Wednesday, November 26, 2014

If We Were Having Coffee

If we were having coffee, I would get a giant cup of coffee with an extra shot of espresso. I'm finally getting more used to this schedule, but not completely - mornings are still rough for me. I would tell you that I'm still struggling with keeping up my hobbies - it feels like a lot of things have fallen by the wayside. I've gotten down dinner pretty well, though - Sunday is now my major baking day - so I figure the rest will come with time.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how much I love the fall. It's finally starting to rain in California (cross fingers it hangs around for a while) and the gorgeous leaves scattered across the ground makes me so happy. 

If we were having coffee, I would ask you what you are reading. I am looking for new books, something to shake up the routine. Friends' recommendations are the best! I would tell you that I've been really gravitating towards mysteries and historical fiction this season - Philippa Gregory and Lauren Willig have been staples on my nightstand. (If, by chance, you said you hadn't read either of these wonderful women, I would have demanded you buy at least one of their books instantly).

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how grateful I am for this time to be together. This time leading up to Thanksgiving always makes me reflect on what I'm grateful for and the changes that have happened over the year. I would tell you that I'm so grateful to know you, for I am.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR

Winter is the perfect time for books, blankets and a roaring fire (I know I've mentioned this before, but it's my favorite way to spend a day!). I've been stalking the bookstores and libraries for these books, even though most aren't even on the shelves yet.

1. Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb | I'm in love with this series. Robb's In Death series always keeps me fascinated, and after the last installment, I can't wait for this one!
2. Fairest by Marissa Meyer | I love Meyer's strong writing, her narrative style, and how she retells the best-loved fairy tales. Fairest is high on my must-read list!
3. The Opal Crown by Jenny Lindquist | Jenny Lindquist's The Opal Princess caught my eye and my fascination earlier this year. Her next book has been on my mind ever since!
4. This Night So Dark by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner | Simply put,I WANT THIS BOOK. 
5. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel | Mantel's series of Thomas Cromwell is unique, different, and impossible to put down. 
6. Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin series | I've heard so much about this series that I've decided to finally pick it up. I'm not sure what's stopped me before.
7. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab | Honestly, the title of this book caught my eye and I'm really curious to find out more about it.
8. Winterspell by Claire Legend | This book has been out for a few months, but I still haven't been able to snag a copy. The cover is gorgeous and there are so many favorable reviews, I want to give it a try!
9. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen | This book falls into the same category as Winterspell - just haven't been able to grab a copy.
10. The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings | I finally got my hands on this one! Yay!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review | His Wicked Seduction by Lauren Smith

Title: His Wicked Seduction
Author: Lauren Smith {website}
Publication Date: November 2014
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Series: The League of Rogues {Book 2}
Source & Format: Author; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Can the League’s most wicked rakehell be tamed? Or has this Rogue fallen too far?

Horatia Sheridan has been hopelessly in love with Lucien, her brother’s best friend, ever since he rescued her from the broken remains of her parents’ wrecked carriage. His reputation as London’s most notorious rakehell doesn’t frighten her, for under his veneer of cool authority she has glimpsed a man whose wicked desires inspire her own.

Lucien, Marquess of Rochester, has deliberately nurtured a reputation for debauchery that makes every matchmaking mother of the ton quake with fear. His one secret: he is torn between soul-ripping lust for Horatia, and the loyalty he owes her brother.

That loyalty is put to the test when an old enemy of the League threatens Horatia’s life. With Christmas drawing near, he sweeps her away to his country estate, where he can’t resist granting her one wish—to share his bed and his heart.

But sinister forces are lurking, awaiting the perfect moment to exact their revenge by destroying not only whatever happiness Lucien might find in Horatia’s arms, but the lives of those they love.

Warning: This book contains an intelligent lady who is determined to seduce her brother’s friend, a brooding rake whose toy of choice in bed is a little bit of bondage with a piece of red silk, a loyal band of merry rogues and a Christmas love so scorching you’ll need fresh snow to extinguish it.

I don't know why it took me so long to find out about this series, but thank goodness I did. Lauren Smith's His Wicked Seduction is the romance that I've been looking for - a solid romance, fascinating characters, and a great historical setting.

