Posts Tagged ‘Romance’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Martha S’s Picks

December 29, 2014

I enjoy reading realistic fiction, with some humor thrown in from time to time, and and occasional work of nonfiction.  These are my favorites books discovered this year, but published prior to 2014:

LookawLookaway, Lookawayay, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Meet the Johnstons: Jerene and Duke are the heads of a socially prominent, highly dysfunctional Charlotte family. Duke is an ardent Civil War reenactor; Jerene is the manager of the Jarvis trust, her family’s collection of landscapes by minor American artists. They are the parents of Annie, an outspoken, brash real estate person on her third marriage, minister Bo, gay son Joshua who is not officially out of the closet, naïve daughter Jerrilyn. There is also Jerene’s outrageous, dissolute brother, Gaston Jarvis, who has squandered his literary talent on a series of Southern potboilers. This is a blisteringly funny satire of just about any contemporary Southern thing you can think of.  Read another review.

The PostmistressThe Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Three women’s lives intersect after Frankie Bard, a reporter from wartime London during the blitz, meets a doctor in an air raid shelter who asks her to deliver a letter to his wife in Massachusetts. The postmistress of the town in Massachusetts also has a mission from the same doctor to deliver a letter to his wife in the event of his death. This is a gripping story of the war in London, its effect on the three women and other people in the small town in Massachusetts.

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
After a childhood spent in foster care, Victoria has nowhere to go and has no people in her life. Through luck she finds work in a florist’s shop and is able to expand her knowledge of the language of flowers that she has been interested in since childhood. Victoria is able to help others with her skill with flowers while she struggles with her own past.

 

TransatlanticTransatlantic by Colum McCann
The novel uses three events that actually happened as the basis for his novel; Frederick Douglass’s visit to Ireland in 1845, the 1919 flight of British aviators Alcock and Brown, and the attempts by U.S. senator George Mitchell to broker peace in Northern Ireland. One of the fictional characters, Lilly Duggan, who is first seen in the Frederick Douglass chapter boldly leaves all behind and immigrates to America, becoming the mother of a long line of descendants in America, some of whom return to Ireland in later times. Fascinating and brilliantly written.

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman is a brilliant, but socially awkward professor of genetics at an Australian university. Nearing his 40th birthday, he decides to find a wife and devises a questionnaire to rule out all unsuitable candidates. Soon Rosie Jarman enters the picture and Don mistakenly believes she has submitted a questionnaire and been vetted by his coworker. Rosie and Don hit it off in spite of the fact that she fails to meet some of his requirements. Rosie does not know who her biological father is, so together they embark on the Rosie Project to attempt to learn his identity. Hilarious and heartwarming events ensue.  Read another review.

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Best New Books of 2014: Allison D’s Picks

December 9, 2014

These are some of my favorite books that were published this year. You will probably notice that I not only love a well-written series, but that my reading interests vary across many genres. I enjoy juvenile books, graphic novels, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and I have a love-hate relationship with vampire novels.

Born of FuryBorn of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Born of Fury is the seventh installment in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s science fiction romance series, The League, and is one of my favorites. Like J.R. Ward, Kenyon picks up where she left off, catching you up on your favorite characters while also focusing in on a particular couple. Hauk is a trained warrior from his planet of Andarion. He is also a member of the Sentella, a group now openly in war against The League, along with friends whom he considers his family. Sumi Antaxas, a League assassin, is assigned to target Hauk. What she believes to be a simple task becomes increasingly entangled as she becomes a captive of her target. There is intrigue, adventure, action, and romance in this fast-paced fantasy novel. In any science fiction novel, there is a thin-line that an author must walk in order to build a believable world separate from our own while also retaining some mystery and not boring the reader from minute details. Kenyon demonstrates this in her League series by having a perfect balance of both.

