Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Surviving Through Creating

"'How does He tell the story?'...
'He tells it through the art of creation. His creation. He tells it through each one of us who survives."
--Kristy Cambron, The Butterfly and the Violin

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 329
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014
Source: Borrowed from Library
Previous Books in Series: First book in series
Goodreads Description

A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz--and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl--a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover--the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul--who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.
The Past

This is a story alternating between present day and 1940s Austria. Sera is in present day and has been trying to track down a portrait of Adele that she saw years ago as a child. But I'll get to her...Rewind and we find ourselves in late 1930s to early 1940s Austria; Hitler has invaded Poland a few short years ago and we come upon Adele. Adele is the daughter of a high ranking Third Reich officer as well as a famous violinist. She is also smuggling Jews out of Nazi-occupied Austria. Yes, she really is that badass. I really liked this book overall but I found myself gravitating towards Adele's chapters so much more because of the story and the emotions. Not only do we get treated to the depravity that is Auschwitz-Birkenau but the women she surrounds herself with are just...they make me speechless. They are so inspiring and the leader of these women is just...amazing. She makes it her duty to help Adele and help her see the beauty around her and in a concentration camp that is a task worthy of God Himself. The way she talks to her and the things she does for her just break my heart. It is so emotional and completely inspiring and uplifting in a world that is full of ugly

The Story

The romance of Adele and her cellist is heart-wrenching. Like, I was crying at page 77 it was SO intense! Oh my gosh, putting myself in her shoes it just made my chest hurt. I was wishing and hoping and praying against all odds that SOMEHOW these two would be okay and be together...1940's concentration camp...not the most hopeful place to root for love. However, their story is what kept me reading. They are the story I was clinging to and connecting to. Their story and how things play out is just perfection.

The Faith

While I found the present day story lacking, my favorite part of this section of the story was Sera's discussion of her faith. I found this something I could really connect with and I loved her inner monologue of trying to find God and looking to Him for guidance. Her heart has been shattered and she is trying and praying to find God in her life again. I love love LOVED this. Her prayers and inner thoughts are what kept me going with this part of the story.

The Present

Like I said, I liked Sera's faith and her discussions with God kept me connected but other than that I really didn't like this part of the story. It centers around Sera's journey to find a painting of Adele that she saw as a little girl. She discovers that a family's inheritance and fortune is to be given to the owner of this painting so there's this legal matter involved. Sera and the benefactor of the inheritance hit it off (of course) but none of the conflict made sense to me. I didn't really see the problem and the issue at hand. It just...really didn't make sense to me. I'm happy how things turned out for Sera but the road to get there I just didn't like. It seemed unnecessary and contrived.

Reserved Seating
If you like historical fiction and your Christian Fiction light, then this is a definite book for you. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Need To Start Hanging Out In Tattoo Parlors Round 2

Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Jay Crownover Books
Pages: 327
Publication Date: December 30th, 2012
Source: Bought
Previous Posts: Rule Review
Goodreads Description

Opposites in every way . . . except the one that matters

Shaw Landon loved Rule Archer from the moment she laid eyes on him. Rule is everything a straight--A pre-med student like Shaw shouldn’t want--and the only person she’s never tried to please. She isn’t afraid of his scary piercings and tattoos or his wild attitude. Though she knows that Rule is wrong for her, her heart just won’t listen.

To a rebel like Rule Archer, Shaw Landon is a stuck-up, perfect princess-and his dead twin brother’s girl. She lives by other people’s rules; he makes his own. He doesn’t have time for a good girl like Shaw-even if she’s the only one who can see the person he truly is.

But a short skirt, too many birthday cocktails, and spilled secrets lead to a night neither can forget. Now, Shaw and Rule have to figure out how a girl like her and a guy like him are supposed to be together without destroying their love . . . or each other.

