Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic
Publish Date: April 1, 2012
Hardcover, 342 pages
Fiction, Young Adult, Adventure
 ISBN: 978-0545284134
The Ascendance Trilogy #1







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My Review: 
What an amazing book.  I was so thrilled to get an arc from Scholastic and I remember requesting it, but I couldn't remember what it was about.  Then I started seeing the hype about it, and sometimes I dread books with a lot of hype because I don't always like them.  But I decided to go ahead and pick it up because I was interested and I'm glad I did because I could not put it down.

I was thinking this would be a fantasy book, and it kind of is, but really it isn't.  It's just set in a different setting than our world.  More like in the past, yet not.  It's a kingdom, there is fighting, there is discontent and they don't have all the technology and luxuries we do.  But so far in the stories there aren't dragons or ogres or anything truly magic like that.  There is however treachery and secret passageways and things aren't always as they seem.

Sage is really interesting, he's an orphan and he's his own person.  I like that about him.  No matter what his luck has been, he seems to stay true to himself even when he doesn't quite know who he is.  I also enjoy getting to know the other boys that Conner is grooming to be the prince, but Sage is obviously the standout with good reason.  Ms. Nielsen has great character development in the story where the ones who seem so great in the beginning begin to show their faults where as the ones that seem to have their faults begin to show their strengths.  It is so interesting.

The plot moves quickly.  With all of Conner's plotting, and Sage's counter-plotting and the training the plot moves along at a breakneck pace leading to the end of the novel where revelation after revelation takes place and the book ends and you are left saying "Please Ms. Nielsen, release the next book now!" and you mean it in a good way of course.  It's a non-stop thrill ride that will leave you ready for the next book, but satisfied with this book.

The False Prince lives up to it's hype for me and I will be passing it on to my son for his enjoyment.  With it's witty banter, fast pace and exciting revelations, it has me clamoring for the next book.  A job well done Ms. Nielsen!

My Rating: 5.0/5.0


About the Book:
THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats


About the Author (from Goodreads.com): 
Jennifer lives at the base of a very tall mountain in Northern Utah with her husband, three children, and a naughty puppy. She loves the smell of rainy days, hot chocolate, and old books, preferably all at once. She is a former speech teacher, theater director, and enjoyed a brief but disastrous career as a door-to-door pollster. In her spare time, Jennifer tends to panic, wondering what she has forgotten to do that has allowed her any spare time.

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FTC Information: I received this book from the publisher, Scholastic for an honest review.  I do make money from purchases made at The Book Depository, Alibris and B&N.com, but all money is used to fund giveaways and shipping for giveaways from the blog.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book Review and Chapter Excerpt: Exceeding Expectations by Lisa April Smith

Exceeding Expectations by Lisa April Smith
Publish Date: December 1, 2011
eBook, 300 pages
Fiction, Historical, Romance, Suspense, General Fiction
 BSIN: B006GDK3NO








My Review:
Exceeding Expectations is a book that will do just that.  The blurb sounds great but once you delve into the book you realize it is so much more packed into one book.  It's fascinating, has interesting and diverse characters and a plot line that will draw you in from the first page.

As you know from most of my reviews characters are first and foremost to me, and Exceeding Expectations has some wonderful characters.  While the story starts off with Jack Morgan and he appears through the book, the real main character is Charlie, Jack's youngest daughter.  I did not think I would like her at first.  When you first meet her she seems spoiled and pretty useless. However, her growth in this story is amazing and makes the story astounding.  Raul also offers great interest in the story.  I liked him, he is nice and a great romantic interest.  He seems to know just how to treat Charlie to get her to grow and change.  He's not wishy-washy, and he acts like a real man without talking down to her or treating her bad.  I really found him to be a very attractive man and perfect for Charlie in the book.

As for the plot, I love how Ms. Smith goes back and forth between the past and present in the story.  The present is relative in the story since the present is in the 1950s.  I love the setting and how the history factors into the story and the motivations of the characters.  The  plot moves along with the character growth, the suspense of Charlie trying to figure out what happened to motivate her father to commit suicide and the things she learns along the way.  The romance also pushes the story along.   It all adds up to make a book that really draws you in.

I felt as though I was right there with the characters in this book.  I was fully invested in Charlie's life and trying to find out what had happened to Jack.  The book has it all, suspense, romance, characters that truly care about others and characters that are truly evil.  Ms. Smith has crafted an amazing book and I can't wait until the sequel to this one.  Though I would like to note that this one ties up nicely with a few loose ends, but nothing that will leave you fussing at the author for leaving you hanging.  Just some things left open that will make for an interesting next book.  If you enjoy character growth novels set in the past with some suspense, then Exceeding Expectations is for you. But make sure you set aside some time, because you won't want to put this one down.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0


About the Book:
It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, appears to offer assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.

Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris readers meet young Alan Fitzpatrick – aka Jack Morgan – lack-luster artist, expert lover, irresistible rascal, and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more: disturbing truths about her father, hew own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.


About the Author (from Goodreads.com): 
Author Lisa April Smith lives with her husband, He-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous, in Eternal Playland, Florida, a delightful spot just off I-95. Ms. Smith describes Eternal Playland as: "a little piece of level heaven with occasional dampness, where the bugs are plentiful but respectful, and even the smallest strip mall contains at least one pizza place and a nail salon."

Before discovering a passion for writing, Ms. Smith sold plumbing and heating and antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM and returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art. Combine those widely diverse interests with a love of travel and a gift for writing page-turners and it’s easy to understand one reviewer’s unbridled praise for Exceeding Expectations, “She (Ms. Smith) has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail . . . that make it fun to read . . . ” But it takes much more than lush settings, an eye for detail and a love of history to write a page-turner. Read what another reviewer said about Exceeding Expectations: “Lisa April Smith . . . has woven an intriguingly rich tapestry of delightful well-developed characters into a perfectly balanced plot bursting with riveting mystery, crimes of the petty and the horrible sort, suspenseful twists, and romantic tension complete with love scenes that sizzle and pop. . . Clearly, this author has, and wishes to share with her readers, what the French call joie de vivre  – not simply the joy of life – but an all-encompassing appreciation for every facet of life.”