Escape from LucienAmulet, Vol. 6: Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi
This may be a graphic novel series, and intended for a younger audience, but there is something in it for everyone. The Amulet series is a fast-paced, exciting adventure; each volume of which I devoured in one sitting. Emily, her brother Navin, and their friends are hurtling on a journey towards battling the Elf King. In order to survive, Emily has to keep her wits about her, find a way to trust the other Stone Keepers she meets along with way, and keep her family safe. In the most recent edition, Escape from Lucien, Emily has to team up with an enemy while attempting to get her friends and brother out of the city of Lucien alive. It ends with a huge cliff-hanger but, in a series that is so fun to read, I cannot find it in myself to be miffed.

Shadow SpellShadow Spell by Nora Roberts
Nora Roberts is known for her romance trilogies, and this particular series has a little bit of everything; romance, of course, as well as close-knit families, Irish lore, magic, and friendships. If you have read anything by Roberts before, I found it to be a knitting together of the best parts of what I enjoyed about her Sign of Seven and Three Sisters Island trilogies. In this second installment, Connor O’Dwyer and his sister’s best friend, Meara Quinn, realize that there is a bit more between them than just friendship. They have taken their relationship for granted but when their budding romance is put to the test by the evil Cabhan waiting in the shadows they find there might be something more than just chemistry. The best part of reading a book by Nora Roberts is that I felt like I had been whisked away to small village in Ireland, with its history and long-standing inhabitants. The worst part? Having to wait seven months for the final installment to come out!

The KingThe King by J.R. Ward
The King is the 12th book in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. If you’ve never heard of the series before, I would start with the first book called Dark Lover. In The King, Ward revisits the couple from Dark Lover, Wrath and Beth. It is a different take on the vampire story and there certainly are no sparkly, vegan vampires to find in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. That being said, Ward has well-developed characters that come to life as you read further about their lives.  The King may center on Beth and Wrath, but Ward writes about the story lines of all of the other characters you have come to know and care about over the course of the series. What I love most about J.R. Ward’s series is that, in every installment, it feels as though I am stopping in for a weekend trip to check up on some friends of mine. There is a familiarity to it and a real character depth that you don’t find everywhere, especially not in romance series, which is one of the reasons I keep coming back for more!

The Mark of the Midnight ManzanillaThe Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig
I have been reading the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig for what feels like forever, each year eagerly awaiting the next addition to the series. The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is the 11th book in the series, not counting various novellas related to the assortment of colorful characters. If you are a fan of historical fiction set in the Napoleonic Era, with a dash of romance, some intrigue, spies, and lots of absurd humor then read this series. This book is, according to the author, the second to last book in the series. It follows the mysterious Duke of Belliston, Lucien, and Sally Fitzhugh. When a vampire novel that is all the rage in society sparks a rumor that Lucien is, in fact, a vampire, Sally must help Lucien solve the murder of a woman found dead at a party with the appearance of vampire bites on her neck. I enjoyed the absurdity that such a rumor sparked in the stuffy society setting and the hilarity that ensued as the two of them were thrown together to solve this strange murder mystery. The fact that Willig was making a jab at the current vampire craze in literature was an added bonus.

Fire and Rain by Diane Chamberlain

November 3, 2014

Valle Rosa is a small southern California town that is turning to dust: ravaged by wildfires, the town is desperate for rain. Mysterious stranger Jeff Cabrio arrives in Valle Rosa and approaches the town mayor Christopher Garrett with a tantalizing promise: I can make it rain. Cabrio doesn’t seek money, or fame; as a matter of fact, he wants to remain low-key and behind the scenes. He promises he’ll make it rain for room, board, and peace and quiet. Somewhat conveniently, the place he ends up boarding is in the cottage of an estate owned by Garrett’s ex-wife, investigative TV reporter Carmen Perez. If Perez can make a story out of Cabrio, she can invigorate her flagging career, and despite his wish for anonymity, Cabrio finds himself under the journalistic microscope. Valle Rosa is a town of secrets and Cabrios’ secret is explosive.

