Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mini Reviews: Apples Should be Red, Thrown for a Curve, A Matchless Romance

20651756Apples Should Be Red by Penny Watson

Recipe for Thanksgiving Dinner:

Start with sixty-two year old politically incorrect, chain-smoking, hard-cussing curmudgeon.

Add fifty-nine year old sexually-repressed know-it-all in pearls.

Throw in a beer can-turkey, a battle for horticultural supremacy, and nudist next-door neighbor. 
Serve on paper plates, garnished with garden gnome.
Tastes like happily ever after.

Penny Watson presents an over-fifty romantic comedy novella. 21,000 words. Story includes copious profanity and botanical references. ~ Goodreads

My thoughts: Apples Should be Red is a hilarious, romantic, opposites attract, novella about two older widowers forced to spend the holidays together for the sake of their married son & daughter. It’s so nice to see a story written about older characters (Bev is 59 – Tom 62 and both widowers). I mention it because it’s such a rare occurrence in romance, but regardless of age, this is a fantastic, sexy story about second chances and living your life to the fullest. Highly recommend this one.

17934473Thrown for a Curve (A Perfect Fit Novel) by Sugar Jamison

WHEN YOU’RE A big girl

Cherri has often wished she were thin and graceful like a ballerina instead of being a six-foot-tall blonde with curves that require serious caution. Surely a charming Irishman like her new boss Colin, with his throaty brogue and to-die-for bod, would never go for someone like Cherri. Unless maybe he’s looking for the exact opposite of a delicate lass? 

there’s more of you to love

When Colin hired Cherri to work in his furniture-restoration shop, he had his eyes, first and foremost, on her artistic talents. But now he can’t help but see Cherri for the lush, spirited beauty that she is…and, soon enough, he finds himself mixing business with pleasure. But Cherri turns out to be more vulnerable than she appears. Is she in need of more than Colin can give? Or could it be that a feeling stronger than lust has him thrown for a curve? ~ Goodreads

My thoughts: This book got off to such a fun start. Cherrie is awkward and wonderful. She has great friends and a quirky, Ukrainian grandmother. Colin is pretty awesome too. Then things went off the rails. About halfway the story takes an abrupt turn and you just want to throttle Cherrie and Colin. They have the worst communication skills ever. I just couldn’t care less if they got together by the end. In fact, I wished they didn’t.

18659352A Matchless Romance (Aisle Bound #4) by Christi Barth

Tabitha Bell is the face of Chicago's premiere matchmaking service. At least, she hopes it will be someday, once business really takes off. What she needs is more clients, so when she meets a sexy gamer in need of help, it's the perfect opportunity.

His discomfort talking to women almost cost Drew Watson his job. He'd be happy holed up in his office, designing blockbuster video games, but his boss considers talking to investors a nonnegotiable requirement. Who better than a matchmaker to teach him how to be comfortable around the opposite sex? Trouble is, Drew wants to get more than comfortable with Tabitha, while she's determined to keep their relationship all business.

Soon Tabitha learns that beneath the geek-chic hoodie lies six feet of sexy physique--and the more time she spends with Drew, the more she appreciates his brainy brand of charm. Will she succumb to his sweet-but-nerdy charm offensive or will it be game over before he can win her heart? ~ Goodreads

My thoughts: Oh how I swoon over a beta hero. Drew was awkward, sweet and sexy as hell, without even realizing it. Match Drew with the confident, sexy Tabitha, who has a secret nerd side and the sparks fly.

I do have one tiny complaint. Drew was a self proclaimed nerd (he is a video game designer) and thinks gorgeous women like Tabitha are out of his league. But he is somewhat of a player within his own nerdish community - especially at cons. I actually liked that - he wasn't the typical virgin nerd or totally clueless - just awkward outside his nerd zone. Those are random hookups though - he wants a hot girl for a long term relationship. Fair enough. And to Drew a girl like Tabitha is the whole package - hot and plays video games. Score! But I just felt like he was being a snob in the way he thought hot girls were with him. Seems to me he didn't think much of having a relationship with a "nerdy" girl while he held out for a hot girl.

That's a really minor complaint but since it seemed to be a reoccurring point that bugged me I had to bring it up. Don’t let it deter you though -  I absolutely loved Drew and Tabitha as characters and together.