For more about Lisa, her books, and upcoming projects visit her website: http://www.LisaAprilSmith.com.
Lisa April Smith can be contacted at WriteLisa(at)LisaAprilSmith(dot)com  



Chapter One of  
Exceeding Expectations

January 2, 1962
       Glancing down at the Porsche’s speedometer Jack eased up on the gas. The nearest car was a mile back, but a cop could be hiding around the next bend. Being stopped by the police did not fit into Jack’s plan. He blamed the excitement. And guilt. Composing the single page to his daughters had been agony. There was no nice way to say he intended to kill himself. There were no comforting euphemisms for suicide. No words to excuse a mortal sin. And worst of all, no way to ease the pain his beloved girls would experience. But they, and everyone else, had to believe his intention was absolute and irreversible or the plan would fail. After several miserable gut-wrenching attempts, Jack wrote how much he loved them and said that this was something he had to do to protect them. 
       Knowing he could rely on Petal’s steely strength, Jack’s letter to his wife was more direct. He had explained that he was doing this to save her and his girls from scandal and disgrace. And as he was making this noble sacrifice, he knew she could be relied on to be good to his daughters. Petal might not be the maternal sort, but no one could accuse her of being tight-fisted. After reading the letter, his dying declaration, and waiting for two Chivas Regal’s straight to take effect, she would call a few select members of her powerful family, and her attorney. The results of those calls would be a discreet obituary in The New York Times, another in the local paper, hinting at a long-term debilitating disease, and no further investigation. A quiet memorial service would be held in Manhattan, Petal’s preferred place of residence, and she would be stunning in black for the next six to ten weeks, depending on her social calendar.
       The best thing about his plan was its simplicity. He would wait until two or three in the morning when the roads would be deserted, park the car on the middle of a bridge and disappear into the night. The bridge and town had been carefully selected – less than a five-mile walk to the railroad to prevent someone later recalling giving a lift to a stranger. And the town had to be small – an insignificant speck on the map. The smaller the town, Jack had reasoned, the less sophisticated the police force. Fielding, Florida, a town that lacked a drug store, supermarket, bank, and beauty parlor was ideal. Serious crime in Fielding probably consisted of intimidating the kids who tipped over outhouses on Halloween and jailing the same town drunk every Friday night. A costly abandoned car, coupled with the later discovered suicide notes, guaranteed Jack would be the topic of intense gossip for years, and the object of a bumbling investigation for no more than a week. The Porsche would get more attention than the lack of a corpse in an area where alligators outnumbered house pets, and a Ford with all four fenders intact was considered a damned fine automobile.
      Once he boarded a train he’d be fine. Men who rode the rails kept secrets. They were members of a tribe of vagabonds who preferred the town around the next curve – adventurous men ready to share a pot of tramp stew with another kindred spirit. And he was eager to join them. For the last two and half decades, his life had revolved around his girls. Jack had chosen that life and never once regretted it. A man couldn’t have finer daughters than Amelia and Charlotte. But they were grown now and maybe he had earned himself a change. He thought he might head for Texas, a leviathan-sized state where a man’s past was not apt to be questioned. And Texas was known for its horses. He loved horses — riding them, watching them trot, canter, toss their heads, nurse their foals. Gorgeous, glorious creatures they were.
        After several hours of driving through towns too small to boast a stop sign, Jack reached his destination. A weather-beaten building with a concave roof housed the grocery that doubled as Fielding’s post office. He gave his letters to a leathery man behind the counter and gazed at a jar of pickles with interest. He had been so focused on reaching his destination he had forgotten to eat lunch. “Is there a place around here to get something to eat?” “Just Wiley’s. Kind of a bar/restaurant down the street. Lost its sign in the last hurricane, but you’ll find it.”  
      An orange neon light in the window erratically flickered Budweiser. Jack glanced inside. It was more bar than restaurant, and grimy. Lacking an alternative, he entered. A wall of vacant knotty-pine booths faced a long bar backed by a mirror so streaked with fly droppings and smoke, that reflected images appeared cloudy. Five or six patrons turned to note his presence and then quickly resumed what they had been doing. Jack proceeded to the bar’s last booth and took a seat where he could oversee the comings and goings. The gym bag containing twenty-seven thousand dollars he stowed under the table. 
      A blowsy overweight waitress with an elaborate hairdo and a too-tight skirt approached. “Need a menu?” she asked as she wiped the table with a dingy towel.
      “What time do you stop serving food?”
      “The kitchen closes at eight.”
      Jack removed his buck suede jacket and placed it on the seat beside him. Assuming this place closed at midnight, he had five long hours to kill. “Bring me a draft beer and a hamburger. And if you could spare a newspaper, I’d appreciate it.”
      She soon returned with his beer and a ten-page weekly tabloid filled with notices of church events, and feed and grain ads. It was a typical weekday night in a small town bar: plenty of griping and boasting, lengthy recitations of what could have been and should have been, a few stale jokes, more men than women, a lot of talk, little action.
      “Would you turn up the radio?” a customer called from the far end of the bar. “That’s me and Wanda’s favorite song.”
      The bartender adjusted the dial. A twangy melancholy western tune drowned out the dull background noise.    
      “Turn it down! Turn that blasted thing down!” several customers shouted in unison. 
      The bartender found an agreeable level of volume and conversation resumed. It started to rain about nine — a light drizzle at first and then a steady hard-driving downpour. On her return trip from the ladies room, a woman in her late thirties, attractive in a tired way, paused to inquire if Jack would be in town for a while. He politely explained that he was just passing through and she rejoined her companions at the bar. 
      “That would be eighty cents, including the beer. Would you mind settling up now?” the waitress asked at nine-thirty. “I’m leaving in a few minutes. Buddy, that’s the bartender, he’ll take care of you. I’m going home to my kids.” Jack handed her a dollar and told her to keep the change. At ten o’clock Jack went to the men’s room and ducked into a stall. Removing the bills from the gym bag Jack distributed them around the money belt. Twenty-seven thousand dollars. Money painstakingly gleaned from his checking account in amounts that wouldn’t later arouse suspicion. It wouldn’t finance the way of life he had been enjoying very long, but it could buy ten new Chevrolets. More than enough for a fresh start.
