Monday, August 31, 2015

ARC: 291 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
In this wonderfully creative retelling of the infamous—and torrid—love affair between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, history collides with the present when a sizzling romance ignites in a modern-day high school. 

 Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved. Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life. Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him. Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both? Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Anne & Henry beautifully reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time.


I wasn't too familiar with the original story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, let alone familiar with the author Dawn Ius, so I went into Anne & Henry not knowing what to expect. I have to admit, though, after reading the first chapter, my interest and curiosity was piqued. Anne & Henry became a way for me to learn more about Anne and Henry through reading hints of their past and seeing what their modern selves might've been like if they lived during our time. 

Although I had some issues with the characters and the plot of the story, I still found Anne & Henry enlightening to read as I built some understanding for the characters and their real-life counterparts.
Anne & Henry was told in alternating perspective, and I liked that it was for how different Anne and Henry were as characters. From the very beginning of the novel, it was made clear that both Anne and Henry had their problems and insecurities. They've both made mistakes and have been haunted by them ever since and they both were somewhat dissatisfied with how their lives were at present. Yet, despite their issues and their shared feelings of guilt and loneliness, on the outside, their personalities and social standards were very different. Anne occupied the rash, stubborn, I-could-care-less end and Henry stood at the rich, popular, everyone-bow-down-to-me end. For that reason, I thought that the alternating perspective was appropriate for the story as both characters clearly had some perspective to contribute. I also welcomed it as I always do when reading a book because it gave me the opportunity to get to know each character and develop some kind of connection with them each. Whether or not I thought that I would be friends with them in real life, I was able to sympathize with both Anne and Henry and I hoped that both will reach some peace within themselves in the end. 

However, as I followed both Anne and Henry, I felt that the dual perspective was a bit of a hindrance to the logical flow of the story. Usually when a book is in dual perspective, time, date, and events are ordered just as logically and easily as a book told in only one perspective. For instance, as one character is said to be doing one thing, the other character is found to be doing another thing at the same time, and the time or the length of time that passed between each chapter was always somehow established. In Anne & Henry, though, that logical order seemed to be lacking. Every time I went from one chapter to the next, I felt confused because there was little to no transition from one character's point of view to the other character's point of view and what time or what day it was did not always come up until a few paragraphs or even a page later. Then, I always wondered what might have happened within those long hours or days in between, if Anne and Henry were just too busy to see each other or was such passing of time too insignificant for the story. Obviously, the author is not going to write about every single minute of the characters' lives or the novel will be a million pages long, but there were instances in the story when I wondered what passed between the lapse in time and I wondered why such a gap was made in the first place. I don't quite know how to explain it, but the flow of the story could've been smoother. 

I was also bothered by how instantaneous the attraction was between Anne and Henry. Like my romances to have a gradual development, but in this novel, the deep attraction between Anne and Henry began from the very first page of the book. No matter how sincerely they both tried to show their feelings for each other, for the most part, I was unconvinced of their love. Only toward the end when the two were making some great sacrifices for each other to be together did I somewhat think that their feelings may be true. Still, I could not quite root for them to be together. Also, now that I reflect on it, I imagine that was how the relationship between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII's must have been: full of passion, full of need, and full of instability and imminent disaster. When their relationship seemed to be heading toward seriousness toward the end, the optimist in me held some small hope for Anne and Henry, but really, their attraction for each other was too instant to be lasting.

It's not going to come as a surprise that Anne & Henry did not end happily, and as much as it broke my happily-ever-after loving heart, I thought the author did a good job penning the ending, especially considering the basis of the story. Throughout the whole novel, I did not particularly like Henry and I more sympathized with Anne. I mean, yes, I connected to both on some level and saw both characters' views, but as far as personalties went, I sided much more with Anne than Henry. Henry was such an overweening jerk, and his arrogance and conceit really came to a head at the end of Anne & Henry. I felt so sorry for Anne: even though she had her moments of brattiness, I understood more where she was coming from. When she was treated so unfairly and unjustly in the end, I felt for her and applauded her for keeping her head up through it all. I imagine--I'm sure--the real Anne Boleyn faced the same kind of persecution when she was sentenced to the guillotine. With that in mind, I thought the author wrote the end very well, not only in retelling Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII's story, but also to express the message of how far people may and will go to get what they want if and when it suits them. Yes, the ending of Anne & Henry was not the warmest or happiest of endings, but it definitely was an eye-opening one that puts into perspective both love and greed.