WHEN I First Read
January 2014

WHAT I Remember
A complex and kickass heroine. A sexy, (SEXY), tattoed, and pierced (PIERCED) hero. A hate to love relationship. A book I could not put down even with the African Sahara in front of me.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
I love The Marked Men series…LOVE. I wanted to re-read Rule immediately upon finishing and had to talk myself out of re-reading it almost weekly…no idea why I didn’t submit to my urges. This is one of those series that I just love spending time with the characters and each subsequent book makes me fall more in love with them. I wanted to go back and re-experience Rule and Shaw and their love story. Le sigh.

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I loved it just as much. Rule’s struggle with his family hurt my heart even more this time around and Shaw remains one of my favorite leading ladies. The drama they deal with is just this side of dangerous and I loved it. My favorite scene is in the beginning when he sees her working at the bar and it’s like a light goes off that hey, Shaw is a girl. I loved reading about their relationship growing and blooming into something beautiful. I just love love loved it!

WOULD You Re-Read Again?
YES! I love the Marked Men and Rule is second to no one except Nash…and that’s just by a thin line of ink.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Love Thy Neighbor

"Moses had been weird. 
And weird was easily suspect. 
Weird was frightening and unforgivable. 
But I found I missed that too—he was weird and wonderful and different from anyone I knew. 
From anyone I would ever know."
--Amy Harmon, The Law of Moses

Genre: NA Contemporary, Paranormal
Publisher: Amy Harmon
Pages: 298
Publication Date: November 27th, 2014
Source: Bought
Previous Books in Series: Standalone
Previous Books by this Author: Making Faces & Infinity + One
Goodreads Description

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.

It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.

And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all...a love story.

This is a difficult review to write because the story is so unique. What I thought was a contemporary romance quickly evolved into a paranormal story. This is not a bad thing, just not what I was expecting. While I wasn’t sure what to think of this twist of plot plan at first quickly became clear just how much more beautiful it made this story. Without giving plot points away, the overall arc of this story is difficult to read at points but absolutely amazing in its overall execution. The emotions of these characters, Moses and Georgia, are deeply rooted into their very being and leak off of the page, even if it took me just a little while to get there. See farther below.

This is the story of Moses, a teenager who was abandoned by his mother as a newborn, and has had quite the rough and inconsistent upbringing before finally settling with his great grandmother. Georgia has lived and worked on her family’s equine therapy farm for her whole life. She has felt a pull towards Moses since she met him as a child and as a teenager this attractions has not diminished. Moses and Georgia start a fragile friendship to say the least. Moses is like a frightened animal and Georgia must always proceed with caution. Moses refuses all attempts at friendship and love and Georgia just does not give up. I have to hand it to this little lady because damn, is she tenacious. I loved her fire and her non-conformist attitude to not care what other people think. Same with Moses. Their relationship is not easy and it is never confirmed…and then all hell breaks loose.

The conflict and journey that Moses and Georgia go through, both separately and together, is agonizingly beautiful. I can’t really say more as to not give away major parts of the plot but just know that the emotions of this story run so deep. These characters feel so completely, even when they try to deny it *coughMosescough*. I felt with these characters, cried with these characters, my heart bled for these characters. It took me a while to connect with them but once I got there, I was there with my whole heart.

As I said before, the plot arc of this story is beautiful and poignant and had me crying in public because I just could not handle the feels! There are parts in this book especially towards the end that had tears just leaking down my face. It is so…heartfelt and raw and agonizing! If I had to use one word for my emotional turmoil it has to be agonizing. The trauma these characters face throughout their story is heart-wrenching and terrible. They fight tooth and nail to be okay and whether or not they get there…well, you’ll just have to read to find out.

But seriously, once it’s all said and done the way this story unfolds and the reasons behind everything they go through is so perfect and fits together so seamlessly that you just breath this sigh of relief like, OH this is why this happened. It’s just beautiful! There is no other way to describe everything that happens in this book. The overall progression of the story is intricate and complex and everything fits together at the end in just an amazing way.

While my overall experience with The Law of Moses was beautiful, I did struggle in the beginning to fully appreciate Georgia and Moses’ feelings for one another. I felt like we didn’t get to see enough of their interactions to merit their emotions, declarations of love, and physical actions towards one another. Part II of the story jived with me way more than Part I. We get a few more flashbacks in Part II to everyday interactions the two of them shared and I would have loved to see more of this in the beginning so I could really feel with them in order to form a deeper emotional connection to them earlier on. I did feel this connection and the ending portion of this book basically ripped my heart out but in a perfect world I would have wanted to feel this sooner.

