Book Review: Bah, Humbug! (Christmas Street #1) by Heather Horrocks

Lexi Anderson is an up-and-coming, Martha Stewart-type TV hostess whose two kids love the Jared Strong adventure novels, which happen to be written by their new neighbor, Kyle Miller.

For the first time in his writing career, Kyle has writer’s block – until he sees the snowman on his lawn and realizes this is the perfect place for his villain to hide the weapon. He digs into the snowman to discover two things: the weapon fits int he body just under the head, and the snowman was supposed to be the back drop for Lexi’s next show.

From this improbable beginning comes friendship. Can there be more for a woman who is afraid to get close again and a man who has shadows from his childhood?

Families join together and hearts are healed as this couple goes walking in a winter wonderland.

I do not usually get into Christmas or Holiday books in general, but this year I was making an effort to be a little bit more Holiday feeling and I had Bah humbug on my TBR so why not? The editing work on this book was not done very well and in all honesty, I am getting a little tired of so many books with typos and issues. I know small indie authors do not make huge sums, but I feel if you are going to publish a book you should proof read very well! Ask a friend! No ones perfect I know that, I know I am not perfect when I post my reviews but GAH! Okay little rant over and moving on.

This book is a fast cute little read overall and it was a fairly quick one as well. Lexi Anderson our female character reminded me a lot of Brie from Desperate Housewives and I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. The best way she thinks to get new neighbor and author to get over being a Christmas Grinch is to essentially present to him Christmas on steroids. That may not work in the real world with most people (would not work on me!) but who knows in books things happen. I don’t want to give away the plot, of course, but what would Chic lit/Romance be without a little bit of rivalry in it as well right? Enter Author Kyle’s brother. Of course he shows up as Kyle is falling in love with Lexi.

The long and short of this review (many pardon’s if I am a little jumpy with this, post holiday cold requires lots of nyquil!) is that while it isn’t a particularly deep book it is fun. If you want something easy, cute and fitting for the holidays next time they come around you would probably be happy by picking up this little Novella.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book review: Kiss of Fire (Imdalind #1) by Rebecca Ethington

Joclyn Despain has been marred by a brand on her skin. She doesn’t know why the mark appeared on her neck, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won’t let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.
The scar is the reason she is being hunted.

If only she knew that she was.

If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air.

Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; only he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.

I wanted to like this book, I wanted to be in love with this book. Sadly the feeling I ended up having when it came to Kiss of Fire was just kind of meh. It wasn’t a bad book and all of the right things seemed to be there, a little mystery, some tension, two star crossed kids. Alas, something really just didn’t come together for me.

One nag I had about it was Joclyn hiding her scar so much. A huge deal was made of the scar, and without giving anything of the story away I get that. However, for me it is stretching a little to far to fathom that she managed to completely and successfully hide it for so long by wearing lots of hoodies. Hey, I enjoy hoodies too, but come on.

There was also a lot of Mary sue type situations and in the end, I really can’t take too much Mary sue these days, so maybe that was what really ended up bothering me the most. I may be saying a lot of negative in this review, but overall the book was readable. It was not the best book of the year, but it wasn’t the worst either. As I started with for me it was just a bit meh. That doesn’t mean someone else won’t enjoy it more than I did, because the potential is there. Toss in Ryland who suffered so much at the hands of his own Father and the book does give you some of those emotional punches that you need.

I might even give this series another try and check out the second book of the series. If the second book picks up the pace faster, it might bring me out of the Meh zone.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon

For nearly twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones… about a love that transcends the boundaries of time… and about Jamie Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart… in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising… and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves

This book really is a great read, it also breaks your heart more then once. As the seasons of Outlander play, I have been rereading as the seasons come and I forgot how much I loved these books. Dragonfly in Amber is a new adventure and we get to spend a great deal of time with the beautiful and feisty Brianna. I always have a bit of a smile when I think of her, Jamie and Calire are both super stubborn in their own rights, mix the blood together and you get a girl who wants to do all of her own things no matter what anyone says.