I realized when I finished this was a series. It held up perfect as a stand alone although it did make me want to read the other books. Tabitha's friends and their boyfriends seemed like a lot of fun.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Fine Art of Pretending & Art of Lainey

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I guess I’m feeling “artsy” this week. Bahahaha ! OK sorry about that – I was lame. Onto my picks for this week.


The Fine Art of Pretending (The Fine Art of Pretending #1)  by Rachel Harris
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release date: September 2014

According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.

With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.

But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

~ I have loved everything I’ve read by Harris so far. Both in YA and Adult so I’m sure this will be fantastic as well. And how adorable is that cover??


The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release date: May 20, 2014

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with, if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?

~ Another great cover! I’ve read several good reviews for this one already. Super excited about reading this one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tune in Tuesday: The Head and the Heart, needtobreathe, Glass Animals


Tune In Tuesday is a weekly feature in which bloggers get to showcase another one of their loves, music! The feature was originally created and hosted by Ginger over at GReads! but can now be found over at Kate’s Tales of Books and Bands.


I always love the songs for my Tune in Tuesday post – obviously – but I REALLY love this weeks picks. All three songs are just gorgeous.

The Head and the Heart – Another Story

needtobreathe – Wasteland

Glass Animals – cover of Kanye West’s Love Lockdown

Monday, April 21, 2014

Afterparty Blog Tour: Review & excerpt…

Afterparty banner

Welcome to my stop on the AFTERPARTY by Daryl Gregory blog tour.

17910129It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide.

Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.

A mind-bending and violent chase across Canada and the US, Daryl Gregory's Afterparty is a marvelous mix of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, and perhaps a bit of Peter Watts’s Starfish: a last chance to save civilization, or die trying.

Goodreads | Author | Amazon

Source: Finished copy provided in exchange for a honest review.

To be honest, I originally accepted this book for review thinking it was a sci-fi, YA novel, similar to Suzanne Young’s The Program. In reality it’s an a adult, genre defying, mind bending novel. Is neuroscience noir a thing? If not, I think Gregory just made it one.

Lyda Rose, a scientist, a widower, a drug addict, and a psychiatric ward patient with an angel named Dr. Gloria at her side, is one f*cked up heroine & unlike any that I’ve read before.

This was way outside my normal reading zone and I struggled to wrap my brain around the science jargon but I was fascinated by this near-future (fictional, yet possible) world of designer drugs and the moral abyss Lyda finds herself swimming through as she races to put the genie back in the bottle.

Afterparty explores big ideas like addiction, religion and power in an action packed mystery with a cast of quirky characters. If you're a fan of sci-fi, crime with a noir feel, irreverent humor and questionable ethics give this genre mash up a shot.


I’ve included the prologue and link to Chapter 1 for Afterparty below:

The Parable of the Girl Who Died and Went to Hell,
Not Necessarily in That Order

There was a girl who lived on the streets in a northern city. She was sixteen years old when she found God, and had just turned seventeen when God abandoned her.

She didn’t understand why He would turn His back on her now, after He had saved her life. She’d been living rough for two years. At night she navigated by bunk-finder apps, competing for space in the shelters with the thousands of other teenagers roaming the city. She did bad things to get by. She worked the crowded sidewalks, beaming her profile pic to the dashboards of the trolling cars, climbing into front seats and climbing out again fifteen minutes later. She stole, and she beat other teenagers who tried to steal from her, and once she did something terrible, something unforgivable.

When she thought of what she’d done, even glancingly, a black tunnel seemed to open up behind her eyes. Anything might trigger the memory: a word, the sight of an old woman, the smell of soup burning on a stove. On those days she thought the black would swallow her whole.

Then one night, at the end of a week of black days, she found herself in the Spadina station looking over the edge of the platform, measuring the short distance to the rails. She could feel the train coming, growling to her, pushing its hot breath down the tracks. The concrete rumbled encouragement to her feet. She moved up to the yellow line, and the toes of her sneakers touched air. The only way out of the black tunnel, she realized, was through it.

She felt a hand on her arm. “Hey there.” It was a friend, one of her first on the street, a tall black boy older than her by a few years who maintained a crazy rectangular beard. He said, “You doing anything?”

She didn’t know how to answer that.

She followed him up out of the station. A while later, an older man with hardcore prison tattoos picked them up in a rusting SUV and drove them a few miles to a strip mall. Most of the stores were empty. The man, who said he was a pastor, opened one of the doors and said, “Welcome to our little church.”