Reserved Seating
If you like paranormal elements, deeply emotional storylines, and beautiful writing…this one is for you.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February Challenge Check-Up

Y'all I was like a BOSS on my re-reads this month!! I read SO many amazing books that I loved even more the second time around AND I found myself loving a few books I felt just okay about before! Best thing ever!! How did you guys do this month!?

February Re-Reads--8 Books

Re-Read Posts
*All others coming soon :)

Don't forget to add your link and tell us what books you re-read this month!!

Fantasy lacked this month for me for some reason! Hoping to get back into it next month!! I will say though that re-reading Kiss of Deception and Heart of Betrayal were EPIC fantasy choices!

January Fantasy Books--2 Books

Loooooove my real books y'all!!!!!!

January 'Real' Books--12 Books

Saturday, February 28, 2015

You're My One and Only

Graphic design by Book Rock Betty
Yay!!!! Time to lay down the gauntlet!! WHO is YOUR number one book boyfriend of all time?! Mine is no shocker and neither is my Hot Man of the Month but I talk about them anyways Enjoy!

Book Boyfriends Mentioned
Zsadist from Lover Awakened
Re-Read Review

Hot Men of the Month
Nash from Nash by Jay Crownover

Like I say in the video, even if you don't do a post TELL ME who is your number one of all time?! I'm dying to know!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Love To Make You Feel Alive Round 2

Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Signet, 434 pages
Publication Date: September 5th, 2006
Source: Bought
Previous Posts: Lover Awakened Review
Goodreads Description

A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful aristocrat from the evil Lessening Society.

Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for one another begins to overtake them both, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now, Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past, and find a future with her…

WHEN I First Read
May 2013
First Re-Read: October 2014

WHAT I Remember
Meeting my favorite book boyfriend of all time who is still to this day undisputed number one in my heart. I doubt very highly anyone will take his place. Broken man. Beautiful woman. And a story that is all about healing power of love; selfless, unconditional love.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
Fact of the matter: It was my birthday. I was alone in a new city and didn’t know anybody. And I wanted to spend the day with my favorite book boyfriend of all time. I can’t think of a better reason to re-read one of my favorite books.

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I love this fucking book. It’s not even funny how much I love this book. I know what happens. I know all my favorite lines and swoon-worthy moments. I just re-read it 4 months ago. And I still get butterflies and chest aches and heart pangs and stomach tingles at all the moments between Z and Bella. I STILL find myself stopping and re-reading the same line over and over again and pondering the moment before moving on. It never gets old to me. The love and vulnerable moments that Z has just carve directly into my heart and makes it bleed. You would think the feeling would diminish with knowledge of the events but it just doesn’t. It is still unbelievably poignant to me and I never wanted it to end. In fact, I wanted to re-read all over again immediately upon finishing…so there’s that.

WOULD You Re-Read Again?
Yes…yes yes yes yes YES! I will probably re-read this book AT LEAST once a year. It is one of those books that after I finished, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to bask in the glory that is this book and start all over again. I would honestly be happy re-reading this book 3 times in a row…and I’m not embarrassed

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Victims of Circumstance of Epic Proportions

"He who cannot endure the bad will not live to see the good."
--Jennifer Donnelly, The Winter Rose

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 707
Publication Date: January 1st, 2008
Source: Borrowed...then promptly bought
Previous Books in Series: The Tea Rose
Goodreads Description

It has been twelve years since a dark, murderous figure stalked the alleys and courts of Whitechapel. And yet, in the summer of 1900, East London is still poor, still brutal, still a shadow city to its western twin. Among the reformers is an idealistic young woman named India Selwyn-Jones, recently graduated from medical school. With the help of her influential fiance--Freddie Lytton, an up-and-coming Liberal MP--she works to shut down the area's opium dens that destroy both body and soul. Her selfless activities better her patients' lives and bring her immense gratification, but unfortunately, they also bring her into direct conflict with East London's ruling crime lord--Sid Malone.India is not good for business and at first, Malone wants her out. But against all odds, India and Sid fall in love. Different in nearly every way, they share one thing in common--they're both wounded souls. Their love is impossible and they know it, yet they cling to it desperately. Lytton, India's fiance, will stop at nothing to marry India and gain her family's fortune.