      Customers, who had been checking their watches and shaking their heads for the last hour or more, decided the rain was not going to let up. One by one, they finished their beers, turned up their collars, cursed the weather and dashed into the street. 
      “Last call,” the owner announced to Jack and two stragglers. “Closing at eleven cause of this miserable weather.” 
      “No more for me. I gotta go to work tomorrow,” the older of the two remaining men announced. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and paid his tab. Jack closed his eyes and listened to rain pounding the wood roof. The last customer drank his beer and stared out the front window at the unrelenting downpour. He was about Jack’s size and weight, somewhere in his twenties – a kid. His light brown hair was home-cut and in need of a trim. His pants were deeply creased and stained with what Jack guessed to be grease. A handyman, or maybe a mechanic who worked nearby.
      Jack grabbed the empty gym bag, handed a dollar bill to the bartender, and headed for the door. The kid blocked the exit.
      “My truck’s about a mile or so down the road. It weren’t raining when I started out. I’d be grateful, mister, if you could give me a ride,” the kid said.
      Jack appraised the kid grinning back at him. Crooked teeth vied with one another for space, and his tired green eyes spoke of a resilience born of hardship. The faded denim shirt he wore over a grimy T-shirt would provide no protection from the cold and rain. Jack looked at the bartender owner hoping for some indication that this kid was a local, but the bartender was busy counting the day’s receipts. “You having any trouble with that truck?” Jack tapped his chest. “This old ticker of mine doesn’t work as good as it used to,” he lied. “If you need a hand with that truck, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to help.”
       “I got no trouble with the truck. Runs dandy,” he assured Jack. “I left it at a farmhouse to be unloaded. Sold them folks a cord of firewood. But they had to unload and stack it theirselves. That was the deal. They unload it and stack it theirselves whilst I go into town.”
      Jack weighed the risk. He had twenty-seven thousand dollars in the money belt, but this kid didn’t know that. All he knew was that it was pouring, it was cold and he needed a ride. Eleven o’clock was far too early for Jack to carry out his plan. All that awaited him was two or three hours of boredom in a parked car. “What’s your name, kid?” 
      “Folks mostly call me Iowa.”
      “My name’s Jack and the Porsche across the street is mine. Wait here. No sense both of us getting soaked.” By the time Jack reached the car and jumped in, his hair and clothes were drenched. Mostly Iowa had fared little better. “Which direction?” Jack asked his passenger. 
      “You’re headin’ the right way. Just follow the road a piece. I’ll tell you where to turn.”
      “Is it on the left or the right?”
      “Left.”
      “I expect you live around here.”
      “Just passin’ through.”
      They soon left the residential part of town. The driving rain and incessant flip-flop flip-flop of the windshield wipers blurred his vision. Jack tried the high beams and quickly switched back. Pointing to a dim light on what appeared to be a house he asked, “It that it?”
      “Nope. That ain’t it. It’s up yonder a bit.”
      “When I first saw you, Iowa, I said to myself, now there’s a fellow who knows his way around cars. You a mechanic?”
      “I fiddled with cars some. Nothing as swanky as this.”  
      For the next two or three miles there wasn’t a break in the road — not a path, planted field, farmhouse or shed, only endless sawgrass and pine trees. “That had to be some hike into town. Are you sure we didn’t pass it? You did say it was on the left?”
      “Yep. On the left.”
      While Jack had been struggling to locate the elusive house and truck, Mostly Iowa had been facing right. Damn! What an idiot he had been! A solitary man wearing expensive clothes and a flashy gold watch. A new Porsche – obviously his. A mysterious gym bag that had never left his side. A transient loner who needed a ride.  “We must have passed it. I’m going to turn around.” 
      “Just pull over here!” Mostly Iowa’s eyes were cold. His right hand expertly cradled a knife.
      Targeted like a deer by a hungry kid. Stalked! Jack’s foot remained on the accelerator. “You don’t want to do this, Iowa. How about I slow down to ten, fifteen miles an hour and you jump out? We part friends and forget this ever happened.”
      “You stop this here car or I’ll stick you like a pig. It wouldn’t bother me none to kill you.”
      Now Jack was a man who liked a good laugh as much as the next guy, but irony had its place. Dying the very night he scheduled his fake suicide was not his idea of a joke.  Iowa grabbed Jack’s right arm. “Stop this car or I’ll cut out your gizzard and leave it for the birds.” 
      “I’m not stopping the car as long as you got that knife,” Jack said in a calm friendly voice. He could feel the frightening tip of the steel blade through his suede jacket. “Toss it out the window and I’ll stop the car.”
      Iowa grabbed the steering wheel. The Porsche hydroplaned and fish-tailed, barely avoiding trees on both sides of the road.
      By intuitively releasing his grip, the finely engineered racing car realigned itself. Jack glanced at his passenger looking for some hint of humanity, still hoping to change the kid’s mind, yet very much aware of the danger. “You’re going to get us both killed. We’re doing twenty miles an hour. The ground is soft from the rain. Open the door and roll out.”
      “Not a chance in hell, you miserable fuck. You’re going to die.”
      The knife slashed the jacket and dug into the money belt. If it weren’t for the thick wad of bills, the blade would be boring into his rib cage. Jack deliberately swerved the car right and then left. Iowa grabbed the wheel. Using the butt of his right fist Jack smashed his attacker’s hand. Iowa howled with pain and dropped the knife. He alternated curses with punches aimed at Jack’s head.
      Jack fought to simultaneously keep the car on the road with his left hand and ward off his attacker with his right. A pothole caught Iowa off balance. He slid away. Jack used the opportunity to use the bent right arm that had been guarding his chest and lash out, landing an explosive blow with his clenched fist. He could feel the bridge of Iowa’s nose collapse, hear the bones crack.
      “Goddamn you! You jackass. You busted my nose!” Iowa fumbled beneath the seat.