Better yet we spend time in Paris, as Claire and Jamie have to work through the intrigue of court life. Trying to put off what happens at Culloden. If you are a fan of the show you should enjoy the books as well, the source material is great. If you have read the books it’s time to jump in once more for fun. Dragonfly in Amber is a stunning part of the series and great as a standalone as well.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book review: The Magicians (The Magicians, #1) by Lev Grossman

Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn’t bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin’s yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they’d imagined

The Magicians is a book that will make you believe in magic. I enjoyed every single page of this book from start to finish. With that said, there are some who claim this book is misogynistic and a variety of other things. It might be on some level, however if we didn’t enjoy things just because they had some characters and topics we didn’t like not likely we would get a lot of reading done. Yes there are some misogynistic characters, there is also sex, drug and crime. For me that is what made the book entertaining, interesting and what held my attention.

This is NOT an adult version of Harry Potter like some say, but it does have magic and a world that is different from ours within it’s pages. It also has a Syfy series now that has been based on it. I find the two to be fairly different, the series for me is a bit tamer. I for one enjoyed The Magicians and might even read it a second time (those who know me know what a big deal that is), but it is not going to be a book for everyone. If you want an Adult Harry Potter head on over to The Dresden files, main character is even named Harry.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Martian (The Martian #1) by Andy Weir

A mission to Mars.
A freak accident.
One man’s struggle to survive.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

Grounded in real, present-day science from the first page to the last, yet propelled by a brilliantly ingenious plot that surprises the reader again and again, The Martian is a truly remarkable thriller: an impossible-to-put-down suspense novel that manages to read like a real-life survival tale.

I decided to read the Martian, because the movie got my attention and as those who know me know, I like to read the book before I watch the film. This book was fantastic and I don’t usually go for these kind of space odyssey books. The main character Mark Watney is such a hoot you can’t help but love him and root for him and hope that he gets out of the situation that he is in. Can you imagine how much mental strength let alone the rest that it takes in order to live and survive on Mars completely alone? No one to talk to, no human interaction at all. It is a wonder that he did not fully lose his mind. He did a little bit of course, but that is to be perfectly expected.

This book really is enjoyable. Now if you do not like a whole lot of very well explained scientific data you may not like this book. As much as I loved the book I can admit that occasionally I wanted to have a little bit of a snooze fest during these parts. However, everything else about this book was a win for me. If you have seen the movie and want more read the book. If you haven’t seen the movie still read the book because it is a truly amazing story.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (Pink Carnation #5) by Lauren Willig

A New York Times extended list bestseller and the exciting fifth book in the national bestselling Pink Carnation series.

After years abroad, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, has returned to England to avenge the murder of his mentor. To uncover the murderer’s identity, he must infiltrate the infamous, secret Hellfire Club. But the Duke has no idea that an even more difficult challenge awaits him-in a mistaken, romantic-minded young lady.

Charlotte Lansdowne wistfully remembers the Robert of her childhood as a valiant hero among men. Too aware of his own flaws, Robert tries to dissuade Charlotte from her delusions, even as he finds himself drawn to her. When Charlotte takes up a bit of espionage-investigating a plot to kidnap the King-Robert soon realizes that she is more than the perfect partner in crime.

Caught in a dangerous game full of deadly spies and secret rites, Robert and Charlotte must work together to reveal the villain…and confront their true love.

Another solid installment of the Pink Carnation series with the Night Jasmine and another enjoyable read. While for me this one started off a little bit slow it picked up the pace and became really enjoyable. Robert Duke of Dovedale is the kind of character I could conjure up a true image in my head of. I really liked him and even though some of his actions ticked me off (why couldn’t he just tell Lady Charolotte the truth?!) I also understood why he did them. He thought he was protecting her and that is of course how these books work.

While the spy craft is still around in this book it does focus a little bit more on the love and fairy tale aspect of a historical romance which to me made this one a little bit more light and fun. There is still the spy side and a little bit of danger to keep it spicy. Then there is the modern side of the story as we always have that bit to play with as well and this time we saw Eloise thinking that Miles was a spy. This lead to some very comical situations and then eventually he had to confront her.

Bottom line enjoyable and I look forward to reading the next installment.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra, the #1 national bestseller, unpacks the mystery of the Salem Witch Trials.

