Early Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis

Second Chance Summer is the first book in the new Cedar Ridge series by Jill Shalvis. It is currently scheduled for release on June 30th 2015. Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is a resort town famous for crisp mountain air, skiing, and climbing. It is also last place Lily Danville wants to be. She left after some serious loses and is returning for less that happy reasons. However, what has her concerned is Aidan Kincaid; firefighter, rescue worker, and heart-breaker that she never could resist. The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance.

Second Chance Summer is the start of another small town contemporary romance full of charm, chuckles, and some tough love. Lily has gone through some serious pain, and is not quite ready to open up to anyone- even the guy that she was never able to get over. She has some personal issues to deal with, none of them easy. She is determined to do it all on her own. Aidan has gone through some serious trouble as well, but trusts in his family and rescue team to stand by him. He wants to help Lily and stand by her too, but the past and Lily's fears keep things unsteady. Aidan is a great character. He is a serious alpha male, but has compassion and understanding to spare. I found Lily's issues to be realistic for the most part, but eventually they did begin to irritate me because of the way she acted. It was not enough to ruin the book, but it made me want to throttle her on occasion.

Second Chance Summer is a quick read, but not necessarily easy for everyone. It might hit some triggers for those that suffered similar trauma as Lily or Aidan, but I think the overall combination of humor and facing out faults and troubles to conquer them and find happiness could overcome that. I enjoyed the introduction of the small town and side characters, and think this will be another series Shalvis fans will greatly enjoy. 

Book Review: Still the One by Jill Shalvis

Still the One is the sixth book in the Animal Magnetism series by Jill Shalvis. like most of Shalvis's small town romances it can stand fine on its own, but having read some of the previous books will give readers a better sense of the town and additional background story for all of the characters.  

Darcy Stone is game for anything except sexy Navy veteran and physical therapist A.J. Colten, the guy who'd rejected her when she'd needed him most. Now the shoe is on the other foot and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients. Unfortunately, Darcy can't refuse. She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers. Meanwhile, A.J. admits (at least to himself) that Darcy is irresistible. However, he's already been battle-scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he does not want to make the same mistake twice. Growing closer than they'd ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: how much between them is pretend? What's the real thing? And where does it go from here?

Still the One is exactly what I have come to expect from Shalvis. A small town, contemporary romance with wounded characters and a side of humor. Darcy had a wake up call when her car crashed and she was severely injured. she has made huge strides in her life and dedicated her free time, and all of her money, to rescuing potential service dogs and matching them with those that need one and cannot afford one. Her main weakness is for A.J., the guys that has been by her side for recovery but rejected her when she was vulnerable and looking for more. A.J. has a definite weak spot for Darcy, but still bares the scars from a past relationship and is not ready to take a chance. I liked how the two came to terms with the own issues, and helped each other through the rough patches. Another good, solid story from Shalvis.

Still the One is a solid, quick read that had me turning the pages well past bedtime. It still does not reach favorite status for me, since Shalvis has so many great books, but it was still entertaining and had me caring about the characters like they were my own family and friends.

Book Blitz: Off Balance, Book 1 of Ballet Theatre Chronicles, by Terez Mertes Rose

Off Balance, Book 1 of Ballet Theatre Chronicles by Terez Mertes Rose

Book Description:

Alice thinks she’s accepted the loss of her ballet career, injury having forced her to trade in pointe shoes onstage for spreadsheets upstairs. That is, until the day Alice's boss asks her to befriend Lana, a pretty new company member he’s got his eye on. Lana represents all Alice has lost, not just as a ballet dancer, but as a motherless daughter. It’s pain she’s kept hidden, even from herself, as every good ballet dancer knows to do.

Lana, lonely and unmoored, desperately needs some help, and her mother, back home, vows eternal support. But when Lana begins to profit from Alice’s advice and help, her mother’s constant attention curdles into something more sinister.

Together, both women must embark on a journey of painful rediscoveries, not just about career opportunities won and lost, but the mothers they thought they knew.

OFF BALANCE takes the reader beyond the glitter of the stage to expose the sweat and struggle, amid the mandate to sustain the illusion at all cost.

Author Bio:
Terez Mertes Rose is a writer and former ballet dancer whose work has appeared in the Crab Orchard Review, Women Who Eat (Seal Press), A Woman’s Europe (Travelers’ Tales), the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury News. She reviews dance performances for Bachtrack.com and blogs about ballet and classical music at The Classical Girl. She makes her home in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, son and too many cats. She loves good food, good wine, and a good (but not too hard) adult ballet class. She also publishes under the name Terez Rose.

Author website:  www.terezrose.com
Author blog site: www.theclassicalgirl.com  
Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/terez.rose
Amazon order page: http://amzn.to/1bEGmmY

Book Review: Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina

Lady of Devices is the first book in the Magnificent Devices series by Shelley Adina. This steampunk adventure is set in London, 1889. Claire Trevelyan should be a lady at the age of 17, but after graduating from finishing school her home life implodes when her father loses the estate. Determined to escape the traditional marriage her mother is determined she achieve, Claire seeks employment instead. Her attempts lead her to an unexpected place and title, but one Lord James Selwyn and the hidden world of London keep Claire on her toes.

