Love Virtually – Daniel Glattauer

Love VirtuallyLove Virtually by Daniel Glattauer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the world of social networking, a book such as this one is perfect, because it is reality. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard of people meeting up with an old flame via Facebook, or Myspace or a chatroom or whatever. Just today, in fact, I heard a story about a marriage that was broken due to a “friend” on Facebook. Let’s face it, the trap of finding intimacy within the virtual walls of the computer, is real.

So the book – yes, that is my focus, the book. Love Virtually was great! It was funny, and crazy and to be quite honest, it sucks you in within the first 5 e-mails. Yes, the book is filled cover to cover with nothing but e-mails. In the past I have read books like this; completely filled with e-mails and other impersonal type contact, thinking “wow, what a cleaver idea,” only to be left with a bit of an emptiness, because of the lack of character, the lack of description, the lack of a true story. I honestly believe that Daniel Glattauer has wiped these other books completely off the table and replaced them with what they should have been. The way that Daniel Glattauer makes up for the “lack” that I have just mentioned – he addresses it head on. The fact that these characters are faceless, two-dimensional beings is a driving point in the book. It is mentioned countless times, maybe in even every single chapter. The fact that these characters (Emmi and Leo, by the way) are abstract is something even they are aware of.

You only get to know the characters because they choose to let you in. Even then, the revelations seem so minor in comparison to their intoxication with each other, even when they are bickering and even fighting back and forth, it all seems like a sort of foreplay.

There were times that I was extremely frustrated with Emmi. I mean, she is so sure of her perfect life, it’s as if she wanted to portray (at times) that she was not nearly as invested in the relationship as Leo, because she pretty much already HAS a perfect life. Then she would throw temper tantrums, get jealous, etc., only to come crawling back apologizing or whining because he wasn’t talking to her. So yeah, she could be a little annoying. But Leo wasn’t without his baggage. A little wine, and he was off comparing Emmi with Marlene, the one thing Emmi would truly have to complain about, yet never did.

Anyhow, this completely obsessive relationship based solely on e-mail contact spirals and dips and dives and intensifies all the way to the very end…It’s not edge of your seat drama, but you won’t be able to put the book down until you get to the last page regardless.
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Call Me Irresistible – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Call Me IrresistibleCall Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary:

Meg Koranda flies to Wynette, TX to be the Maid of Honor in her best friend, Lucy’s, wedding only to find out that Lucy is having doubts about the whole thing. After helping her realize that Lucy was getting ready to make a grand mistake which resulting in her leaving her groom, Ted waiting at the alter, Meg becomes the most hated person in town. Unfortunately, being bankrupt and cut off by her family, Meg is stuck. She is left to stick it out and make what she can of herself in Wynette until she can get her feet back under her and a little money in her pocket. That is until she gets all tangled up with the town’s need to build a new, environmentally sound golf course, a project that Wynette’s towns people are counting on to bring the prosperity to their dying city. This also results in Meg getting all tangled up with the towns perfect citizen and mayor, AND her best friends dumped fiancé, Ted Beaudine.

Review:

As always, Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes the perfectly sizzling romance, which includes the rich, famous and perfect. Honestly, every single time I pick up one of her novels I always think, “I don’t care about the rich and famous, and I don’t really want to be reading a romance novel about them,” and every single time she sucks me in. I think it’s the fact that these perfect people end up not being so perfect, they have flaws, defaults, make mistakes and act stupid. Never mind the fact that Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a tendency to cause you to laugh out loud at least once in every book.

I always fall in love with the characters, and really enjoy seeing them return in other novels as well, but this time I was a little bit annoyed with Meg. She was perfectly sassy and had lots of attitude and determination, but I absolutely hated how she always made herself the scapegoat, throwing herself under the bus every chance she got. I was thinking that this was a character flaw that she would eventually stand up against in the end, but no – even in one of the final scenes she stands up and declares how everything was her fault and making up excuses. Ted was also a little but oblivious to everything Meg was going through. He acted like he knew, especially when he visited Meg’s parents, but Meg was harassed non-stop throughout the entire book. She was getting it from the left and right, and even though she did act as a buffer, protecting Ted from what was going on, all he would have had to do was open his eyes and pay attention.