It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister’s daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.

The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, parents and children each other. Aside from suffrage, the Salem Witch Trials represent the only moment when women played the central role in American history. In curious ways, the trials would shape the future republic.

As psychologically thrilling as it is historically seminal, THE WITCHES is Stacy Schiff’s account of this fantastical story-the first great American mystery unveiled fully for the first time by one of our most acclaimed historian

I know non-fiction books can be dryer then fiction but this one is just something else. The author is acclaimed and many people loved her Cleopatra book but this is just way to dry. I hate that because the Salem Witch trials are a fantastic time to write about. This book was a slog from page one to page end. It had a fair amount of good details but everything was just so flat and dry history does not have to be that way.

The worst part of it for me I think was that while she gave good facts but everything was just left not connected and details that would have been interesting were cut. It feels like the author just cut all the good juicy meat off the bone and left the leanest most boring cut to be read. Not the worst book ever but it is a massive slog. You have to really be dedicated to make it through.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: At the King’s Pleasure (Secrets of the Tudor Court #4) by Kate Emerson

At the King’s Pleasure is the fourth novel in Kate Emerson’s well-reviewed series set in Tudor England—based on a real life member of the royal court of Henry VIII.

Following the acclaimed By Royal Decree, Pleasure Palace, and Between Two Queens, Kate Emerson again plucks a real figure from history in this lushly detailed tale featuring Lady Anne Stafford—who is torn between her husband and another man.

History remembers Lady Anne Stafford as the woman who cheated on her husband with both King Henry VIII and his companion, Sir William Compton. Lady Anne was indeed in love with two men at the same time….but the king wasn’t one of them. Lady Anne’s complex and heart-wrenching romantic relationships are at the core of this riveting tale that masterfully blends romance, drama, and historical detail as only Kate Emerson can.

A new year and finally finishing up a book that I started last year. For some reason I just could not get attached to this one last year in 2015. I got through it pretty fast this time around and I think I was having so much trouble before because it just was not as engaging as the other reads. Now with that said it was not a bad read at all.

Once again, you are in the court of a Young King Henry. This time the story revolves around the younger versions of key players to come out at court later, like the Boleyn’s and others. The main character is Lady Anne Stafford, the infamous adulterer who cuckolded her Husband with both the King himself and his boon companion Sir William Compton. The characters were fun, but some of the dialogue for me fell a little flat. Things came across as more vapid than in other books and I am not sure if this was on purpose or just how things came across but I didn’t like it.

The characters seemed to fly off the handle and have toddler tantrums more in this book than others as well. It was dramatic, of course, but sometimes a little off putting. Aside from all of that I did enjoy the book on a whole. It is once again a different look at the history of things and gives us a different side of everything that went on. Yes of course it is fiction, but it is very plausible fiction. I felt for Lady Anne and she did get dealt a bad hand on many occasions. Overall this is a good read and I am happy that I read it, overall it fits in well with the series so far.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

I really wanted to like The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It was chosen as the March reading for a book group that I plan to join I wanted to like this book so we could have good chats about it. Alas, I just could not get into this book very well. The girl who is the main character Flavia she is just, I can’t like her. I don’t mind precocious children at all but this goes above and beyond. The writing style of it all being from her point of view, it is just a little to much for me.

The book is not bad so much as it is just a bit to much for me. Ah well what can you do right? It was not a total waste of time but I think I am going to stick with Sherlock Holmes when I want smart crime solvers.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Book Review: Habibi by Craig Thompson

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth — and frailty — of their connection.

At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling

This one was the assigned read for my book club this month and I wish I had liked it better. The subject matter was pretty tense for a lot of it but overall I just felt kind of “meh” about the book. Maybe it is just because I am not a graphic novel reader?

The drawing and images were well done and you could really see the beauty in it but for me the story was just kind of meh. I think a lot of the Orientalist things brought about in this novel are what set me to not enjoying that much. I struggled a little but the beauty in the drawings can’t be missed either so 3 gemstones for this one mostly because of the beauty of the art.

My Gemstone Rating:

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