratiate herself with the sisters who’ve accused her of leaking the video in a Kim Kardashian–style bid for attention, Taylor is at risk of losing everything she’s fought (partied) so hard for.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: Your Perfect Life, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

"We're already tossing around ideas. All preliminary of course. But if things continue, if Casey can keep this up, a show will happen for her. And she's single. No kids. She'd jump at a chance to host her own show in the Big Apple, right?"

Charlie smiles, but his eyes look sad. "I don't know, you'll have to ask her. But you know Casey, she'd do just about anything for the next great thing."

And I find myself wondering. What will she say? Or if we haven't been able to switch back and I'm still Casey Lee, what will I say?

This novel is definitely a Freaky Friday type of book, but it also knows that and alludes to that movie and other similar "body switching" books and movies. Rachel is a homemaker with three kids, including a baby, and her best friend, Casey, is a TV star - she hosts Gossip TV, and leads an expensive lifestyle, with the clothes and apartment to match. When they end up switching bodies after their 20th high school reunion, neither knows how to adapt to the other's life at first - but soon, after almost no time at all, they start to figure things out.

Official synopsis:
With “a delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights” (New York Times bestselling author Jen Lancaster), Your Perfect Life perfectly illustrates that old adage: Sometimes, you to have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to see what’s in her heart.

Best friends since childhood, Casey and Rachel couldn’t lead more different lives. While workaholic Casey rubs elbows with celebrities daily as the host of Gossip TV and comes home nightly to an empty apartment, stay-at-home mom Rachel juggles an “oops” baby, two fiery teenagers, and a husband who barely seems the man she fell in love with two decades before. After an argument at their twentieth high school reunion, Casey and Rachel throw back shots to get the night back on track. Instead, they get a life-changing hangover.

Waking up in each other’s bodies the next morning, they must figure out how to navigate their altered realities. Rachel is forced to confront the reason she gave up her broadcasting dreams when she got pregnant in college, and Casey finally steps out of the spotlight to face the truth about why she’s alone. And they soon discover that they don’t know themselves—or their best friend—nearly as well as they thought they did.

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke bring humor and heart to every page of this novel that is sure to please fans of
In Her Shoes and The Opposite of Me. Your Perfect Life is a story about two very different women, what they didn’t know about each other, and how, by switching lives, they each learn to appreciate their own.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Stolen (Heart of Dread #2) by Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston, ends 1/21

The doctors had made her believe the mark was a curse, and the flame on her chest was a symbol that nearly cost her life many times. Nat had been frightened and ashamed of her power; it had warped her, it had filled her thoughts with helplessness and destruction, but now she understood the source of that rage. It was the passion of an artist unable to paint, a poet unable to write. Denied a true understanding of the gift she'd been born with, she was unable to express her power, and so she had turned it inward, and lived with anger in her soul.

She had been groping in the dark, but now, looking at that tall white city suspended in the sky, Nat felt as if she had stepped into the light at last.

This is the second book in the Heart of Dread series, written by Melissa de la Cruz and her husband, Michael Johnston, and I reviewed the first book in the series, Frozen, back in September 2013. I liked the dystopian concept of that novel, and gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Although I didn't enjoy book #2 quite as much, it was still a fun story, and it went by quickly.

Official synopsis:
Months after Nat and Wes said good-bye on the shores of the Blue, Nat is learning how to control and use her new power. She and her drakon are the last of their kind—and she’s risked her life for their reunion. When she receives a mysterious distress call, she races to help, soliciting the guidance of her new friend, the beautiful and aloof Faix Lazaved of the Blue.

Still heartbroken over losing Nat, Wes is racing cars on a New Vegas racetrack while his team is scattered and lost. When he finds out that his sister, Eliza, is being held in the golden domes of El Dorado, he does what he’s best at—running to her side—and gambles on luck to see him through one more time.

Magic, romance, and danger collide as Nat and Wes become entangled in a dark new adventure that leads right to the heart of the mystery of their frozen, broken world. They soon discover that the answer to both their quests lies in the same question: Who is Eliza Wesson—what is she capable of, and why was she stolen from her family so long ago?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Quick Pick: Hello from the Gillespies, by Monica McInerney

  • Opening lines: It was December first. Angela Gillespie did as she'd done on that date for the past thirty-three years. She sat down at her desk before dinner and prepared to write her annual Christmas letter.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I usually like novels about dysfunctional families, and the synopsis sounded interesting.
  • And what's this book about?
  • For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth....

    The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

    Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when a bump on the head leaves Angela with temporary amnesia, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways....
  • Favorite paragraph: 
What was happening to her tonight? She'd never taken this long to write her Christmas letter. Or written as much.

She began to read it back. Not even halfway through, she stopped, shocked. She couldn't possibly send out even a word of this. Anyone who read it would think that she'd gone mad. That her children were unhinged. That she and Nick were on the verge of divorce. That everything she'd been writing about Gillespie family life for the past thirty-three years was a life.

And it wasn't, was it?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes a good read, really.
  • Something to know: I didn't know before I started reading it that it's about 600 pages long - I read it on Kindle and it certainly didn't seem that long, as I was flying through it. Might be something to consider if you are a slow reader or have the paperback version, though.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing I can think of - in fact, this would make a great movie too, in my opinion.
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I buy this book? Click here.

    *Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

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