The historical London setting is one of my favorite settings: such strict society creates room for disobedience, dark corners, and wicked affairs. Smith takes full advantage of this, creating a world that I didn't want to leave. Her world was familiar from the past historical romances that I've read, but Smith's take was uniquely her own. 

It was Horatia and Lucien that made the setting come to life. Both main characters were fascinating, but I loved Horatia - her complex personality and her determination to seduce Lucien made her so much fun to read! Her relationship with Lucien was...whoa. If you like romance, you really need to read His Wicked Seduction

Smith's writing style is what really caught my interest. It was so easy to sink into her world, to live with her characters. I found myself reading late into the night, during my lunch, my breaks - it was addictive. 

Although this book is a part of The League of Rogues series, it reads well as a stand alone novel. I do wish I had read the first book in the series to have a little extra background, but it isn't a necessity. It was easy to fall into the rhythm of the story and series, but you can bet I'll be putting Wicked Designs on my Christmas list!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fall Reading Challenge | The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig

Title: The Betrayal of the Blood Lily
Author: Lauren Willig
Publication Date: January 2010
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Series: Pink Carnation {Book 6}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Everyone warned Miss Penelope Deveraux that her unruly behavior would land her in disgrace someday. She never imagined she's be whisked off to India to give the scandal of her hasty marriage time to die down. As Lady Frederick Staines waits, Penelope plunges into the treacherous waters of the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where no one is quite what they seem—even her husband. In a strange country, where elaborate court dress masks even more elaborate intrigues and a dangerous spy called the Marigold leaves venomous cobras as his calling card, there is only one person Penelope can trust...

Captain Alex Reid has better things to do than play nursemaid to a pair of aristocrats. Or so he thinks—until Lady Frederick Staines out-shoots, out-rides, and out-swims every man in the camp. She also has an uncanny ability to draw out the deadly plans of the Marigold and put herself in harm's way. With danger looming from local warlords, treacherous court officials, and French spies, Alex realizes that an alliance with Lady Staines just might be the only thing standing in the way of a plot designed to rock the very foundations of the British Empire...

Willig's The Betrayal of the Blood Lily is another stand-alone novel in the Pink Carnation series, but I enjoyed this installment so much more than the last. Willig returned to the magic of the first Pink Carnation books, letting her characters come to life once again. 

I have to say it: I loved Penelope. She survived a horrible situation partly on sarcasm, grit, and pride, but she did not complain. There was an element of resignation about her, as if she had decided that she had made her bed, so she had to lie in it. Her relationship with her new husband is, well, horrible, but Penelope's determination to make the best of it really struck a chord in me. I knew when she stole Alex's horse and rode away that we would get along just fine.

Alex Reid had a complexity that I didn't expect. He, quite simply, was charming. His good but guarded nature meshed perfectly with Penelope's feisty one, and a strong romantic plot was born. 

I will admit, I wasn't too keen on their romance at first: Penelope was (unhappily) married, and the flirtation made me a little uncomfortable. As much as I wanted the two to be together, I didn't want Willig to make Penelope step outside of the line. I loved how the story evolved, however: it made for a few superb twists. 

My only complaint is there is still no sign of Jane or any of the original characters. As much as I enjoy these stories, I want the tale of the Pink Carnation, the mystery and intrigue. This is the second book in a row without head nor petal of the flowey spy - hopefully it won't continue.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review | Airport by Arthur Hailey

Title: Airport
Author: Arthur Hailey
Publication Date: 1968
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
When a terrifying crisis erupts--stranding a snowbound airport in a blizzard of pressure, passion and peril--the key to life and death rests in the hands of one of four people: a tough troubleshooter, an arrogant pilot, a beautiful stewardess, or a brilliant airport manager. 

Airport was one of my favorites books this month, maybe even this year. It had suspense, thrill, and complex characters that created a deep, fascinating story that drew me in. 

The value of human life has a strong focus in this story - from the captain's romance to the airline's passengers to the side plot of Meadowood, Hailey focuses on the importance of life itself. As I read today, I found myself wishing I had read this book while I was in college; Captain Demerest's perspective on life is just ripe for critical analysis!