      Seeing the dreaded knife reappear, Jack made the only decision left. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He braced himself and floored the Porsche, aiming the passenger side at a massive oak tree. Iowa reached for the wheel again, too late. The car hit the tree with a violent jolt, throwing both men forward. A branch smashed the windshield a microsecond before Jack’s head reached it. The glass shattered harmlessly, but his chest had struck the steering wheel with an impact that left him gasping for air. The motor groaned and sputtered as Jack waited with his eyes closed. His chest ached with every breath. Tentatively touching his forehead he discovered a swelling throbbing bump. Jack opened his eyes. Mostly Iowa had not fared as well. He lay slumped against the door. Blood from the broken nose bathed his face, neck, and shirt. Jack didn’t know if he was dead or unconscious, but he wouldn’t be a threat for a while.
      “Why didn’t you jump when you had the chance?” Jack asked the limp figure. “Soon as I find out what kind of shape I’m in, I’ll figure out what I’m going to do with you. If I can walk back to town, I’ll send someone out to help. And that’s better than you deserve, you dumb bastard, considering you were trying to kill me.”
      Limb by limb, joint by joint, Jack tested his extremities. His arms, hands, and fingers moved, painfully, but they didn’t appear to be broken. He flexed one leg and then the other. “My legs seem okay,” he informed his silent companion. His chest and shoulders ached. “Probably cracked a few ribs and there’s a buzzing in my ears. Going to be sore for a while, as well as black and blue, but I’m alive. What about it, Iowa? You going to make it?”
      Jack leaned across the inert body expecting to hear a heartbeat. Nothing. Silence. The kid was dead! Jesus Christ! He hadn’t intended to kill the kid. His goal had been to prevent his own imminent demise.
      “Now look what you did, Iowa. You tried to kill me and you ended up killing yourself. God damn dumb kid!” he said to keep his teeth from chattering. “God damn dumb kid!” His entire right side throbbed and he was trembling. “Got to get out of here.”
      He tried the door handle. It turned, but the bowed door would not budge. He threw all his weight against it and grimaced. It groaned in sympathy and swung open causing him to crash onto the muddy ground. The rain had subsided to a trickle. Jack wiped his hands on soggy moss and sat down to think beside the demolished car.
      There was nothing more that could be done for Iowa. His problems were over. Jack’s problems had tripled. In a day or two, Petal and the girls would read the letters he had mailed. A first-class plan wiped out because he wanted to help out a dumb kid. Okay, he told himself, if faking his suicide by leaving the Porsche on a bridge was no longer possible, he simply needed a new plan. A new plan. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Porsche would be traced to him. They would find a dead kid in his car. If he disappeared now he would be accused of murder. Unless . . . Unless  . . . Iowa was about his size. The police would assume the body belonged to Jack Morgan if – if it was unrecognizable. But how? The car and its contents would have to be burnt beyond recognition. He could do that. Provided he kept calm, and no one came along in the interim, it was a good alternative plan.   
      Jack removed the ruined suede jacket. It could go on the corpse. A scrap of burnt suede would add to the illusion, as would his wedding band. He had intended to sell it before he reached Texas, but it would be better used now. As he removed the ring he noticed his prized gold watch. They might look for it. It was too bad about the watch, but it too had to go. 
      The tight quarters inside the crumpled Porsche, coupled with Jack’s reluctance to touch the bloody corpse made the exchange time consuming, exhausting, and grisly. As a final touch, Jack traded shoes with the dead man before shoving him into position behind the wheel. 
      An hour had passed since the crash and no one had driven by. His luck was holding. Now he needed matches. Matches or a cigarette lighter. His pockets yielded neither. His plan would fail because he lacked a pack of matches that every bar and restaurant supplied free. Think, he told himself. There had to be a solution. The Porsche’s cigarette lighter. Would it still work? Leaning over Iowa’s body, Jack located it and pressed it. Thirty seconds later it popped out glowing red. God bless the Germans! Every twenty or thirty years, it took a war to remind them who was boss, but they sure knew how to build a car. Jack looked for something to start the fire. Downed branches were too wet. A dry rag. He kept a towel in the trunk.
      Jack walked to the rear of the car to unlock the trunk but it wouldn’t release. He kicked it with his heel. Another sharp kick. The trunk creaked open. A white, still-folded hand towel lay tucked in a corner. A few more minutes and it would be over.
      He stuffed as much of the towel as would fit into the gas tank, then replaced the ignition key. As he was about to press the cigarette lighter he remembered the knife. What if it were found with the remains? Palm beach socialite Jack Morgan didn’t carry a switchblade. He would have to find it. Ten minutes passed as he searched the car and the corpse. He was about to give up when he felt it lodged under the passenger seat. He folded it, tucked it into his belt, and inserted the dependable lighter. 
      Half a football field away Jack leaned against a tree and waited. Several times the flame appeared to die, only to flare up again. And then the rag ignited with an enormous pop – followed by ear-splitting thunder. Roaring flames, the height of a church steeple leapt from the car’s rear. Jack could no longer make out Iowa’s silhouette in the flames. Just a few more minutes, he told himself. The smoke and heat from the blaze reddened his face and seared his lungs. When it was time to leave Jack strode away in Iowa’s ill-fitting shoes, away from the wrecked Porsche, the town of Fielding, and his past. Then he heard it. A train whistle. The magical hollow sound of a train whistle. And it wasn’t far off. Damn, if he wasn’t a lucky so-and-so. One of God’s favorite children. Jesus tolerated the pious, sober, and abstinent. Yes, He tolerated the tiresome righteous and their smug unforgiving Christian smiles. And He had little pity for the tyrant, the merciless, and the cruel. But Jesus loved the ordinary sinner. Isn’t that what the bible taught? The Almighty loved sinners. Without sinners there would have been no reason for Jesus to come to earth and experience the joy and pain of mortals.   
      Intoxicating freedom mingled with the chilling air. Jack could forget the chafing money belt, cheap ill-fitting shoes, sore feet, and aching muscles. He had a new name and a thousand new possibilities. The next time he found himself with a drink in his hand he would remember Iowa and raise his glass to the tragic dumb kid. 
      “This one’s for you, Iowa, you miserable misguided creature,” he would say. “May the good Lord take mercy on your soul and your time in Purgatory be brief.”