Fire and Rain is one of Chamberlain’s older novels and in it she shows her strength for creating intriguing characters with depth. I didn’t care that the science was implausible (a rain-making machine?), because I was entranced by the story line and the personas. I loved the juxtaposition of how the author used the metaphoric rain and fire to create a story that tugs the heart strings. Cabrio’s soul is as dry as tinder due to his secret past, ready to ignite when he meets Mia Tanner, a woman who has been hurt in her relationships in the past. Chris Garrett is a former baseball professional still in love with Carmen, despite Carmen’s many issues. Carmen is the somewhat stereotypical driven career woman, who ruthlessly seeks to unearth Cabrio’s past to boost to her waning career. The characters are all damaged, and all have been burned, figuratively by life and love.

Diane Chamberlain will be visiting the North Regional Library on Saturday, November 22 @ 2:30 p.m. She is a delightful, engaging author who loves her readers. Click here to register.

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Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann Ross

May 15, 2014

bookcover.phpThe Author Ann Ross starts a new series of Miss Julia. This book is the first in series. Miss Julia is a strong willed, independent, church going proper Lady. Miss Julia had just become a widow, and she was trying to settle down with her new life with substantial estate left from her late husband. Everything is peaceful until Hazel Marie Puckett arrives at her doorstep with her 9 year old son Little Lloyd. Guess what? Little Lloyd is her husband’s son. Miss Julia receives a shock of her life! After 44 years of marriage to pillar of the church and community Wesley Lloyd Springer, she discovers that he was having an affair with Hazel Marie Puckett. She had assumed he was working late at the family bank, but instead he was engaged in more carnal pursuits. The worst thing was that the whole town knew about this affair.

So after Little Lloyd comes in her life a series of surprising events take place. It involves a hypocritical minister, a violent beating, a crooked televangelist. Miss Julia also goes thru a high speed car chase. But when Little Lloyd was kidnapped, Miss Julia had to take matters to herself and find out what exactly was going on. She finds out a surprising revelation in her late husband’s will. Miss Julia not only speaks her mind but also comes to a deeper understanding of the meaning of love, friendship, and trust while living with Little Lloyd. If you would like to know what happens next than do check out this book. If you like reading some light, fun and entertaining story then you should read all of Miss Julia’s books.

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Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

May 7, 2014

bookcover.phpdedicationFrom the author of The Nanny Diaries and other chick let bestsellers,  Dedication  is for chick lit readers who have dreamed about what it would be like to get public and social revenge on an ex-boyfriend for breaking your heart.

Jake Sharpe is a mega recording star – think: John Mayer. He was also Kate Hollis’s first boyfriend/lover who jilted her only hours before their senior prom in the 1980’s. Jake split from their small Vermont town and never looked back. His first hit single was “Losing,” about his romantic experiences with Kate. The single vaults Jake to stardom and for 10 years Kate has to listen to Jake’s hit parade of music everywhere she goes, all songs that are based on very personal aspects of their physical relationship. 10-years older and wiser, but none the less still smarting from his jilting, when Jake announces he is headed back to Vermont for a music TV special, Kate jumps on a plane with a plan to finally confront Jake with how he has plundered her past, her life, her love – for his career.

With a cast of funny, well-drawn supporting characters, Kate sets out to embarrass Jake in a very public setting. Will she go through with it? Does she get sucked back into Jake’s charismatic (almost sociopathic) orbit? Fall in love all over again, either with the nostalgia or the man? Hmm, I’m not telling. Read “Dedication” to find out. Expect lots of 80’s references and double entendres related to romance and music. Readers who hail from New England will enjoy and relate to the setting.  This was enjoyable, funny chick lit.

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Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

April 23, 2014

TodayStill Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub we celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and also World Book Night, which is always on his birthday.  What better way to celebrate than with a fresh take on one of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays?

Romeo and Juliet has been subject to dozens of adaptations and retellings – so many that it might be difficult to believe that one published just last year could have something new to say. Yet Melissa Taub manages it deftly in a painstakingly researched and imaginative young adult tale of what might have happened after the play’s conclusion.

Days after the events of the play, the truce reached by the houses of Capulet and Montague has fallen upon deaf ears among the young members of each family. Each house blames the other for the death toll; brawls and swordfights abound, and the city’s peace is at increasing risk. Prince Escalus is desperate to find a way to ensure that the pact between the lords of the houses is upheld. But he can’t think of anything other than ensuring a blood tie between them – a marriage between two living members of the families.