I absolutely looooved the very last scene of the book – of which I’m not telling you about – it made the perfect ending!

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Yours for the Taking – Robin Kaye

Yours for the Taking by Robin Kaye
Genre: Adult Romance
Form: Book (ARC)

Summary:
Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks wasn’t easy for Gina and her family.  Her mother did everything she possibly could to make ends meet while her father was off in some drug haze, but it was all for naught as they still ended up losing everything in the end.  Gina is bound and determined not to let that happen to her or her sister.  It is this driving force that causes her to accept an offer of a convenience marriage to Ben.  A marriage where they both win in the end; he does not lose an inheritance that his grandfather has continually dangled over his head, and she gets enough money to make sure she and her sister can live comfortably and debt free in houses of their own.  This is not a decision that she makes lightly, but the deal is too good to pass up, especially since there is no danger of it turning in to something more.  Ben is gay after all….isn’t he?
 
Review:
Yours for the Taking is a fun, entertaining, witty ride of a book.  As it is with most books for me, characters are everything, and Robin Kaye has created two entertaining characters, to say the least.  I love Ben, but most of all I love his transformation from a metrosexual art dealer into a rough outdoorsy cowboy.  He is super sexy in both roles, and is obviously hard to resist.  Gina is a very cute little Latina that you can almost see running from one side of the room to the other, tossing her hands up in the air on a tirade.  Their chemistry throughout the book is hot!
 
The story line is perfect.  The constant bickering and making up is entertaining while the two fight for control of their lives and what they have known they have always wanted.  Two wildly different people have collided and eventually create the perfect couple.

All That is True – Jackie Lee Miles

All That's TrueAll That’s True by Jackie Lee Miles
Form:  Book (ARC)
Genre: Adult or Young Adult Ficiton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary
Andi is a privileged teenager.  He lives in a rich neighborhood, can pretty much stay on top of the fashion world and any activity is within her reach.  However, life isn’t dealing her an easy hand. Her brother, Alex, recently died.  Her and her best friend, Bridget, have discovered that her dad and Bridget’s step-mother are having an affair.  Her mother is an alcoholic and constantly dancing on the edge.  Couple all of that with the fact that she’s a typical young teenager who is just trying to discover who she is and how her life is going to turn out – it seems as though her life is a complete mess.

Through many friends and relatives and most of all herself, Andi discovers everything she needs to move forward and not only live life, but how to do it and be happy as well.

Review
All That’s True captivates you from the first page!  The book reads almost as a journal as Andi takes you on a journey of a year of her life, probably the hardest time she has ever had to go through.  She narrates on everything from her troubles with her father and his affair, her mother’s alcohol problems, all the way to her latest boy craze, or future husband.  Andi is just a typical thirteen year old girl, and all she really wants is live a normal life.

There were many times throughout the book I felt really bad for Andi.  She tried so hard to do the right thing, and do whatever she could to help out in every situation.  Because there was so much going on in her home life, it seemed like Andi was left to figure things out on her own a lot of the time.  Andi is genuinely a good person through and through.  She wants to do what she can to make things the easiest on everyone, which sometimes makes things the hardest for her.  Through out this year she learns that life does not always give you what you want or expect, but given the choices you make and how you choose to react to it, you can make the best of all situations.

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Juliet – Anne Fortier

JulietJuliet by Anne Fortier

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
   
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
   
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?

Summary Source:  Barnes and Nobel website

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A retelling of the story of Romeo and Juliet so good, it’s hard to pick the book down!