FTC Information: I received this book from the author for an honest review.  I do make money from purchases made at The Book Depository, Alibris and B&N.com, but all money is used to fund giveaways and shipping for giveaways from the blog.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Author Interview: Lisa April Smith (Exceeding Expectations)


                         
***Stay tuned later today for my review of this wonderful book!***                                                                                                                                                       

                      About Lisa April Smith
Author Lisa April Smith lives with her husband, He-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous, in Eternal Playland, Florida, a delightful spot just off I-95. Ms. Smith describes Eternal Playland as: "a little piece of level heaven with occasional dampness, where the bugs are plentiful but respectful, and even the smallest strip mall contains at least one pizza place and a nail salon."

Before discovering a passion for writing, Ms. Smith sold plumbing and heating and antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM and returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art. Combine those widely diverse interests with a love of travel and a gift for writing page-turners and it’s easy to understand one reviewer’s unbridled praise for Exceeding Expectations, “She (Ms. Smith) has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail . . . that make it fun to read . . . ” But it takes much more than lush settings, an eye for detail and a love of history to write a page-turner. Read what another reviewer said about Exceeding Expectations: “Lisa April Smith . . . has woven an intriguingly rich tapestry of delightful well-developed characters into a perfectly balanced plot bursting with riveting mystery, crimes of the petty and the horrible sort, suspenseful twists, and romantic tension complete with love scenes that sizzle and pop. . . Clearly, this author has, and wishes to share with her readers, what the French call joie de vivre  – not simply the joy of life – but an all-encompassing appreciation for every facet of life.”

For more about Lisa, her books, and upcoming projects visit her website: http://www.LisaAprilSmith.com.
Lisa April Smith can be contacted at WriteLisa(at)LisaAprilSmith(dot)com  

Thank you for stopping by, Lisa. I’m looking forward to learning a little about you and your approach to writing.  
A:  Thank you for inviting me, Crystal.
                                                                
Q. I curious, Lisa, did you always want to be a writer?
A. Reading has always been an integral part of my life. My family all read voraciously. For most of my life prior to getting married, we didn’t own a television. We were the last American family to own one and when it broke my father refused to fix or replace it. He insisted that television was turning our brains to mush because no one was reading. I always knew that I could write because I never received less than “A’s” on essays and term papers. And I do remember, when I was in elementary school, daydreaming about characters and inventing elaborate plots, but at twelve grownup responsibilities forced me to focus on the practical. Fortunately, I found time to read – non-fiction to feed my hungry curiosity and fiction for escape and solace. But it wasn’t until my children were grown that the need to write fiction resurfaced, abruptly, with the impact of a tsunami.   
    
Q. What can you tell us about Exceeding Expectations, your new book?
A. I wanted the book to be a page-turner suspense, primarily written for women, so naturally I included romance. The factual events that inspired it took place in Palm Beach, which triggered my imagination to incorporate additional lush settings, like an expansive estate in Virginia, an entire 5 story Manhattan townhouse, and Paris. But frankly, I adore the characters. There’s the irresistible rascal Jack Morgan – lackluster artist, gifted lover who prefers women older than himself, and utterly devoted father. His daughter Charlotte (Charlie), a self-deprecating 23 year old who is aware that she’s pampered, over-protected and unprepared to do anything besides marrying a member of her elite social class. Raul Francesco, the flirtatious young lawyer, Cuban expatriate, who enjoys teasing Charlie, when he’s not helping her deal with the fallout of her father’s devastating suicide. But I also provide supporting characters with unique personalities. I don’t want to ruin the surprises that I’ve worked to hard to include by identifying and describing them. Readers will discover them for themselves.  

Q. Do your books require much research? 
A. Absolutely! Some books more than others. I’m a stickler for accuracy. When I find the 2nd or 3rd critical error in a book or movie, that’s it for me. I’m done. Fortunately, I love history and find research fascinating. I estimate that for every researched detail I use, thirty are waiting to be plucked from my Word files or taking up needed space in my brain. Is it any wonder I have problems remembering names? 

Q. When you’re away from your desk, what you enjoy doing to relax?
A. I love travelling outside the US – which we do from time to time, when I can convince my husband to cooperate. However, if you’re talking about everyday activities, I read, watch reruns of “30 Rock,” play golf, tend to my cactus and orchids, visit museums, talk on the phone with my kids, volunteer tutor at an afterschool program and do laundry. While most people consider laundry a tedious chore, I find filling and emptying the washer/drier an excellent mindless break. Ironing? Not so much.   

Q.  Can you tell us some of the places you’ve visited, where would you like to see that you haven’t and name the place you’d most like to return to?
A.  A three part question: 1) We’ve been to Aruba, Guadalupe, St. Martin, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, Italy, France, England, China – loved them all. 2) I’d like to go everywhere but if I had to choose a few favorites it would Spain, Argentina, Holland, Peru, Russia and Israel.  3) If I had to pick only one, I would go back to China – in a heartbeat. We spent three weeks touring and there’s still so much we haven’t seen. It’s a huge, very diversified country with deserts and snow-capped mountains, sophisticated business-centric cities and rural farmland. And because many parts of China haven’t been affected by industrialization you can still find examples of things being done the same way they were done hundreds of years ago. That’s fascinating!     