Not only is seventeen-year-old Rosaline Capulet mourning her cousin Juliet, she feels responsible for the deaths that occurred in Verona just days ago. After all, if she had accepted Romeo’s romantic advances, maybe he wouldn’t have tumbled into his doomed romance. Maybe she could have spared their city all this heartache. Benvolio hasn’t forgiven her, either. Romeo and Mercutio were his cousins and closest friends – he feels isolated at the loss of his Montague friends and wants revenge. Imagine the surprise and indignation of both youths when Escalus decides that the two of them are the best candidates to unite the houses, ending the feud once and for all. Now they just have to agree to the plan…

The genius of Taub’s story is all in the use of characters given little stage time in the play. She’s wonderful at taking the little we know about them and fleshing them out into full characters. Rosaline’s independence and family loyalty (hinted at in the original play) are admirable traits and help keep the tension going throughout the story, while Benvolio’s stubborn streak creates ongoing conflict. Taub uses Shakespearean dialect in dialogue, but modern language in description, helping immerse readers in the world of Shakespeare without making the book seem unapproachable. If you’re a big fan of Shakespeare (or love a good historical romance), this might be just the ticket!

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More Than a Stranger by Erin Knightley

March 26, 2014

More Than a StrangerWhen Lady Evelyn Moore (aka Evie) is 11, her adored older brother, Richard, goes off to Eton and starts talking about his new pal Hastings. Evie does not want any competition for her brother’s affections, so she writes the upstart to tell him as much:

Dear Mr. Hastings,
I am sorry to tell you that my brother already has a best friend. I don’t care that you can shoot and ride well. Besides, I promise that you cannot ride better than me. Kindly leave Richard alone.

Hastings, far from being annoyed by her missive, finds it an entertaining and diverting way to pass some of his time at Eton, and writes her back. Funny and clever, his response demands a reply from Evie, and she obliges with her own sarcasm and wit. It’s no surprise that the letters continue and a deep friendship develops, despite the fact that neither has seen the other in person. That event is set for Evie’s 16th birthday, but before they meet Hastings cuts off the correspondence abruptly and breaks Evie’s heart. He has a good reason, but she doesn’t know that.

Fast forward a few years, and Hastings is in trouble. He turns to his old Eton friend, Richard, for shelter, and runs right into Evie. Since she’s never met him in person, he makes up a name for himself to avoid the confrontation he most definitely deserves. Naturally, the attraction between them is instantaneous and his one lie becomes another until the pile of falsehood he’s built is waiting to fall down around his ears. Evie cannot figure out why someone she’s only just met is so very familiar to her… and there’s something suspicious about him, in any case.

Well written, with believable characters and entertaining dialogue, this is the first in a series, and written by our own North Carolina author, Erin Knightley, who is participating in our series of Meet the Romance Author events. She will be at the Cameron Village Library on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. and the Southeast Regional Library on Saturday, March 29, at 2:30 p.m. Please see our website for more details.

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Reservations for Two by Jennifer Lohmann

March 17, 2014

We all know that a restaurant review can make or break a place, and receiving a bad review from a handsome but decidedly critical local restaurant reviewer would make him seem not so appealing after all.  But matters of the heart can overrule anything – or can they? That’s the tasty premise behind Jennifer Lohmann‘s novel, Reservations for Two.

Tilly Milek’s new Chicago restaurant has been doing pretty steady business, until a terrible review (based on a strange night with cats and dogs fighting!) almost shuts the doors. By coincidence the reviewer, Dan Meier, and Tilly meet and his attraction to her fun blue hair and passion for food sparks a desire in him. But, she can’t get over his nasty review! It’s the meat of this story that is much more exciting than the broiling flames of desire. The story centers around Tilly’s Polish family, Dan’s demanding father and how our family, friends, and dreams influence and shape our lives – for good and for bad. The characters are entirely believable and loveable, warts and all and may remind you of some friends of yours or people you have known.  Jennifer Lohmann’s easy going banter and beautifully painted scenes of Chicago will make you feel like it’s time for a trip to the windy city to meet these interesting people…and maybe have a pirogi with them.

