Beautiful Stranger by: Christina Lauren

New apartment? Check. Fantastic job with Ryan Media Group? Check. Loyal and loving boyfriend? Not so much for Sara Dillon who fled her Chicago lifestyle in favor of a new start in the city that never sleeps. During a girls night out adventure with long time bestie Chloe, Sara runs into Mr. Sexy himself, Max Stella. Max sweeps Sara off her feet by being the antithesis of her dirt bag ex but is Sara ready for another shot at love? Picking up right where Beautiful Bastard left off, this steamy read is sure to leave you wanting more.

WOW. What else can I say? From their effortless romance to spectacular…uh…physical encounters these two are one of the best in the erotic romance genre. Since dipping my toes in the erotica waters in 2008, Beautiful Stranger was the first novel that did not have a tortured hero or heroine as the protagonist. Neither Sara nor Max had a horrific incident (either rape, domestic violence or abuse) that caused them to be part of the BDSM scene. Even with that aside, Sara and Max’s romance is genuine and adorable in the “you jump I jump Jack sort of way.” Its not the sort of this only happens in fiction type thing but a cutesy yet realistic way. The way that their relationship grows from a friends with benefits into something that is natural – not forced or drawn out – and makes you want to put the book down and grin from ear to ear.

I loved Beautiful Stranger more than its’ predecessor and is probably my favorite in the genre.

4 STARS

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Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Reviewed by Brittany Morgan

Two peas in a pod, Tully and Kate, started their life long friendship in the summer of 1974 yet two could not have been more different. Kate came from a loving family that was a little on the protective side, while Tully had an absentee mother and was raised by her grandmother. Tully and Kate’s friendship grew out of their mutual insecurities and an unfortunate incident that altered Tully’s path in life. Through college, the early stages of their careers and their journey into adulthood, their friendship will be tested, tried and hold true. The New York Times best selling author, Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane is a true glimpse in a life long friendship.

The story of Tully and Kate was not what I expected. I added Firefly Lane to my to-read list a while ago and finally picked it up. What I found was a great story about a life long friendship. Hannah follows different life events for both Tully and Kate during their 30 plus year friendship. It was great to see the characters grow and developed together and become the women they were meant to be. The change that the Tully and Kate experienced over time was sweet yet disappointing. It was upsetting to see them make the wrong choices, not take advantage of great opportunities and burn a viable love. The drawback from this stylistic choice is that their story was a little disjointed at times.

The ending completely came out of left field and did not do either character justice. It seemed like Hannah combined two different stories into one in regards to the ending. The mash up seemed a little forced and was not a clear continuation from the first three-quarters of the novel. I was glad to see that Hannah has a sequel to Firefly Lane titled Fly Away that will continue the abrupt end of the first novel. If you are looking for a feel good novel with a great a satisfying ending, then Firefly Lane is not for you.

RATING: 3 Stars 

Best Books of Summer 2014

A look at my Top 3 favorite reads from May – August 

By: Brittany Morgan 

Summer 2014 was a good one. I was able to take many adventures, fight alongside some of my favorite warriors and cry my heart out for the loss of a love one all through some amazing novels. From May through August I read 21 novels ranging from historical romance and fantasy to paranormal. In this post I’m listing my Top Three favorite reads from Summer 2014.

  1. The Duke by Gaelen Foley

                  This historical romance novel is one of my favorites of the genre. Foley was unique in her characterizations and plot structure. The concept of an authoritative, rich, attractive – okay sinfully handsome – duke meeting a not so well off beautiful younger women has been tried and tested. And you know what, if its not broken don’t fix it! Foley took on the typical historical romance archetype and made it her own with an interesting subplot and well developed characters.

                  For my full review on Foley’s The Duke, click here: https://brittanysbookblog1.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/the-duke-by-gaelan-foley/

  1. Bellagrand: A Novel by Paullina Simons

                  I’ll be the first to admit, I am in love with The Bronze Horseman Series by Simons and I was overjoyed to see that she added to Alexander’s family background through Bellagrand. This novel starts off with Alexander’s parents, Gina and Harold struggling to earn in living in the early 1900’s. Living in the immigrant town of Lawrence, Massachusetts, Harold’s fall from societal grace causes him to turn to a new way of life: communism. His young wife, Gina, must make sacrifices in order to please Harold and his new outlook on of, even if it mean giving up what she most desires. Heart wrenching, beautiful and full of dramatic irony, Simons’ Bellagrand provides The Bronze Horseman fans the back-story that they have been craving.

