The Light We Lost asks the question: is a first love your one true love

33637339When I first started reading The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I didn’t understand why Lucy Carter was telling Gabe Samson about their relationship from when they first met. It felt weird to me. I thought maybe it was a look back at what their life was like.  But I soon got used to the narration and was pulled into Lucy’s life.

Lucy first met Gabe on September 11, 2001 while they are in college.  On a rooftop under a grey cloud of ash, she kissed him for the first time and lost her heart forever. They move in together and start planning their life.  But Gabe is unfulfilled living in New York and being in a relationship. As he pursues his photography, he realizes he needs to go abroad and capture the struggles and political turmoil.  He wants to head to the Middle East and asks Lucy to go with him. But Lucy loves her job and knows following Gabe around the world will only make her resent his pursuit of his passions while she suppresses hers. So Gabe leaves and they move on living separate lives.

Lucy eventually meets Darren and even though she keeps comparing him to Gabe, she loves him differently but just as much as Gabe. They marry and soon have their daughter Violet. Even though Lucy has a wonderfully supportive husband and a good marriage, she seems to be connected to Gabe. She looks for his photos, she emails with him and she takes his phone calls. When he is in town, she drops everything to see him.

There were times I wanted to smack Lucy for what she was doing to her marriage. There were times I wanted to smack Darren for his jealousy even though Lucy was with him and I wanted to smack Gabe for always pulling Lucy back into his life making it hard for her to leave him in the past where he belonged.  The character I loved the most was Violet.  What an adorable little girl.

This book made me smile but it also made me cry and it broke my heart in so many different ways. As the book progressed and things were revealed, I never would have expected the revelation at the end. It really made me change my view of Lucy’s narrative. This book snuck up on me. I almost abandoned after about 50 pages and I’m so glad I stuck it out. This was such a good book. If you pick this book up, give it a chance because it won’t disappoint.

Book Description:
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

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Geekerella is a fun modern-day twist on Cinderella

33224718Growing up, Cinderella was and still is one of my favorite Disney stories.  I love when an author takes an old story and puts a new twist to it.  Geekerella by Ashley Poston is a fantastic young adult story about Elle Wittimer who grew up watching an old popular sci-fi series with her father – Starfield.  She’s a huge fan and blogs about the show.  One morning her dreams come true when a new adaptation is announced.  But the excitement doesn’t last long when she finds out Prince Carmindor will be played by Hollywood’s up and coming ‘it’ boy Darien Freeman.  Elle quickly rants about casting on her blog (she doesn’t hold back how she feels) and overnight becomes an internet sensation.

Darien is also a huge Starfield fan but doesn’t want to let on that he was a big geek growing up.  In fact, when his casting is announced on a national morning show, he blows an answer to a trivia question even though it was a no brainer.

Elle’s father who has passed away, used to run a Comicon type convention called ExcelsiCon.  Darien has been committed to attend the convention but he hate them as he is supposed to meet fans and small when he really just wants to let his geekiness come out.  After texting the phone number he thinks is for the organizer of ExcelsiCon, he ends up texting Elle.  This soon turns into a constant text conversation between the two.

Staying true to the Cinderella classic, Elle lives with her terrible Stepmother and stepsisters.  Elle decides to enter the Cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon in hopes to win the prize money and move to California, away from her evil Stepmother.  Just like the original Cinderella story, there is a “fairy Godmother” who is actually Sage, her young supervisor in the Food truck painted like a huge pumpkin and called what else, The Magic Pumpkin.

I loved this story!  This is such a fun twist on the Cinderella story with very modern day characters and modern situations.  The characters are fun and a little nutty.  I enjoyed Elle with her hopes and dreams and fandom of a sci-fi TV show.  I enjoyed Sage who doesn’t really give a crap and I liked Darien who you kind of wonder if some child stars or any celebrities have issues like he does.

I thought this was a lot of fun to read and it definitely can be read over a weekend because you won’t want to put it down.

The one thing I had an issue with is Elle and Damian talking to a stranger through text messaging.  With online pedophiles, I found this a little creepy as you don’t know who is on the other side.  Other than that, I recommend this book.  If I read books more than once, this would be on my rotation.

Book Description:
Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

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I will Send Rain reveals the many layers of a family

28514471I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows introduces us to the Bell family who live in Mulehead, Oklahoma in 1934.  What is significant about this family, place and time is that it is the height of the dust bowl.  A horrible time when rain disappeared for months, making the ground so dry that dust storms were normal.

Dust was everywhere, in the hair, lungs, food, there was no escaping it.  This time was very devastating for families farming the land.  Their crops died, their animals starved and families were struggling to put food on the table.  It was so bad, they were shooting cows for a dollar to make money.  Lots of families couldn’t take it anymore and moved west or south without a word, they would just disappear.  Other families tried to survive hoping one day soon rain would arrive.

Samuel Bell is determined to stay on the land he acquired in the 1920’s during the great land grab when the federal government parceled Oklahoma farmland to individuals.  Some people in the small community think Sam has lost his mind as he builds a boat like Noah in anticipation of the great flood he has been dreaming about that is coming very soon.  His wife, Annie, questions if she should go back to her family in Chicago and leave Sam behind because he is no longer the man she married or stick it out because he is her husband.