Fractious criminal underlings and rivals conspire against Sid. When Sid is finally betrayed by one of his own, he must flee London to save his life. Mistakenly thinking him dead, India, pregnant and desperate, marries Freddie to provide a father for hers and Sid's child. India and Sid must each make a terrible sacrifice--a sacrifice that will change them both forever. One that will lead them to other lives, and other places...and perhaps--one distant, bittersweet day--back to each other.
The Drama

Ok. Seriously, I wasn't sure how invested I would be in this story after how much I LOVED Joe and Fiona and their lives. I have NO IDEA why I was worried because Jennifer Donnelly brings the heat again. The difference? The slow burn and inevitable conflict that you know will drive our two characters apart...le sigh...but I'm getting ahead of myself. Ok, so now we have India, a newly graduated doctor, which is unheard of in this time. Sid, Fiona's brother, who continues to be the mob boss of the underworld. Circumstances bring these two together and from there they are drawn to each other both knowing that it is objectively the worse idea ever...but the heart wants what the heart wants. *sigh* These two fight their feelings for most of the book and when they FINALLY admit their feelings it is fire. These two are just amazing. I loved their love story. Their individual characterizations are complex and intricate and all their actions make complete sense with what we know about them.

The villain in this installment is just...awful. He is manipulative, conniving, selfish, uncaring. Just the worst. The lengths and lies he tells to get India to marry him are just atrocious. I wanted to physically maim this fictional character, I was seeing red! However, props to Donnelly for evoking this kind of emotion from me. It hurt A LOT but it was all worth it in the end because she breaks your heart and then puts it back together.

The Characters

Like I said above, India and Sid are fantastic characters. Imperfect, driven, real, selfless. They put others before themselves constantly and sometimes to their own detriment. India is a female physician in the ultimate man's world. Her work and what she does to the poor community of Whitechapel is AMAZING. I looooved reading about her work and her dream of opening up a clinic. It is inspiring, truly. And while there were several times I wanted to shake her in her shortsightedness, she comes around and starts to really open up her eyes to the plight of this community. Sid is equally complex in all of his dealings. He is stuck in this conundrum of wanting to be with India and be the man he thinks she wants and struggling against everything he represents. I loved seeing his growth throughout the book of accepting who he is and realizing he is enough. He is worth it. Beautiful. What I love about these books and Donnelly's characterizations is that her characters are real. They are imperfect humans who make mistakes and do the best they can. Their hearts are in the right place most of the time and that's all you can really ask of them.

The Landscape & The Politics 

Part of our story travels to Africa and holla! Loved being reminded of this beautiful land. It made me long for tent in the woods of Kenya all over again. Take me back! Anyways, the way this story progresses (no spoilers) eventually brings us here and I loved reading about the political agenda and issues of this time. The research put into these novels is detailed and intricate. How the author weaves the events of the novel to tie in perfectly with real events in history is so freaking perfect. This is not just a romance, it is historical fiction and so much more.

The Original Players

This book would not be complete without visits back to our original characters. Joe and Fiona are very present in this book and so much happens that affects them. Seamie is here too and we get a lot of lead up to where the next book will go and how his story will be affected. I loooooved reading about Joe and Fiona and Seamie and Sid. There is one scene in particular that broke and put together my heart in the best way. I loved seeing them together and it was like *sigh* finally. These characters are what makes these books and I miss them when I'm not reading.

The Feels

Just that I feel like my heart might explode when reading. So many feels! (not a bad thing, just my face when I get mad)

If you loved The Tea Rose, if you love historical fiction with amazing character development and a deeply emotional romance, this book is for you.