  1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

                  One word to describe Moyes novel, Me Before You: WOW (please note the uppercase). This book is simply beautiful. Ironically I first heard of this word of mouth hit via word of mouth and through one of my old teachers who said if I was to read one book this summer Me Before You was it and after finishing it, I know why. Lou Clark is going nowhere fast and at 27 years old its time for her to start thinking about the future. She is given the push that she needs when her boss closes his restaurant and she is forced to find employment elsewhere. Working through a series of temporary positions, Clark is unable to find a job that she likes, until she spots a caretaker position for 6 months. She accepts the position helping wheelchair bound Will Traynor and the rest is literary history.

                  Me Before You is one of the most impactful novels I have ever read. Moyes deals with real world issues through a refreshingly honest lens. The characters are true, pure and extremely likeable. Even though the ending was a little on the predictable side, I had no idea the title wave of emotions that would come out of it. I finished the novel at 3:00 am – because I simply could not put it down – and literally lost a night of sleep based off of the dramatic ending of the story. There is no wonder why Me Before You is a bestseller and beloved by fans world wide. Me Before You is not only my favorite novel of Summer 2014 but of all time.

The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

Reviewed by Brittany Morgan

Uhtred is back with vengeance. Out of favor the Saxon monarchy, Uhtred sees no other option but to recapture his birthright territory, Bebbanburg, with a limited crew of fellow outcasts. After King Alfred’s death, his son Edward takes the throne as king of Wessex. Years of peace soon come to an end as the Danes, under Cnut Longsword’s leadership; plan to invade the Saxon territories. Uhterd learns of Cnut’s plans yet the Saxons are uneasy to trust him. Men live and die, loyalties are challenged but one thing remains constant in the Saxon Stories Series: fate is inexorable.

The Pagan Lord is the seventh installment in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories Series and is easily one of the best. The detail that readers have grown accustomed to of 10th century England is top notch and expertly researched. There is the perfect combination of war, love and treachery to keep the reader’s interest. A cornerstone of Conrwell’s writing in the series is the funny insults meaning to scorn the opposition. Some of my favorite include the words: fart, stench and one or two expletives.

I really enjoyed following Uhtred throughout his life to experience the various joys and heartbreaks – and unfortunately – defeats alongside him. Even in his hold old age Uhtred is as fierce as ever and still has a few tricks up his sleeve to help persuade the Saxons to believe his tale.

Some of the favorite parts of the novel were the battle scenes, especially towards the end. I find it interesting to see how militarily the world has evolved from shied walls and swords to tanks and automatic guns. The detail that Cornwell uses to describe these scenes is unparalleled. I truly feel as if I am standing with my shield next to Uhtred preparing for battle.

With a conclusion that leaves nothing to be desired, fans are eagerly awaiting the eight novel in the series set to be released in the United States in early 2015.

RATING: 4 Stars

The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Reviewed by Brittany Morgan

 

Two star-crossed lovers are put to the ultimate test. In 1960 Jennifer Stirling awakes from a horrific car accident that left her without recollection of the accident or herself. Feeling like an outsider in her elite world of London’ wealthiest families, her husband, Laurence, tries to reintegrate Jennifer and start their marriage over again. His plan changes when Jennifer stumbles upon a love letter written by the mysterious and heartfelt ‘B’ and is determined to discover his identity and rekindle their passionate affair.

Nearly 40 years later, struggling journalist Ellie, stumbles upon Jennifer’s love letters from ‘B’ and promises to turn her career around with a knock out feature piece. The journey to write the story hits too close to home for Ellie as she risks her career, friends and married boyfriend in the name of Jennifer and ‘B’. This utterly romantic – yet gut wrenching – page-turner fully captures the reader and takes them along for the ride.