The Bells have two children: Barbara Ann “Birdie” aged 15 and Fred aged 8, who is mute.  They had a daughter named Eleanor who died as an infant.  Eleanor’s memory still haunts Annie, which chips away at her self-esteem and affects her ability as a wife and mother.  Birdie secretly becomes engaged to Cy whose family disappears in the night headed for California leaving Birdie heartbroken and obsessed with following Cy and his family but she needs to finish school.  Fred is always exploring and soon becomes swept away in his father’s obsession and helps with the construction of the boat.

Meadows does a great job weaving a story highlighting how a family can become so wrapped up in their own personal lives and projects that they don’t see their entire family unraveling.  Since I grew up on a farm, I found this a fascinating story.  We had times when it wouldn’t rain for weeks and the dust from the gravel road next to our house would coat everything.  It would come into the house, it would turn the grass white.  It was everywhere.  So I found this a very interesting story.  Very well written.  I found myself right next to the characters as they each struggled with whether to stay or leave.

Book Description:
A luminous, tenderly rendered novel of a woman fighting for her family’s survival in the early years of the Dust Bowl; from the acclaimed and award-winning Rae Meadows.

Annie Bell can’t escape the dust.  It’s in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children’s dry, cracked lips. It’s 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie’s fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain.

As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love.

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The Life of a Vaudeville Star

30320011I think Nicola Italia has become my new favorite romance writer.  This time in The Vaudeville Star, we are introduced to Ruby Mae Sutton, a southern belle from Mississippi who is sent off to finishing school in Connecticut when she is 15.

Ruby has been madly in love all her life with Ford Rutledge, who is engaged to her sister.  Ruby doesn’t want Ford to marry her sister.  She thinks her cold-hearted sister is very wrong for Ford.  So she decides to convince him, putting him in a compromising position, hence sending Ruby to finishing school.

While at the finishing school, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides she wants to be a vaudeville singer.  Ruby builds fans including the King of New York who becomes obsessed with Ruby.  This is also where Ruby meets Ford again and finds her love for him still exists.

The characters are well developed and their personalities came through strong.  As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters’ lives and was cheering for them.  At almost 300 pages, I thought there was more to tell.  I wanted more of Ruby, Ford, Bessie and the other Vaudeville performers.  This book was well worth my time and it will be well worth your time.  Pick it up today.

Book Description:
On a Mississippi Plantation, Ruby Mae Sutton throws herself into the arms of the only man she has ever loved, Ford Rutledge.  At fifteen years old, she has given her heart away and is not ashamed to brazenly declare her love to the twenty-five-year-old man, who is also the fiancé of her sister.

But Ford has no intention of taking advantage of the blond beauty, even though her reckless behavior causes his engagement to be broken.  Ruby is sent off in disgrace to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she remains for the next three years.

Once in Connecticut, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides to leave after graduation for the bright lights of New York and the vaudeville stage.  Ford also decides to make his home in New York and suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Ruby Sutton, the very grown and very beautiful rising star of the vaudeville stage.

As Ruby’s star ascends, she makes a huge conquest with the King of Manhattan: William Parker.  King Parker begins to take an interest in Ruby’s career, and more importantly Ruby herself, as Ford finally realizes he is in love with her.

King finances a tour to Europe as his interest in Ruby takes a turn toward the more obsessive.  Ruby finds herself torn between her true love for Ford and the obligation she owes King.  She must tread carefully between the two men, and the brutal murder of someone they all know causes everyone to wonder who had the motive.

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Find out what happened to two abducted best friends

25226082In Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson, Amy and Dee are abducted when they were 10 – and 12-years-old by a man named Kyle, who had a thing for dolls.  Six years later, Amy returns home but where is Dee?  Amy won’t tell anyone what happened over the six years and why Dee isn’t with her.  But slowly the story comes out.  This book is told from the view of Amy, or Chelsea as Kyle calls her.

Mary Thompson does a great job of showing what can happen to the mind when someone is kept in captivity by an abductor who is slightly off mentally and can be violent.  I really felt for Amy and her family and several times I was brought to tears.

When you are on the outside, you always wonder what an abduction and being held in captivity for years does to a person, how they can survive to live a normal life and what happens to the families left behind who don’t know where their loved ones are.

This was such a good story and well written that kept my attention.  I didn’t want to put the book down.  I’m glad I got the chance to read it through the Penguin Random House First To Read Program.

Book Description:
A bittersweet homecoming holds dark secrets in this heart-wrenching story of loss, love, and survival for readers of Room.

When sixteen-year-old Amy returns home, she can’t tell her family what’s happened to her. She can’t tell them where she’s been since she and her best friend, her cousin Dee, were kidnapped six years ago—who stole them from their families or what’s become of Dee. She has to stay silent because she’s afraid of what might happen next, and she’s desperate to protect her secrets at any cost.