Lady of Devices is more of a prelude to a larger story than a story in its own right. I liked the characters, I found Claire to be a smart and determined young lady and the proper members of society that she mingles with at the start to be what I expect, with very few exceptions. The children and others she meets further on certainly kept me interested, but only set the stage for the next chapter in this story. I liked the development of Claire's character, and her earning of her title 'Lady of Devices' but felt left hanging at the end of the book. It certainly left me wanting more, but not enough to pay full price for the next book when this felt like only half of a book. I liked what I read, but am feeling a little to disappointed and distrustful to pay for more at the moment. does the next book also end leaving the reader hanging, and the next?

I would recommend Lady of Devices to steampunk fans. however, if you are buying the story I would recommend going for the package set of the series rather than buying a book at a time. The story and characters are intriguing, but I am too frustrated and have too many other books waiting for my attention to keep reading at this point even if I really want to know what Lord James' deal is. 

Picturebook Review: Under a Pig Tree: A History of the Noble Fruit by Margie Palatini and Chuck Groenink

Under a Pig Tree: A History of the Noble Fruit (A Mixed-Up Book) is a picturebook written by Margie Palatini and illustrated by Chuck Groenink. The publisher and author of Under a Pig Tree seem to be having communication issues. The author has written a clear, no-nonsense history of figs, but the publisher is sure she meant pigs. The final product is a hilarious illustrated history of pigs, from the earliest times (“Pigs were presented as ‘medals’ to the winners of the first Olympics”) to the present day (“There is nothing better than enjoying a cup of tea or glass of milk with one of those famous Pig Newtons”). The author, needless to say, is not happy about this “little mix-up” and makes her feelings very clearly known, by scrawling all over the book!

Under a Pig Tree: A History of the Noble Fruit is a highly entertaining picture book that had me chuckling aloud as I read it. this would not be so bad if I was not processing the book for library cataloging in a crowded office. The author's not at the beginning of the book really sets the tone for the book, which is full of sticky notes with corrections and commentary from the author remarking on the absurdity of replacing fig with pig. The result is a book that will have young readers giggling at the silliness of it all and adults equally (if not more) amused by the book.

I cannot recommend Under a Pig Tree: A History of the Noble Fruit enough. It will entertain readers of all ages, and has inspired a staff story time at my library to share it with those that might not otherwise get a chance to enjoy it.


Book Review:The Lady Meets Her Match by Gina Conkle

The Lady Meets Her Match is the second book in the Midnight Meetings series by Gina Conkle. Cyrus Ryland didn't become England's wealthiest bachelor by being a pushover, but the mysterious beauty he discovers sneaking around at his grand ball enflames his curiosity. When the clock chimes midnight, and she's nowhere to be found, Cyrus vows to scour all of London to uncover who she is. Little does he know that not only does Claire Mayhew not want to be found, but she wants nothing to do with him or any man.

The Lady Meets Her Match is a book with solid characters and a fun story. I did not read the first book in the series, but it did not affect my enjoyment of this book. I really liked Claire's determination and compassion. She wants to be her own woman, but is also willing to help others on the way. Her employees are those down on their luck, She has made mistakes in the past, and paid for them dearly. She is well aware of the dangers of the world, and wants to help those she can while owning her own business. Cyrus is under the impression that men need to protect women in every way, and the females cannot, or should not, think for themselves. When he is challenged by Claire he is intrigued and enamored and works to win her respect and affection. Of course, trouble steps in and spoils everything. My only complaint with the book is that the end seems too easy. Cyrus makes the trouble go away, and they find a happy ending. I just felt like it was high drama, and then magically all disagreements were shooed away and love became more important than even the most important aspects of the story. It just felt a bit weak and cheated through at the end.

The Lady Meets Her Match had me until the end. It is still a good read, with characters that made me care about them. However, I felt a wee bit cheated at the end. So, if you are one that gets upset at glossed over endings to the extent that it ruins the entire read for you then skip it. However, if you can forgive a little bit "too easy" to wrap things up then read ahead because the characters are great. 

Book Review: Gabby Duran and the Unsittables by Elise Allen and Daryle Connors

Gabby Duran and the Unsittables is a middle grade novel by Elise Allen and Daryle Connors. The Association Linking Intergalatics and Earthlings (hereby known as A.L.I.E.N.) has a new member. After months of investigation, Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, has proven herself to be a babysitter extraordinaire. Her celebrity clients fly her around the country to care for their rambunctious little humans. Our spy, Associate 4118-23432B, otherwise known as Edwina, believes Gabby can be trusted with the truth: aliens are living among humans on Earth. After accepting a top-secret position, Edwina has paired our new associate up with her first charge, a little girl from the planet Flarknartia. The timing for associate 4118-25125A is less than ideal. It's a school day on Planet Earth, Gabby's audition for the solo part in the band is tonight, and this tiny alien is a bit more than meets the eye. Can Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, First Sitter to the Unsittables, keep her otherworldly charge safe in the unpredictable halls of middle-school and keep A.L.I.E.N hidden?  