I wouldn't call Anne & Henry one of my favorite reads of the summer and I did have some issues with it while reading it, but I nonetheless appreciated it and was engaged until the very end. I recommend Anne & Henry to high schoolers who may not have a natural inclination toward reading history texts--this book will surely shed some light on one of history's most infamous leaders/rulers. I also recommend it to anyone who likes their YA history and/or retellings because Ius's Anne & Henry exhibits both the ability to redefine historical figures and discuss the timeless issues of today's society.
Anne & Henry is out in stores tomorrow!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.

The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.



Chasing Secrets was not quite what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it anyway. 

I picked up Chasing Secrets because it was set in San Francisco--I took a trip to San Francisco during the summer and I thought it'd be cool to read a novel set in a city I've actually visited. But Chasing Secrets was set in 1900, so it was really interesting and I had a great time trying to place and picture the sites, trying to imagine what they might look like in 1900, in the novel to what I saw when I visited.

From the synopsis, I thought I was getting a story about two kids, Lizzie and Noah, sleuthing all over San Francisco to uncover the truth about the mysterious plague. Not really. Lizzie was a physician's daughter who would rather go with her dad to visit his patients than to go to the girl's school she attends. She had no friends and she wasn't interested in making friends because she thought she didn't have anything in common with the other girls who seemed preoccupied with clothes, going parties and boys. One day, she found out that Chinatown was quarantined and no one would really come out and say why: not her father, or her rich and powerful uncle who owns a newspaper, or her aunt and older brother. At the same time, the Chinese cook, Jing, who works for Lizzie's family goes missing. Lizzie was convinced that he was stuck in the quarantine, especially after she discovers his son Noah secretly hiding in Jing's room.

Then, it kind of turns a bit into A Diary of a Young Girl kind of situation, where she couldn't tell anyone that Noah was hiding in the attic because someone finds out he'll also be put into the quarantine. He couldn't leave the room and this meant she had to find a way to sneak him food and they had to work out a way to get messages to each other without getting caught. So, Noah was stuck in Jing's room while Lizzie went out to figure out the truth about the quarantine. Tensions were high and racial prejudice abound, and Lizzie will question everything she knows and believed in to get to the truth.

Chasing Secrets was no Spy Kids. Everything Lizzie did to try to learn the truth I believed a girl her age and resources really capable of doing, which I really appreciated. Sometimes in books (especially in middle grade and young adults), a young character would be put in situations and how they'd try to solve their problems, what they did and the resources they used, I wouldn't believe they could do. I would really need to suspend my disbelief. But not in this novel. Lizzie acted and thought things through like a 13-year-old would. 

Even though it didn't really have that big detective/mystery element I was expecting, Chasing Secrets
was still an exciting, engaging read. Lizzie got into scrapes as she tried to figure out what was going on mostly by herself. She was a smart, resourceful and determined young lady. She didn't let anyone stop her from getting the truth. She also grew up a lot in the novel, and this was more of a coming of age story more than anything else. I was also curious to see if there really was a plague. I wasn't familiar with the bit of history the story was based on so I thought at first that the quarantine was a cover up for some sort of political intrigued. That was, until I read the author's notes in the end when I was about halfway through finishing the novel (it spoiled me, so if you pick this book up don't read the author's notes util you're done reading the story).

I liked seeing how Lizzie's relationship with her aunt developed throughout the novel. Her aunt seemed like the typical society mama at first, but the more we learn about her we realize there's more to her than meets the eye. I wanted to know more about her and wish there's an adult version in her perspective. Besides the San Francisco setting, Lizzie's relationship with her aunt was my favorite part.

I didn't really feel a strong connection with any of the characters, but I still very much enjoyed the story. Ms. Choldenko's writing was very readable and engaging and I flew through the pages. I'd definitely recommend Chasing Secrets to students fourth grade and above--if I was teaching this particular point in American history, this would be a good novel to have on hand and use it to show students a different historical perspective. It was a fantastic and fun read with a spunky main character, set in an interesting period in history. The best thing about it was that I learned something new in reading this novel. Win!
Hello everyone,
If you had a chance to read my review of Lady Be Good earlier this month you know how much I really enjoyed it. It was my first historical romance read this year and it kind of made want to read more historical romances (which was my favorite genre before I fell in love with contemporary romance). Well, Meredith next book is Luck Be a Lady (already out in stores!) and it's a companion to Lady Be Good. Actually, it's the fourth book in the Rules for the Reckless series, but it can be read as a standalone.

The hero and heroine in Luck Be a Lady were important secondary characters in Lady Be Good and I am so excited to see how their story will turn out because the heroine was a rich "ice queen" and the hero is a powerful crime lord and they're in a marriage-of-convenience situation.