I loved this book. The retelling of Romeo and Juliet was very intriguing and interesting. I loved the instant passion between the old lovers right from the beginning. In fact, I think I actually liked this version of Romeo and Juliet even better than Shakespeare’s. I also enjoyed how the story continued to flashback/flash forward in alternating chapters. It was fun to “learn” the details of Romeo and Juliet’s love right along with Julie, but also see what trouble she was getting herself into as well.

The mystery of Julie’s ancestors unravels slowly but surely, this was very well written. It seems as though danger lurks around every corner of this story, and you can’t seem to figure out who you can or cannot trust. So there is the feeling of constantly being on the edge when it comes to what’s going to happen next. There were moments in the story when I felt like I was listening to an excerpt out of Indiana Jones.

The characters in Juliet were very well developed. I truly felt like we were looking at this book straight from Julie’s eyes. If she missed a small detail, it’s likely you did to, even if it was right there staring you in the face. The only thing I was a little disappointed in was the development of Julie and “Romeo’s” relationship. There seemed to be almost no chemistry between the two at all, in my opinion. Somehow, since the sparks didn’t start right at the start, the characters just did not click the way I would have liked them to. This made the end of the story sort of fall flat. Perhaps Anne Fortier was a little too concerned with keeping the romantic scenes to a minimum, which left wanting more, for example, when they actually finally kissed there were no real descriptors or anything to help you to feel what Julie was feeling. To me the passage was a fancy way of saying “and we made out.” The lack of chemistry could also have been because she was trying to keep Romeo’s identity a mystery, therefore the characters had to remain on opposite ends of the book for a long time, too long for the reader to really get into the relationship. I guess I just wanted more here.

Despite my one misgiving over the book, I really did love it. I listened to it via audio (which explains my lack of naming characters – since I probably couldn’t spell half of them), and the narrator was wonderful! I love the story of Romeo and Juliet, tragedy and all, and this book really just made it all the more beautiful. Juliet breathed even more life into an already excellent story.

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The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook – Matt Dunn

Ex-Boyfriend's HandbookEx-Boyfriend’s Handbook by Matt Dunn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Edwards girlfriend of ten years, Jane, has left him. There was no discussion, no fight, no warning; she just packed her stuff and left. She leaves a note explaining that Edward has let himself go in every way imaginable, and she can’t live with it. He has 3 months to get his life in order for when she gets back, or else.

Because it’s not done very often, I am a fan of books that are told from the male perspective and are also a part of a genre that I enjoy. The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook one ups that because it is, in fact, written by a male, which gives it a very different feel than normal. I would not call a romance novel by any stretch of the imagination – because it really does lack all the heat and passion that one would find in a romance novel, but it does include all attributes of boy-meets-girl, which I truly enjoy.

I really liked Edward, even in his fat, “I don’t care” state of mine, he seemed like a very stand-up kind of guy. This, I guess, really is the point. The book really focused on how while being a good, faithful person really just isn’t enough for women, especially when it seems like the guy has sort of checked out of life and is just living day-by-day as if there is another to come. Edward’s growth through the book is wonderfully mapped out. I enjoyed joining him on his relationship epiphanies, when he has pealed back another layer of his life, and has taken the next step on figuring out where he has gone wrong.

Edward’s best friend, Dan, is another story. As expected I’m sure, I do not like him. What an all around jerk! I think some of my favorite parts of the book are when Edward would say something to his lady admirers about him that was completely appalling and utterly untrue. I think I did most of my chuckling at these parts.

I honestly believe that this book would make a great movie. I could see it easily being converted into a romantic comedy quite successfully.

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Ape House – Sara Gruen

Ape HouseApe House by Sara Gruen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ape House was not exactly what I expected. I was expecting was a book about monkeys who are forced to take part in this reality TV show….and it is, to some degree. The book is actually about Isabel Duncan, the scientist who works with the bonobo monkeys, and has essentially made them her family, and John Thigpen, a journalist who was hoping to land an award winning story once he visits and discovers how remarkable the monkeys really are. It’s a story about how in one giant explosion, both if their lives fall apart, and then how they pick up the pieces again. The monkeys are at the heart of the book, but really are sort of a bi-product.