An, interesting note, Lohmann is also a librarian and was awarded the Librarian of the Year Award in 2010 from the Romance Writer’s of America.  This was her first published novel.

Jennifer Lohmann is one of the local Romance authors who will be visiting our regional libraries this month in our series of Meet the Romance Author events.  She will be at the Cameron Village Library on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. and the Southeast Regional Library on Saturday, March 29, at 2:30 p.m. Please see our website for more details.

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The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand

March 14, 2014

Do you like sizzling romances of opposites attract? How about when Paris and chocolate are involved?  Then try The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand.

Cade Corey is THE name in American chocolate, literally. Corey chocolate bars are enjoyed across the country, around the campfire as s’mores, or in the vending machine at the office. Cade has grander dreams for Corey chocolate, though. She wants to compete with European chocolate companies and create a more artisinal chocolate. Her only problem, none of the artisan chocolate companies want to do business with her.

Undaunted, she comes to Paris with high hopes of finding a partner. Enter artisan chocolate maker, Sylvian Marquis. The attraction between Cade and Sylvian is palpable from the first interaction. He wants nothing to do with Cade’s visions of a partnership to produce a gourmet Corey chocolate line. Cade is stubborn and unwilling to give up on her dreams. She rents the vacant apartment above Sylvian Marquis’ shop.

Cade gets creative when Marquis refuses to discuss a business partnership. Upon learning that his shop is hosting a seminar on chocolate making, Cade bribes a student so she can take her place. Passions and tempers really begin to fly as Sylvian Marquis chooses to lead the seminar himself. The seminar does not go well for Cade. To retaliate she breaks into Sylvian’s shop after hours. And then the story of The Chocolate Thief gets out when picked up by a Parisian food blogger. I really enjoyed spending time with both Cade and Sylvian and found myself rooting for them to live happily ever after.

Laura Florand is one of the local Romance Authors who will be visiting regional libraries this month in our series of Meet the Romance Author events. Ms. Florand will be at the East Regional Library in Knightdale on Sunday, March 16 at 2:30 p.m., the Cameron Village Regional Library on Thursday, March 27 at 7 p.m., and the Southeast Regional Library in Garner on Saturday, March 29 at 2:30 p.m.  See our library event calendar and choose category “Author Event” for dates  and times.

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The Love List by Deb Marlowe

March 12, 2014

Deb Marlowe’s newest book is a regency romance with more than a hint of suspense. It is set in London in 1814, where beautiful young Brynne Wilmott is engaged to the wealthy and powerful Lord Marstoke. Brynne realizes that her new fiancé is a scheming brute when he attempts to assault her in a quiet room at a ball shortly after their engagement. The assault is interrupted when the handsome Duke of Aldmere enters the room, searching for Lord Marstoke to speak to him about a serious family matter. Thankful for the reprieve, Brynne runs home to her father, only to realize that he still expects her to marry Marstoke in order to further his own political ambitions. Feeling totally abandoned, she flees to the well-known Hestia Wright for shelter.

Wright is a former courtesan and royal mistress, and her home, Half Moon House, is a shelter for any woman in trouble. What Brynne does not know is that Wright is also one of Lord Marstoke’s oldest enemies. Enraged, Marstoke plans to exact his revenge by publishing a Love List, similar to the actual Harris List of Covent Garden Ladies that was published 1757-1795, which was a directory of London’s ‘ladies of the night.’ Marstoke’s Love List will include Brynne and Wright, and involve the Duke of Aldmere’s family as well. Brynne and Aldmere must work together to stop Marstoke before it’s too late, while managing the growing attraction they feel for each other.

The Love List is the first in the new Half Moon House series by Deb Marlowe. You can meet Marlowe and hear more about this new series and her other historical romances in our Meet the Local Romance Authors program at North Regional Library on Saturday, March 22 at 2:30 p.m., or Eva Perry Regional Library on Sunday, March 23, at 2:30 p.m. Marlowe will be joining other local romance authors to discuss different types of romance novels and their creative processes. Please visit our website for more details.

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