The Last Letter from Your Lover is the second novel by Jojo Moyes I have read and I am 100% a fan of her work. I love her writing style and the way she creates her characters to be either likeable or evil when necessary. Moyes’ plot line is well thought out and peppered with characters that are the perfect vehicle for the story and theme. Jennifer is neither annoying nor whiny, which is common in contemporary romance novels, when making hard and life changing decisions.

Predictability is the enemy is any author and is Moyes had one fault in the story that was it. The conclusion of the novel was more obvious with each passing page towards the end of the text. With that being said, it was an ending that left the reader wholeheartedly satisfied.

RATING: 4 Stars

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

The seeds of war have already been sowed by 1772 and the Fraser’s and Mackenzie’s find themselves right in the middle of the beginning of American history. Honor and duty calls upon Jamie as he is asked to represent the Crown and help unite the residents of the Ridge and Native Americans. Claire continues to push the medical envelope to help patients survive the hardships in 18th century North Carolina. Rodger and Brianna struggle to assimilate in a world that they never imagined they would be apart of. Tensions rise and loyalties are tested in the sixth installment of the New York Times best selling series Outlander in A Breath of Snow and Ashes. 

I have a love-hate relationship with the Outlander series. I have experienced highs and lows in the novels for the characters, in frustration of their choices, plot line missteps and much more. Since the fist installment in the series, this is hands down my favorite book. There was more action in this story, more decisions and more interesting secrets that come to light. Seeing the characters struggle and forced to make hard choices about their lives and the lives of those they love was an aspect that the other books were missing. 

My favorite part of the story was Gabaldon’s infusion of history into the text. This is something she has done in other books to great success as well. It’s always interesting – at least for me – to get history from a human voice, rather than in a textbook. The biggest logistical concern I have for the books in general is the character’s interpretation of time travel. After failed attempts for their “theories” on the subjects I do not understand why they do not see the errors in their logic and adopt a new theory or come to a different conclusion.

Overall this book is one of the better ones in the Outlander series. I gave up on the novels for over a year and jumped back into them to prepare for the new Starz series. I would have liked Gabaldon to add some subtle reminders of some plot details that could have gotten lost from book to book, especially if the themes carried over. 

Outlander is a Starz original television series that will appear on August 9, 2014. 

RATING: 4 Stars

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

Diana Biship and Matthew de Clairmont are dealing with the consequences of their quest for what vampires refer to as the Book of Life or Ashmole 782, according to witches. With Diana’s beloved second mother Emily murdered, the paranormal couple must act quickly and decisively to save themselves and their lives of those they love. But as centuries of secrets from the de Clairmonts continually mount, Matthew must revisit some of the darkest points in his life to complete their quest. And even with Diana’s increasing power and abilities, she still has her own obstacles to overcome in order to become the witch she is destined to be. Magical, enchanting and a true page turner, Harkness’ final installment in the All Souls Trilogy provides a dramatic conclusion to the New York Times best selling series.

Over one year and 30 books later I was happy to sink my teeth back into Harkness’ story of Diana Bishop and Matthew de Clairmont. The characters were as strong willed, judgmental and as devoted to each other as I remember. It took some time for me to recall the nuances of the complex plot line which detracted from the first portion of the text. I would have liked for Harnkess to include more subtle reminders of the first two books in this “The a Book of Life” to help establish a pace. However, once I got fully immersed there was no stopping. I got fully sucked into the story and needed to find out all of the secrets that Diana and Matthew were hunting for so long. I was rooting for them as a couple, and individually when they had to face their past in their own, and wanted to discover the reason why the congregation forbade creature interaction.

“The Book of Life” was expertly written and was full of different allusions and figurative language and elevated the text from a mere paranormal story into a superb read. With numerous themes present ranging from forgoing one’s fears to relying on help from freinds, any reader will find something to relate in the novel. For those who did not read “Discoery of Witches” and “Shadow of Night” I highly recommend doing so before picking up “The Book of Life” to fully appreciate different nuances and the multiple plot lines that Harkness uses throughout the trilogy. I recommend this series to those who like “Twilight” but want something a bit edgier or readers who are a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” and would like a vampire and witch novel.

RATING: 4 Stars