Romance sizzles between a famous heiress and an infamous crime lord in this fourth sexy novel in the Rules for the Reckless series from the USA Today bestselling author of Fool Me Twice.

The Wallflower

They call her the “Ice Queen.” Catherine Everleigh is London’s loveliest heiress, but a bitter lesson in heartbreak has taught her to keep to herself. All she wants is her birthright—the auction house that was stolen from her. To win this war, she’ll need a powerful ally. Who better than infamous and merciless crime lord Nicholas O’Shea? A marriage of convenience will no doubt serve them both.

The Crime Lord

Having conquered the city’s underworld, Nick seeks a new challenge. Marrying Catherine will give him the appearance of legitimacy—and access to her world of the law-abiding elite. No one needs to know he’s coveted Catherine for a year now—their arrangement is strictly business, free from the troubling weaknesses of love. Seduction, however, is a different matter—an enticing game he means to ensure she enjoys, whether she wishes to or not...



"Hiding from somebody?"

She jumped. Around the corner stepped a familiar figure. Astonishment briefly caught her tongue.

She was not good with faces, but it would take a blind woman to forget Lilah's uncle. He was nature's cruel trick on the fairer sex, the perfect picture of dark, charming, masculine wickedness. Shining black hair, high cheekbones, lips as full as a woman's... That was surely a flaw. But then, he had that brutal jaw and chin to make up for it... and the slight bump to his high-bridged nose, suggestive of some violent fracture in his past.

"Mr. O'Shea." She spoke very stiffly, for she had never liked his effect on her. She herself was counted beautiful, and she had seen what power she could wield when she cared to try. She refused to fall prey to a similar spell.

But what a miserable coincidence to meet him here!

He propped his shoulder on the brick wall and looked her over. "Dressed for prowling, I see. Did you steal that cloak from one of your maids?"

She took a strangling hold on her collar. "It is mine, in fact. But thank you for the insult."

His black brows arched. "Don't think much of your maids, do you?"

She opened her mouth, then thought better of it, and settled instead on a scowl. She had only met him twice, and both times he had looked at her in this smug, infuriating way, as though she were a joke designed for his private amusement. He made her feel... judged and ridiculed, found wanting as a woman.

As though he were in any position to judge her! He was impertinent, boorish, ill-bred, and criminal. She must never forget that, even if at present he wore a black tailcoat fit for a ball.

She frowned at him. He was in fact dressed with ludicrous elegance, with a diamond stickpin at his neck. "I was unaware that Whitechapel required evening dress of his strollers," she said tartly. "Next time I come, I'll be sure to wear a ball gown."



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Meredith Duran is the author of eight previous novels, including The Duke of Shadows (winner of the Gather.com First Chapters Romance Writing Competition); Wicked Becomes You (included on the Woman’s World List of Best Beach Reads for Summer 2010), and the USA TODAY bestseller Fool Me Twice. She blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history, and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after. She enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth-century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women. Visit her at MeredithDuran.com, or catch up with her on Twitter: @meredithduran and Facebook: AuthorMeredithDuran.


Have you read a book by Meredith Duran? I've read 4 books by her so far (including The Duke of Shadows, A Lady's Lesson in Scandal, and Wicked Becomes You, all of which I rated five stars) and they are all excellent--phenomenal writing and she takes familiar tropes and makes it her own in such a refreshing way. She's one of the best historical romance writers out there in my opinion.

I'll be posting my review Luck Be a Lady on September 9th with a really awesome book giveaway of Meredith's books you don't want to miss.

Happy reading,
Michelle

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Legal Briefs #2**
Synopsis
A knight in tarnished armor is still a knight.

When you’re a defense attorney in Washington, DC, you see firsthand how hard life can be, and that sometimes the only way to survive is to be harder. I, Jake Becker, have a reputation for being cold, callous, and intimidating—and that suits me just fine. In fact, it’s necessary when I’m breaking down a witness on the stand.

Complications don’t work for me—I’m a “need-to-know” type of man. If you’re my client, tell me the basic facts. If you’re my date, stick to what will turn you on. I’m not a therapist or Prince Charming—and I don’t pretend to be.

Then Chelsea McQuaid and her six orphaned nieces and nephews came along and complicated the ever-loving hell out of my life. Now I'm going to Mommy & Me classes, One Direction concerts, the emergency room, and arguing cases in the principal's office.

Chelsea’s too sweet, too innocent, and too gorgeous for her own good. She tries to be tough, but she’s not. She needs someone to help her, defend her…and the kids.

And that — that, I know how to do.