People began to filter in and take seats in the circle of folding chairs. The service began with singing, songs she didn’t know but that sounded familiar. And then the pastor stood in the middle of the circle for the sermon. He turned as he talked, making eye contact with the people, making eye contact with her, which made her uncomfortable. She couldn’t remember now what he’d spoken about.

At the end of the service, everyone stood up and formed a line in front of the pastor, their hands out, mouths open like birds. Her friend looked at her questioningly; it was her decision. She stood up with the others, and when it was her turn the pastor held up a piece of paper with a single word printed on it: Logos. “This is the word made flesh,” he said.

She wasn’t stupid. She’d eaten paper before, and knew that the ink could contain almost anything. She opened her mouth, and he placed it on her tongue. The paper dissolved like cotton candy.

She felt nothing. If there was anything mixed into the ink or the paper, it was too mild to affect her.

That night, as she lay on a bed in a shelter that the pastor had lined up for her, the black tunnel was still there. But there was something else, too: a feeling, as if she were being watched.

No: watched over.

She made her way back to the church the next day, and the day after that. The feeling of a loving presence grew like sun rising over her shoulder. The pastor called it the Numinous. “It’s knowledge,” he said. Proof that we are all loved, all connected.

Her problems weren’t solved. She still slept in restaurant bathrooms, and lifted snacks from gas stations, and gave blow jobs to men in cars. Still struggled with the black tunnel. But she could not shake that secret knowledge that she was loved. She could not yet forgive herself, but she began to think that someone else might.

One night, a month after that first church service, just a few days before her birthday, the cops swept through the park, and she was arrested for solicitation. Because she was underage, they would not release her until they found her parents. She wouldn’t help the police; the last thing she wanted was to let her parents know where she was. God, she thought, would provide a way out of this.

But as the days passed in the detention center, something was changing. God’s presence faded, as if He was moving away from her, turning His back on her. She began to panic. She prayed, and wept, and prayed some more. Then a female guard caught her creating her own sacrament, swallowing scraps of toilet paper, and thought she had smuggled in smart drugs. They took her blood and swabbed her tongue and made her pee in a cup. Two days later they transferred her to a hospital west of the city, and locked her up with crazy people.

On her second night in the hospital, a red-haired woman appeared in her room. She seemed familiar, and then suddenly the girl remembered her. “You let me sleep on your couch once.”

The woman stepped into the room. Her red hair, the girl saw now, was shot with threads of gray. “Wasn’t my idea,” the woman said. “But yeah.” It had been ten below, and the red-haired woman had found her shivering outside a gas station. The girl had thought the woman wanted sex, but no; she’d fed her pizza and let her spend the night, and the girl had slipped out of the apartment before morning. It was the kindest thing a stranger had ever done for her, until she met the pastor.

“What are you doing here?” the woman asked. Her voice was soft. “What did you take?”

How could she explain that she’d taken nothing? That they’d locked her up because she’d finally realized that God was real?

“I’ve lost it,” the girl said. “I’ve lost the Numinous.”

The woman seemed shocked at the word, as if she recognized it. Perhaps she was part of the church? The girl told her her story, and the woman seemed to understand. But then the woman asked questions that proved she didn’t understand at all: “This pastor—did he tell you the name of the drug? Where he got it? How long have you been in withdrawal?”

The black tunnel seemed to throw itself open, and the girl refused to say any more. After a time the red-haired woman went away, and the nurses came to her with pills that they said would help her with her depression, her anxiety. A psychologist brought her to his office—“just to talk.”

But she did not need antidepressants, or soothing conversation. She understood, finally, why God had withdrawn from her. What He was trying to tell her.

When she was full of God’s love, she couldn’t do what she needed to do. God had to step back so that she’d have the strength to do what she should have done months ago. So she could make the required sacrifice.

At her next meeting with the psychologist, she stole a ceramic mug from his desk. He never noticed; she was practiced at lifting merchandise. An hour after that, before she could lose her nerve, she went to the bathroom and smashed the mug against the edge of the stainless steel sink. She chose the largest shard, then sawed apart the veins in her left arm.

God, she knew, helps those who help themselves.



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Garden Ramblings: This week in bloom…

It was a cloudy, rainy week, which is good for the plants (& knocking down pollen counts) but not so good for picture taking. I managed to get a few though.


Mock Orange shrub




He was kind of far away – but there was a gorgeous hawk on my fence one morning yesterday.