This is not to say I didn’t like the book. The story itself catches you early on. At the first interaction of with the bonobos you can’t help but want to move forward in the story and find out what happens. It started to slow down a bit for me right after the explosion, there seemed to be a lot of hem-hawing or fluff there…or so I thought. It is at this point that I realized the book was a little less about the monkeys and a little more about humans. It is around this time that I begin to have a vast dislike for Amanda, John’s wife. I can understand the depression and the desire to go off and do something, but she seemed to go through extremes and then went on a spending beige that – would never have flown in a normal household. Honestly the things that happen between John and Amanda in this book, I am not sure many marriages would survive. I DID like John a lot, and I really loved how much he loved Amanda, and continued to love her throughout, despite some of the crazy things going on. Near the end, John has a few of his own crazy moments – so I guess they really are perfect for each other.

I loved Isabel, her love and passion for the bonobos was evident, and I loved her drive. She did become a little paranoid of everyone, but with good reason. I mean, she was in a major explosion. I am so thankful she saw through her loser of a fiancé! It was really easy to see he was no good from the onset, it just took her a little bit longer to catch up with the rest of us. I am pretty sure that guy did not have an honorable bone in his body.

As far as the reality show goes…I thought it was as sad as it was made out to be. It really made me feel sorry for the bonobos for being so exploited. Yet, I really wouldn’t have put it past anyone to actually do something like that.

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The Red Scarf – Kate Furnivall

The Red ScarfThe Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When thinking about trying to summarize The Red Scarf for a review, I found it very difficult. Kate Furnivall has written such a completely intertwined story that pretty much every moment from beginning to end is significant. As I write reviews, in most cases I like to be sensitive and not give away pertinent information to anyone who may be reading the review. I might give away names of characters or a side plot or something, but not something that will ruin the entire book for the reader. Below is the summary from Barnesandnoble.com, and to me, it really does not do the book justice…but it also does not give anything away you don’t already learn within the first few chapters of the book:

Davinsky Labor Camp, Siberia, 1933: Only two things in this wretched place keep Sofia from giving up hope: the prospect of freedom, and the stories told by her friend and fellow prisoner Anna, of a charmed childhood in Petrograd, and her fervent girlhood love for a passionate revolutionary named Vasily.

After a perilous escape, Sofia endures months of desolation and hardship. But, clinging to a promise she made to Anna, she subsists on the belief that someday she will track down Vasily. In a remote village, she’s nursed back to health by a Gypsy family, and there she finds more than refuge—she also finds Mikhail Pashin, who, her heart tells her, is Vasily in disguise. He’s everything she has ever wanted—but he belongs to Anna.

After coming this far, Sofia is tantalizingly close to freedom, family—even a future. All that stands in her way is the secret past that could endanger everything she has come to hold dear…

In my opinion, Kate Furnivall is a master storyteller. Under any normal circumstances, I wouldn’t pick up the books she writes based on the summaries given, because I can tell, by the summary, that there is a lot of real life anguish that is going to happen which is what I usually avoid when picking out a book. Life is usually real enough for me. Plus, her books tend to be rather political in nature…which is a bit of a turn off for me as well. I don’t even know what made me pick up The Russian Concubine, my introduction to Kate’s work. I’m pretty sure it was an impulse buy at Half Price Books, but I am glad I gave her a chance. As I said, the books are political and they are usually about struggle, but the characters are so real and unbelievable strong, they suck you into their lives and do not let go. There is always an air of hope that is mixing and spinning in all the distress and injustice.

The Red Scarf was, to me, ultimately about friendship and love. Sophia struggles with her decisions to do what is right for herself or, in a sense, laying down her life for her friend. It is about survival. Anna spends most of her time just focusing on surviving, and never giving up hope. Sophia, too, must survive and find a way to save her best friend. I don’t know many people or friendships that are as tight as this friendship, but I love it because we should love each other in such a way that we would walk to the ends of the earth for them. Could you imagine the world we would live in if we did?