Q. What is your favorite ethnic food?
A. I have two favorite ethnic foods: Chinese and Italian.

Q. Have you ever fantasized about living in a foreign country and where would that be?
A. When we were in Stesa, a town in northern Italy on the shore of Lake Maggiore it was hard not to fantasize about living there. The view of the snow-capped Alps across the broad water is breathtaking. The weather is so mild throughout the year that palm trees flourish there. Summers are cooled by its proximity to the largest lake in Italy. The people I met were warm and gracious. And when I got the urge to travel, getting around Europe doesn’t require seven hours in a plane. The only negative is the distance to my family, which is the reason my daydream will always remain a daydream. 

Q. What particularly pleases you about writing fiction? 
The creative experience. I’ve always envied painters, sculptors, composers. Imagine applying oil to canvas and fashioning a masterpiece. Imagine hearing wonderful music in your head that hasn’t been heard before. Imagine turning a shapeless lump of clay, or block of stone, into an object that produces emotions in viewers. Writing is an art too. With words as their sole tool, authors weave them into stories and place invented people into invented problematic situations. If the author is truly skillful, she not only entertains, she touches, transports and meaningfully moves readers. That’s a powerful and addicting drug. 

About Exceeding Expectations
            It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, appears to offer assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.
            Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris, readers meet young Alan Fitzpatrick – aka Jack Morgan – lack-luster artist and expert lover and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more:  disturbing truths about her father, her own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain. 





Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: The Other Life by Susan Winnacker

The Other Life by Susan Winnacker
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
Publish Date: May 15, 2012
Hardcover, 352 pages
Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian, Zombies
 ISBN: 9780761462750
The Other Life #1



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My Review:

I now realize that although I seem to like zombies, I haven't read many zombie-type books.  However, The Other Life is not completely about zombies, they are just part of the story.  The part of the story that keeps Sherry and her family sealed in a bunker until the food runs out and the story begins.

As you know since reading The Hunger Games I am completely sucked into the dystopian young adult or post-apocalyptic genre, both are similar, yet different.  I guess this falls more into post-apocalyptic, but both feature something bad happening and the world changing.  Here it seems that there are zombie-type people who were infected roaming the streets and those that weren't infected want to avoid them at all costs.  But Sherry and her father need food.  Then things go very wrong and Sherry's life changes.  While reading I was envisioning the life of the TV show Survivors from Britain.  We watched it on Netflix and it was great.  The book had that feeling, but Survivors didn't have zombies of course.  I think it was the living arrangements of the people that Sherry meets that gave me that feeling and the fact that I read this not long after I finished watching that show.

I enjoyed the story and kept turning the pages to see what would happen next.  I also felt invested in the characters.  I liked Sherry and watching her develop and grow more brave in the outside world.  I also liked Joshua and learning about him and look forward to learning more in the next book.

The plot moves along quickly.  It kept me interested from beginning to end and I definitely want to read the next book.  There are some interesting developments that make this really stand out to me even a couple of months after reading it.  I love the conspiracy feeling and even though that part doesn't come up until later in the book, I was already reeled in so Ms. Winnacker had me in  even deeper when she introduced these extra levels to the plot.

A very interesting post-apocalyptic read with fascinating characters and a well-paced plot.  Lovers of the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre will want to read this one and then be on the lookout for the next book in the series as well.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0


About the Book:
3 years, 1 month, 1 week and 6 days since I’d seen daylight. One-fifth of my life.

Sherry and her family have lived sealed in a bunker in the garden since things went wrong up above. Her grandfather has been in the freezer for the last three months, her parents are at each other’s throats and two minutes ago they ran out of food.

Sherry and her father leave the safety of the bunker and find a devastated and empty LA, smashed to pieces by bombs and haunted by ‘Weepers’ - rabid humans infected with a weaponized rabies virus.

While searching for food in a supermarket, Sherry’s father disappears and Sherry is saved by Joshua, a boy-hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a tumble-down vineyard in the hills outside LA, where a handful of other survivors are picking up the pieces of their ‘other lives’. As she falls in love for the first time, Sherry must save her father, stay alive and keep Joshua safe when his desire for vengeance threatens them all


About the Author (from Goodreads.com): 
Susanne Winnacker studied law and lives with her husband, a dog and three bunnies in the Ruhrgebiet, Germany. She loves coffee (in every shape and form), traveling and animals.

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FTC Information: I received this book from through Teen Book Scene for an honest review.  I do make money from purchases made at The Book Depository, Alibris and B&N.com, but all money is used to fund giveaways and shipping for giveaways from the blog.

Book Review: The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: April 24, 2012
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Fiction, General Fiction
 ISBN: 978-0-7783-1346-5







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My Review: This is one of those books that you finish and you just stop and think.  I fell in love with the book from the blurb and had to read it and then a few chapters in realized that part of the book was taking place in the town I live in.  I was completely sold at this point. It's really fun to see the small town you live in brought to life in a book, especially when the author gets it right and even mentions establishments you know or renames things you are familiar with.  Okay back to the review, that was just a little aside about the joy the book brought me being partially set in Beaufort, NC (great job with the old cemetary Ms. Chamberlain, I love that place and could visit it time and again!)

Now to the actual book and how I felt about it.  The book revolves around several stories and how though they seem unrelated at first they begin to be linked together.  How does a woman who lost a child in Raleigh, a man with a child from Carolina Beach and a woman about to marry the future mayor of Beaufort all link together.  Well that is for you to find out, but the main characters are Travis, his daughter Bella, Erin and Robin.  The story is told from each of the adult's point-of-view all through the story.  I loved getting to know each one, learning the history of each one and watching the choices they made, watching them grow and watching them make decisions that would shape their future life.  All three adults were different but made fascinating characters to watch during the book.