Sustained is my favorite book by Emma Chase (so far). It was hilarious, fun, funny and had so much heart that I melted. 

Other than Sustained, I've read Tangled, Twisted and Overruled (book 1 in the Legal Brief series) and in every one is the classic Emma Chase hero, the lovable scoundrel. Really, no one else I've can do a lovable scoundrel as well as Emma Chase can. Before Sustained, my favorite was Drew Evans but Jake Becker blew him out of the water. At first I was unsure I'd like him--he slept with a different woman every night and had freakin' had a syphilis scare. Afterwards, he was ranting and raving about having to on at least three dates so that he can be sure the next woman he sleeps with is clean. Jake was a douche, but even before his character grew and evolved we find out that he's not a total douche.

We learn that he was an angry, father-less screw-up kid who was taken under the wings of a judge who helped him turn his life around to become the successful lawyer he was. When the old judge developed Alzheimer's and was put in a home, Jake visited him every week without fail. He loves his mom and had a good relationship with her. When he met Chelsea McQuaid's nephews and nieces, he quickly built rapport with all of them and became a big part of their lives. 

Since we're in his head the entire time, we can see how he grew to care for all of them despite his oft repeated mantra that he did not want anything to tie him down and that his career takes precedence in his life. He really loved the kids and the kids loved him. I love Jake's interactions and scenes with each of the six kids--I had my doubts how Ms. Chase was going to pull off the six kids without them being too much but she did such a great job! She also didn't resort to the typical kid cliches--there were some but not so overwhelming and each kid had his or her own unique personality.

As for Chelsea, she's awesome and I liked her right away--unlike Sofia's character in Overruled who I did not find appealing at all. She had a lot on her plate, with her brother and sister-in-law's sudden death and having to drop everything in her life to take care of six kids ranging from a one-year-old to a 14-year-old. I felt for her and I can imagine myself being in her shoes. But she didn't complain, did the best she could, and she clearly loved her nieces and nephews. I also loved how her relationship with Jake developed. They were able to form a solid friendship before they jumped into the sex, which was very steamy but nothing kinky.

Sustained was such a fun book to read. The plot wasn't anything new and I knew where the story was going to go and how the characters were going to react, but I still wanted to know and see how everything for Jake, Chelsea and the kids will turn out. I was very much entertained by the story, and I had such a grand time reading it. I devoured it in a day because I was so engaged in the story that I had a hard time putting it down. I highly recommend you pick up Sustained. It's one of Emma Chase's best. 

I'm so, so, so excited to read Appealed, which will be about Jake's friend Brent Mason and it's going to be a second chance romance. Eeeeppp!!!

**You don't need to read Overruled to enjoy Sustained.

Read my review of Tangled and Twisted and Overruled.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Favorite Books We Read This Summer

Monday, August 24, 2015 with
Hello everyone,
My summer was over a month ago and Leslie's summer is officially over today. She's back in college and today is her first day of classes. This means we can now do our favorite summer reads post--our favorites out of all the books we read this summer.

Leslie read a total of 18 books. These are the books she gave 5 out of 5 stars to.
I am so happy she finally picked up The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime and loved it as much as I did. Now, we're both counting down the months and days until the release of The Winner's Kiss. She also loved To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You. She basically inhaled read both books within 48 hours. Since then she's been urging me to pick up the books. Everything Everything and First & Then are not out yet, but according to Leslie they are both AMAZING. She'll be part of a fun superlatives-themed blog tour for First & Then in mid-September. And there's been a lot of positive buzz for Everything Everything and Leslie said it's well-deserved--it's one of the cutest, sweetest, feel-good book she's read since Anna and the French Kiss.
I also read 18 books this summer and even though I didn't read as many 5-star books as Leslie, I did read a lot of fantastic books. The five in the picture above were my most favorite reads. I picked up Beautiful Bastard after avoiding it for so long (the title was a turn-off, it was Twilight fan fiction, a couple of my trusted bloggers didn't like it) but it was WOW!! I ended up loving! So much that I picked up the next two companion books Beautiful Stranger and Beautiful Player soon after and loved them as well. Then, I bought all the full novels by Christina Lauren published because their books are phenomenal--a perfect blend of humor, sexiness, romance, and heart. An Ember in the Ashes was also really, really good. I gave it 4 stars because I didn't absolutely loved it (read my review) but it was such an amazing read. I am dying to read the sequel.