Amy tries to readjust to life at “home,” but nothing she does feels right. She’s a stranger in her own family, and the guilt that she’s the one who returned is insurmountable. Amy soon realizes that keeping secrets won’t change what’s happened, and they may end up hurting those she loves the most. She has to go back in order to move forward, risking everything along the way. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee is a riveting, affecting story of loss and hope.

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New twist on Sherlock Holmes

28588390Charlotte Holmes of A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas brings a fresh new twist to the Sherlock Holmes franchise.

As a child, Charlotte Holmes, youngest of four sisters, has always been a little different.  She rarely speaks unless she has something to say, she likes to be alone and she is great at coming up with accurate conclusions after observing a situation.  Her father finds Charlotte entertaining, which made her his pet.

Charlotte’s domineering mother is determined to make Charlotte a proper young lady and get her married off.  But Charlotte doesn’t want to get married.  She would rather be the headmistress of an all girl’s school.  Sir Henry Holmes withdraws his promise to fun her training, which forces Charlotte to take drastic measure by ruining her reputation with a married man, ensuring she would not be married off to an eligible bachelor.  Not only did she ruin her reputation, she is publicly disgraced and is the center of a huge scandal.

After the scandal hits, Charlotte runs away to avoid spending her days out in the country alone, where her mother hopes the scandal will die down if Charlotte is out of sight.  Charlotte soon encounters an older, flamboyant lady who she feels an almost instant connection.  Of course this is Mrs. John Watson, a former actress and the widow of an army officer who perished in Afghanistan years earlier.

Soon the bodies start lining up including the mother of Charlotte’s lover.  The reclusive detective Sherlock Holmes is on the case but how effective will he be since he has taken to his bed with a serious illness and Inspector Treadles of Scotland Yard must consult with Holmes through his “sister” Charlotte.  Then there is Lord Ingram Ashburton who is in love with Charlotte but can’t act on his love for her because he is married, even if there is no love in the marriage.  He is an honorable man and will not act on his love.

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, or even just a murder mystery fan, then you will want to pick up A Study in Scarlet Women.  This will be a great series to enjoy for years to come.

I was able to read an advanced copy through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…

 With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name.  She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

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Be careful what you wish for

22813276I have mixed feelings about How to Date Dead Guys by Ann M. Noser.  One, it was very well written and an interesting concept.  Two, I wanted to reach in and throttle Emma.  Emma is a very naive college student who can barely talk to a guy without showing how socially inept she is.  Her extrovert roommate and sister take Emma to a campus party where they leave Emma leaning on the wall by the beer keg while the party raved on around her.  In walks Mike and he is a vision of beauty to Emma, he is all she can see.  He is a guy that she could fall in love with.

When Mike’s 21st birthday rolls around, his friends and brother get him super drunk.  He leaves with Emma and wants to swim across the river where others have drowned.  Emma wants to do something crazy, so she decides to swim across the river with him.  But Emma makes it to the other side and Mike is nowhere to be found, which Emma thinks is all her fault.  Personally I thought it was partially her fault because if Mike was as drunk as he was, then I think she could have distracted him away from the river.

I was mad at Mike’s brother Kevin for getting him super drunk.  It drives me crazy when I hear about a 21-year-old over drinking on their birthday and either getting injured or die.  They have a lifetime to drink, their friends should know better than to keep pushing the drinks on them.

Emma finds a book of spells under her roommate’s bed and decides to bring Mike back.  Like that is a good idea.  Of course, she doesn’t get what she wants and soon dead guys are showing up all around her.  There is a reason they are showing up and Emma has to figure out how to help them while avoiding her roommate, who is dating Mike’s brother Kevin.

This is part paranormal romance, part mystery and very entertaining as the nightmare of one night pushes a young woman beyond her comfort zone and into the hearts and souls of strangers.  There are funny moments, sad moments and moments that might make you cry.  A very enjoyable story that makes you ask the question – would you bring someone back from the dead?

Book Description:
College sophomore Emma Roberts remembers her mother’s sage advice: “don’t sleep around, don’t burp in public, and don’t tell anyone you see ghosts”. But when charming Mike Carlson drowns in the campus river under her watch, Emma’s sheltered life shatters.

Blamed for Mike’s death and haunted by nightmares, Emma turns to witchcraft and a mysterious Book of Shadows to bring him back. Under a Blood Moon, she lights candles, draws a pentacle on the campus bridge, and casts a spell. The invoked river rages up against her, but she escapes its fury. As she stumbles back to the dorm, a stranger drags himself from the water and follows her home. And he isn’t the only one.

Instead of raising Mike, Emma assists the others she stole back from the dead—a pre-med student who jumped off the bridge, a desperate victim determined to solve his own murder, and a frat boy Emma can’t stand… at first.

More comfortable with the dead than the living, Emma delves deeper into the seductive Book of Shadows. Her powers grow, but witchcraft may not be enough to protect her against the vengeful river and the killers that feed it their victims.

Inspired by the controversial Smiley Face Murders, HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS will ignite the secret powers hidden deep within each of us.

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