The plot was magnificent.  Ms. Chamberlain was able to weave together the three adults tales so seamlessly and believably.  I was taken in from the first page.  I thought I knew where it was going only to be surprised at times.  Yes at times it was predictable, but that was okay, because I still didn't know exactly how things would play out and how the characters would react and change and that was the main thing that interested me.  The Good Father was difficult to put down once I started it.  I had to know what Travis, Erin and Robin would do next and how sweet little Bella would react as well.  I fell in love with each character and cared enough about each one to want the best for them in the end.

The Good Father is an amazing book.  Not only are the characters real and believable, but Ms. Chamberlain creates them so you care about them.  The plot moves along quickly and the setting changes around the beautiful state of NC for interest.  Be sure to pay attention to Beaufort and come visit my wonderful town.  If you love general fiction this is a great book for you.  I think it would make an excellent beach or vacation read so pick it up and enjoy!


My Rating: 5.0/5.0


About the Book:

A beloved daughter. A devastating choice.
And now there’s no going back.

Four years ago, nineteen-year-old Travis Brown had to make a life changing decision. While his friends were out partying and meeting girls, Travis was at home raising his newborn daughter on his own – changing diapers and working to keep food on the table.  But he’s never regretted his decision. Bella is the light of his life – the reason behind every move he makes – and so far, she is fed.  Cared for.  Safe. 

But when Travis loses his construction job and his home, the security he’s worked so hard to create for Bella begins to crumble… 

Just when Travis is at a loss for solutions, a job in Raleigh opens up with the power to change their situation.  It has to.  But upon arriving in Raleigh, there is no job, only an offer to participate in a onetime criminal act that promises quick money and no repercussions. 

With nowhere else to turn, Travis must make another choice for his daughter’s sake.  Even if it means he might lose her. 


About the Author (from Goodreads.com): 
I'm the author of 21 novels published in more than eleven languages. I like to write complex stories about relationships between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and friends. Although the thematic focus of my books often revolves around family, love, compassion and forgiveness, my stories usually feature a combination of suspense, mystery and intrigue.

I live in North Carolina with my significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and my shelties, Keeper and Jet--the only non-reading members of the household!


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Buy the book by clicking on any of these links (they will take you to B&N)


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FTC Information: I received this book from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for an honest review.  I do make money from purchases made at The Book Depository, Alibris and B&N.com, but all money is used to fund giveaways and shipping for giveaways from the blog.

Excerpt & Author Interview: The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

Today I'm hosting the excerpt stop for Diane Chamberlain's The Good Father Blog Tour.  I finished this book earlier this week and I have to say it was amazing.  My review is coming later today, so now enjoy today's excerpt, and a Q&A with author Diane Chamberlain.


Excerpt:
I thought of the gold watch he wore. The red mustang he drove. "I don't care about getting rich," I'd answered. "I just want enough money to keep me and Bella fed till I get a real job."

Follow the rest of the blog tour here:  http://bit.ly/I56ozq

Q&A with Diane Chamberlain:

1.      Where do you do most of your writing?
In the mornings, I write in a coffee shop surrounded by chatter and music I barely notice. In the afternoons, I write at home where I need complete quiet except for the music of a dramatic movie soundtrack. But my favorite writing spot is at my little beach condo, where I can watch the sea and the gulls and dolphins as I’m thinking through my next sentence.

2.      What inspired you to write THE GOOD FATHER?
I write in a coffee shop each morning, and one day a young man and little girl walked in, looking very out of place there on a weekday morning. The girl was about three years old and simply precious, but my novelist’s mind went to work right away. Why were they together? Was he her father? A kidnaper? What if he asked me to watch her for a few minutes and then disappeared? The idea for The Good Father was born.


3.      Which part of THE GOOD FATHER was the most enjoyable to write?
Bella, the little four-year-old girl at the heart of the story was a joy to create and an even greater joy to research as I spent time carefully observing my granddaughter and grandson who were the same age. Maybe Bella was so much fun and so easy to write about because, unlike all the grownups in the story, she was an open book, full of pure emotions untainted by a lot of personal history that might have weighed her down.

4.      Which part was the least enjoyable?
Trying to figure out the best structure for the novel is always nerve wracking to me. It happens with every book. About two months before my deadline, I begin to doubt the way I’ve told the story. Have I paced it in a way that will keep my reader intrigued? Have I revealed twists and turns at the right moment to surprise and excite my reader? Have I opened the book with a gripping scene? In the case of The Good Father, I realized I needed to restructure the telling of the story, so I moved a key scene from the middle of the book to the first chapter. It was a bold and scary move, but judging from the reactions of my readers, it worked!



About the Book:
A beloved daughter. A devastating choice.
And now there’s no going back.

Four years ago, nineteen-year-old Travis Brown had to make a life changing decision. While his friends were out partying and meeting girls, Travis was at home raising his newborn daughter on his own – changing diapers and working to keep food on the table.  But he’s never regretted his decision. Bella is the light of his life – the reason behind every move he makes – and so far, she is fed.  Cared for.  Safe. 

But when Travis loses his construction job and his home, the security he’s worked so hard to create for Bella begins to crumble… 

Bestselling author of The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, The Midwife’s Confession, and The Lies We Told, Diane Chamberlain, returns with her latest and most gripping novel to date, THE GOOD FATHER (Harlequin MIRA; April 24, 2012; $14.95 U.S./$17.95 CAN.), showing the great lengths a father will go to provide for his little girl.

Just when Travis is at a loss for solutions, a job in Raleigh opens up with the power to change their situation.  It has to.  But upon arriving in Raleigh, there is no job, only an offer to participate in a onetime criminal act that promises quick money and no repercussions. 

With nowhere else to turn, Travis must make another choice for his daughter’s sake.  Even if it means he might lose her. 




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Excerpt & Giveaway: The Big, Fun, Sexy, Sex Book by Lisa Rinna and Ian Kerner, Ph.D.