I really enjoyed the way this book was set up. Usually I’m not big on bouncing forward and backward in time, but the flashbacks in this book were appropriately placed and absolutely necessary. The book would have been too long and too slow moving had it been told from the beginning to end in a straight line. This was my biggest surprise of all though, the fact that the book never seemed to really slow down. Even if there were moments of “down time” they were fast moving and still pertinent to the story. There was absolutely no extra fluff anywhere in the story that I could tell. The story and it’s message are just beautiful, even in all of its harsh realities.

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Falling Home – Karen White

Falling HomeFalling Home by Karen White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lately I have been very choosey about ARCs that I agree to read. I find that it is a very narrow road for me, whether I will like a book or not, and I am not the kind of person who enjoys simply saying “I do not like this book,” because someone took the time and energy to create the characters and the story and write it. Inevitably there are people who will like it, it’s just in that instant, it wasn’t me. This is a horrible way to preface this entry, because this is not what happened with this book. I am so very thankful I decided to say yes to reading this book. Technically, Falling Home isn’t exactly a new book. It was first published in 2002, but has been reworked and is being republished November 2, 2010.

Falling Home was one of those books I hated to put down. Fortunately [and unfortunately] I got a stomach bug, stayed home from work and had an entire day to lay around reading it, so it wasn’t really a problem.

Cassie is returning home to her small hometown in Georgia after 15 years away, returning to a life she has left behind. A life where her younger sister went off and eloped with her first love, and where the small town hustle and bustle has everyone knowing your business. She is reluctant to go back, but her father has suffered a heart attack and is not expected to make it, his dying wish is to have both of his daughters at home with him. According to Cassie, the only thing waiting for her at Walton is her past. What she does not expect to find is a community, a family, a life that she never knew she was missing, and who welcome her home with open arms.

I absolutely fell in love with this book! The characters are beautiful and fun. I did feel like I was reading the book version of Sweet Home Alabama at first because of the ‘big-time girl going back to small-town life’ story line, but there is so much more to this story about love and life, and learning from your past mistakes, and moving forward from past hurts. The book had me laughing, and crying and wanting to grab my kids and keep them as close to me as possible.

I loved how Karen White was able to create a picture that I could visualize and made me want it for myself. I could just see the old houses, the porch swings, and hear old porch doors slamming against the frame. I wanted to run in a field and catch lightening bugs, and be wrapped up in this community, even with it’s downfalls. There were a few times I was actually wishing I was listening to an audio book, just so I could hear Sam’s southern accent, which I imagined to be super sexy when he wanted it to be, and ultra-hick when he wanted it to as well. I would have loved to have been able to hear some of Cassie and Sam’s verbal battles.

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Maybe This Time – Jennifer Crusie

Maybe This TimeMaybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book about Andie, a lady in her thirties who is just getting ready to move on with her life, and North – an ultra-busy, work-minded man. Andie and North are madly in love with each other (which is evident even from the very beginning) even though they’ve married, divorced, and supposedly moved on with their life. Andie meets with North for the first time in ten years with a gesture of closure that turns out to be a moment of new beginnings. This meeting spirals Andie’s life into a new direction when he asks her to go and help to get the lives of his “wards” (Alice and Carter) back to some kind of normal. What Andie finds in Southern Ohio is much more than just two grief stricken, problem children.

I have enjoyed Jennifer Crusie’s fun characters and witty dialogue in the past, and I was not disappointed with Maybe This Time either. I was laughing out loud quite a bit, between some of Alice’s kid moments, and Andie’s sarcasm – it’s hard not to. This was a fun book with moments of seriousness, though not many. The story line is great and will keep you sucked in. A time or two I thought there were some inconsistencies with the story, but the relationship between North and Andie, the funny interludes, and well…just the whole thing held my attention the entire time.

Highly suggested!

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