Gabby Duran and the Unsittables is a fun and fast paced middle grade novel. Gabby is a great babysitter, one that cares about every kid and understands that understanding the child being cared for makes babysitting easy. She deals with every quirk and troubling behavior without losing her cool, well until she is kinda kidnapped by Edwina and offered an unusual new child to what- who just happens to transform into something new. I really like that the story includes ideas about responsibility and empathy while being so fun and action packed that the lessons are almost subliminal. There are plenty of silly moments, as well as some that will have readers holding their breath. I think this book will be a big hit with middle grade readers, and many older readers as well.

Gabby Duran and the Unsittables is a wonderful read for the middle grade and older. I think anyone that has been in a situation where they have babysat or even had the responsibility of taking care of another human being for a few minutes, will connect with Gabby and the story almost immediately. Anyone that is a little different, or that enjoys a good science fiction tale will also enjoy the book. 

Science Fiction for Humor Fans

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle relies on a fictional technology to examine larger questions of technology, religion, militarization, and the arm's race. While comedic in tone, Cat's Cradle is also on the dark side.
The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This is a classic science fiction comedy. It has been followed by several novels in the series, stage and radio shows, a video game, comic books, and a movie. The plot of the first book begins with the total destruction of the earth and ends at the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, sort of.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
A time machine repairman looks for his father, the rumored inventor of time travel, in the Science Fictional Universe Minor Universe 31 (MU31), which was only partially completed by its creator. The story explores time travel tropes as well as the deeper issues of regret, loss, and individual agency.
Ringworld by Larry Niven
A band of intergalactic and multi-species rogues crash land on Ringworld, an inhabited planet shaped like a ring, three million times the size of earth. They encounter a human-like race and are initially revered as gods before beating a hasty retreat in this fast-paced, comedic adventure. The Ringworld Series includes five novels and four prequel novels set in the same universe.
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
The Stainless Steel Rat and its sequels follow the Private Investigator/Con Man Slippery Jim diGriz. This irreverent, character-driven science fiction novel will also appeal to readers of the Pulp and Noir genres who connect with morally ambiguous protagonists.

Book Review: A Highland Knight to Remember by Amy Jarecki

A Highland Knight to Remember is the third book in the Highland Dynasty series by Amy Jarecki. In 15th century Scotland, Gyllis Campbell arrives at the Beltane festival with one thing on her mind—to win the heart of Sir Sean MacDougall once and for all. Astonishingly, Sir Sean would like nothing more than to oblige the lovely lass. But when news of his father’s death arrives, Sean races for Dunollie Castle. Unaware of Sean’s tragedy, Gyllis departs the festival thwarted. Worse, a terrible illness strikes her down, and she’s sent to the cloisters of Ardchattan Priory for healing. Plagued by raids on his lands and deception in his ranks, Sean is embroiled in a battle to regain control. Pulled in a myriad of directions, adversity runs rampant as Gyllis struggles to regain her health and Sean battles the very demon who covets his title. Fighting for their lives, both must prevail before their love can blossom.

A Highland Knight to Remember is a complicated romance, with many conflicts and problems that need to be overcome before Gyllis and Sean find their happy ending. I do not remember reading the previous books in this series, but did not feel like that interfered with the reading of this book. I liked Gyllis, she was smart and strong willed as well as compassionate and generous. She had a nice balance. Sean shared the balance of strength and caring, and his major fault was a fairly typical male pride issue. Even though family conflict, serious illness, and more were obstacles the pair found their way through the significant hardships to come together. I do not remember reading about any pair facing quite this many challenges in a single book. I did have a few moments of wondering what else could possibly befall these two, and one bit that I found completely unbelievable- however reading is my escape from reality so a break from it is alright. I liked the notes at the end explaining the historical inspiration, changes, and research.

A Highland Knight to Remember is a historical romance with solid research behind it and solid characters. There is a very involved story line but it does all come together nicely. I found it a little heavy on disasters and complications, but when the book reached its final resolutions I was satisfied. This is not a book for pure escapism but is still a solid read. 

Early Book Review: My Stinky New School by Rebecca Elliott

My Stinky New School by Rebecca Elliott is a picture book that is currently schedule for release on June 19 2015. Toby's sister and baby brother love their schools;  they smell great, like paint and rainbows. However Toby is not sure that he will like his new school at all. At first he thinks it smells more like ogres and he is lonely. He cannot seem to find friends, but he finds an alien, a mermaid, a dinosaur expert and a pirate. When his mum comes to pick him up he tells her that he did not make friends, but then who was he playing with?

My Stinky New School is a great picture book for children facing a new school or change in environments. While it might seem scary and like a place you do not want to be, giving the world a chance and being yourself will get you through. Toby is very nervous about his new school, and misses his family, but throws himself into his school day. By just being himself and being willing to talk to new kids he finds new friends. The book has humor and leaves the reader with a smile and feeling of comfort. 

My Stinky New School is a wonderful book to share with a preschooler, kindergartener, or even first grade student that is experiencing some trepidation about the shift of schools and environment that they might be facing.