You've seen Lisa Rinna on TV and if you are like me you love her spunky and fun attitude, now it's time to read her new fun interesting and sexy book! THE BIG, FUN, SEXY SEX BOOK (Gallery Books Hardcover; May 1, 2012; $26.00) is a fun and effective guide to improving your marriage by rejuvenating your sex life from New York Times bestselling author and nationally recognized sex counselor Ian Kerner and vivacious television personality Lisa Rinna, who spoke candidly about rediscovering her own lost libido in her New York Times bestseller Rinnavation.


Below you can check out an excerpt from this book that comes out next week and also a video from Lisa Rinna sharing some fun tips from the book.  Finally you can win a copy of this great book which I will be reviewing next week.  I have one copy, courtesy of the publisher to give away to US only, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below, the only required entry is a free entry.  Ends 5/2.
The Big, Fun, Sexy Sex Book



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Waiting On Wednesday (23)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I saw this last week in Shelf Awareness and it involves chocolate, the future and the mafia.  I'm in.


All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Square Fish, May 8, 2012
Trade Paperback, 384 pages
ISBN-10: 1250010284
ISBN-13: 978-1250010285
Grade 7 and up
In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.
So what are you waiting on this week?



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: April 24, 2012
Hardcover, 327 pages
Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian
 ISBN: 978-0062059932






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My Review:
I admit I was first drawn to The Selection solely because of the cover. The dresses, the girls, what is The Selection? Then I read the blurb and I was sold. I had to read this and I am so glad I was able to read an early copy so I can say, go out and get a copy of this book.

First I've heard The Hunger Games comparisons and other than it being a futuristic dystopian society and a sort of reality tv type game, that is where the similarities end. Where The Hunger Games is more of Survivor-type reality tv, The Selection is more The Bachelor, except young adult and innocent to some extent. I haven't watched The Bachelor, but I can see that this has to be how the show is. But the book is even more complex since the fate of the country is somewhat dependent on the prince choosing his princess wisely. Well that and the fact that there are groups attacking the castle from time-to-time. I'm pretty sure that doesn't happen on The Bachelor.

Now the characters. I loved America. She knows who she is, knows who she loves even though she is not supposed to love this boy. And she will do anything for him, but then the unthinkable happens. I won't go into details because you have to read the book, but of course America ends up part of The Selection and at palace to try and win over the Prince. However America has never really been around others besides her family and her social graces need a little work. But I loved that about her. It made her interesting as a character. She speaks her mind and it's one of the things that lands her close to Prince Maxon from the beginning. Of course there are other girls, some you like, some you don't. This first book in the series skims the surface really setting up the characters of America and Maxon and things going on in the country and world at this time. I have a feeling the girls that are left at the end will come more into play in the next book. Now Prince Maxon, you don't want to like him, but you can't help but love him. If America has had a sheltered life, Maxon has almost been in exile. He seems to do great with social graces but he doesn't really know how to be around girls which really endeared him to me. Imagine an innocent teenage boy, it seems unreal today. But it really worked in the story. I like him and the way he is developed in this first book and look forward to more of him in future books. And the final main character is Aspen. I'm not sure where I stand with him, but it seems you need a love triangle to make a good romance now so he makes three and sometimes I like him and sometimes I don't. But he has his place in the story and I am interested to see where his storyline goes as well.

As the characters develop the plot moves along. I wondered what would happen next. I honestly saw some things coming, but that didn't bother me because Ms. Cass executed things so well in the book. I was never bored and pretty much read this book from beginning to end during the read-a-thon this past Saturday. It was great for that. It held my interest, and I cannot wait until the next book.

The Selection was everything I thought it would be and more and I will anxiously await the second installment. Be prepared for an ending that is somewhat complete but leaves you hanging too. But I think everyone is pretty use to that with all the series books out there now. This one is great and if that pretty cover catches your eye, I have to say the inside is just as great. Lots of fun dresses, interesting characters and a fun plot. It's a little serious, but not completely serious, it makes a nice light read compared to a lot of books out there and was a great escape for me on a Saturday afternoon.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0


About the Book:
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.


About the Author (from Goodreads.com): 
100 Things I Love:

Being married. Cake. The smell of Autumn. Motherhood. Books. Elephants. Back rubs. On demand movies. Actually going out to movies. Faith. Cinnamon rolls. My family. Butterflies. When my kitchen is clean. Crayons. Pink. Tote bags. Dancing. Organizing via color coordination. That my wedding dress was tea length, not floor. Baking. My house. Writing utensils. Paper. India. The sound of water. Making videos. Buttons. The word Episcopalian. Making people laugh. Layering clothes. British accents. Pinterest. Animation. Fireworks. The smell of the Ocean. My wedding rings. Aprons. Reasons to get dressed up. Sex. Pop music. Stars. Taking walks. Daydreaming. Stickers. School Spirit. My friends. Living in a small town. Japan. Singing. Painting my toenails. Pranks/ practical jokes. Painting. Stretch canvas. Costumes. Dipping my fingers in melted wax. Style. Soda. Spending an hour typing at a coffee shop. Musicals. Back to school season. Mopeds. Good hair days. Naps. Not walking up but looking at a beautiful staircase. Driving alone. My ankles. Playlists. Spending entire days in pajamas. Holidays. Telling stories. Spontaneity. Theme parks. Bookshelves. The word copacetic. Boxes. Empty journals. Surprises. Doing things in groups. Doing things alone. Getting real mail. Decorating. Small forks. A good hug. Gift cards. New Years Goals. Going out to dinner. When someone else remembers some great story about me/us that I’ve forgotten. Toy stores. Fireplaces. Breakfast foods. Journaling. Crying for a good reason. Doorbells. Pointless adventures. Voting. My birthday. Reasons to make wishes. Recycling.


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FTC Information: I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss for an honest review.  I do make money from purchases made at The Book Depository, Alibris and B&N.com, but all money is used to fund giveaways and shipping for giveaways from the blog.