Yep, we both have The Wrath and the Dawn as one of our favorites. It might be our favorite book of the year. It's that phenomenal. After we read it (me first and then, because I won't shut up about it, Leslie picked it up), we both had the BIGGEST book hang-over. I dealt with it by listening to the songs Renee Ahdieh listed as ones who inspired her while she was writing the novel over and over and over again for two whole weeks. Then, Leslie and I debated what song belonged in what scene. I still listen to it from time to time just to get back in the world and reminisce about the story. We planned to do a joint The Wrath and the Dawn review but we couldn't because we had no intelligible words worthy. If you haven't read it, just pick it up. You won't be sorry.

What are your favorite reads this summer? Did read and you love The Wrath and the Dawn as much as we did?

Happy reading,
Michelle (& Leslie)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
Every October Cara and her family become inexplicably and unavoidably accident-prone. Some years it's bad, like the season when her father died, and some years it's just a lot of cuts and scrapes. This accident season—when Cara, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, are 17—is going to be a bad one. But not for the reasons they think.

Cara is about to learn that not all the scars left by the accident season are physical: There's a long-hidden family secret underneath the bumps and bruises. This is the year Cara will finally fall desperately in love, when she'll start discovering the painful truth about the adults in her life, and when she'll uncover the dark origins of the accident season—whether she's ready or not.



The Accident Season was one of those books I liked but didn't love. It was a strange read with flashes of beauty and brilliance and shades of darkness, but I felt disconnected while reading it.
I didn't really know much about The Accident Season going in except what I read in the synopsis and I really think that's the best way to go into this novel. Also, it's not easy to summarize it. There were things happening, and nothing really comes together until the very end when we finally get the full picture. It's a magical realism novel so there were elements of strange events that happened that you couldn't quite explain. I often wondered if they were happening in real life or were they all in Cara Morris's imagination or there's actually magic so, in that case, ghosts and monsters.

Cara was telling the story in a first-person narrative and right from the start you can tell there was something off about her. She was supposed to be a junior in high school but she acted younger, less mature than her age. She had a child-like innocence about her, which was opposite from her older sister Alice (who was a year older than Cara) and who was more of an old soul and was carrying a lot of weight on her shoulders. Bea, Cara's best friend, fit right along with the Morris sisters. She's the "weird" girl in school and never without her tarot cards--she consults them every morning because she never wants to be taken unaware. As for Sam, Cara and Alice's ex-stepbrother (his dad and the girls' mom were married and then separated but Sam still lives with them), I felt he was the least fleshed out of the four of them. He was around a lot, but he didn't really show much personality and his character felt removed from the three girls until the last few chapters. Maybe that was intentional because Cara was pushing him away for reasons I don't want to give away. 

But the whole thing between Cara and Sam was actually my favorite bit in the novel. I loved them together. They grew up together in the same house so they were close and had an easy relationship. When they were little, I loved how Sam would always side with Cara and back her up, even though he would leave Alice sadly on her own. I loved all their scenes together. My favorite scene was when Cara and Sam finally talked and told each other what they've been keeping back. It was a long-time coming and I thought that scene was perfectly written. Also, the ending was perfect--there were a couple of unanswered questions but it was very satisfying and appealed to my HEA-loving self. I loved where Cara, Alice, Bea and Sam were by the end.

My least favorite thing about The Accident Season was how the cigarette smoking and drinking was treated. The characters were so casual about it. Well, they were hiding the smoking and most of the heavy drinking from their parents, but for the most part it was so very careless and offhand. There was no real repercussion from the all the heavy drinking and cigarette smoking. I wasn't comfortable with that.

I enjoyed the story overall but there was a disconnect throughout and I couldn't quite get into it as much as I would've liked. The beginning was really exciting, when were learning about what the accident season was and things that happened in the past. But I hit a hump in the middle when nothing was really happening and I lost momentum. Then, it got really good again in the end when all the action was happening--holy crap, that scene with the fire was intense!--and everything was finally coming together. The writing was really good, very lyrical and expressive. There were some lines in there that were so quotable that I wish I had some tabs or a highlighter on hand so I could mark the pages. But there were also times when I'd have to reread a paragraph again because I couldn't quite make sense of it the first time. Basically, The Accident Season was not the kind of book you can just breeze through and be done. It required absorption and reflection, and since I'm always pressed for time, I didn't have that time to just let it all sink in. I think it's the kind of book you need to reread to really get everything.

The Accident Season is not for everybody. But, if you enjoy magical realism, then you should definitely pick up The Accident Season. I think it will very much appeal to you. If you want a different kind of read, one that makes you question what is going on and that is, at times, dark but with strong elements of family, friendship and love, definitely check out The Accident Season. If you're looking for a quick read, then The Accident Season is probably not what you're looking for.