Each character offered a perspective on life, ranging from abortion to the elderly, that makes not only the story come alive, but their own personalities. I loved the depth and variation of personalities, their strengths and secrets, that hid in Airport. Mel Bakersfield, the airport manager, alone struggles with issues in every element of his life. His brother Keith, an air traffic controller, is dealing with a past tragedy in his life. There was no shallow character, none left intentionally one-dimensional. 

As much as I enjoyed the narration, there was an element of propaganda in the novel. Hailey's own background as a pilot shines through in his story - there are moments when he steps completely outside of the novel to give the reader a lesson on aviation, the struggle of pilots, or how planes work. While these were (for the most part) really interesting, I wish they had been incorporated into the story instead of an aside. 

Airport is perfect for aviation fans, suspense lovers, and those who like deep, intense characters and situations. I adored reading this book - this was one of my quickest reads this month!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review | The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

Title: The Bourne Identity
Author: Robert Ludlum
Publication Date: January 1980
Publisher: Orion
Series: Jason Bourne {Book 1}
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Who is Jason Bourne? Is he an assassin, a terrorist, a thief? Why has he got four million dollars in a Swiss bank account? Why has someone tried to murder him?...

Jason Bourne does not know the answer to any of these questions. Suffering from amnesia, he does not even know that he is Jason Bourne. What manner of man is he? What are his secrets? Who has he killed?

The Jason Bourne movie adaptions are some of my dad's favorites, so when I found this version of The Bourne Identity on the shelf, it was a sign. This first installment of Ludlum's popular series was both a hit and a miss for me.

The hits: 

Bourne is such a strong, complex character that it is nearly impossible to not be drawn into his story. I loved how he is constantly questioning himself, searching for the answer, for his true identity. For me, the real highlights were his cleverness and ability to think on his feet - I loved the scenes that showcased his nickname, "the chameleon". 

The miss: 


Oh my, Marie.

She was horrible. There was little to no character development for Jason's "love" interest. Her sudden and deep devotion to a man who essentially kidnapped her stalled all future character progress and created a woman who blindly followed her lover's orders, becomes completely dependent on him, and makes him her entire world. I know nothing about Marie's past, what she left behind in Canada, her favorite color...nothing. It irritated me to no end. 

The plot was okay - I didn't consider it a hit because, to be honest, this book was a slog at times. As much as I enjoyed Jason's story, the vast amount of info made it hard to keep current with what was going on in the story all the time. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Newbie's Guide to Mystery

Mystery is one of those genres that you either adore or detest (I don't personally know anyone who hates mystery, but there might be someone out there...). Mystery itself is a genre that reaches into every part of literature, from kids' Scooby Doo books to the popular legal thriller author, John Grisham. It delves deep into the human need to know, to wonder, to discover. 

There is nothing better in my mind than a roaring fire, hot cup of tea, and a good mystery on a rainy day. The fall weather here is starting to turn to cold, crisp, wintery mornings, making me wish for a long, lazy morning and a good mystery. Are you ready?

Like romance, mystery is a far-reaching genre. From the tamer (less violent) cozy mysteries to the dark realms of noir, there is a mystery book to suit every taste. 

For those who enjoy something light hearted:
Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series has been one of my favorites for years!
Sue Grafton's wildly popular Kinsey Milhouse series has been at the top for a long time.
Jess Lourey's Murder by Month series has a fun, small town vibe. 

For those with a taste for the criminal:
J.D. Robb's In Death series is a guilty pleasure. Eve's dark history, her lighter present all mix together to make a fascinating series.
The Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith is one of my most often recommended series. 
Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl explores not only the criminal, but the psychological.

For those who long for the classics:
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a must for any mystery fan.
Any Agatha Christie book, Seriously. She will knock your socks off.
The Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardener is a great mix of classics and whodunit. 

For those who are looking for something on the dark side
Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files is perfect for those who want a little extra paranormal in their noir.
Dashiell Hammett: The King of Noir (particularly lovely for San Francisco fans).
Stephen King elevates his horror to the dark(er) side. 

I hope this has inspired you to find the perfect mystery subgenre for you! What are your favorite history books? Are there any that I missed?