Friday, February 16, 2018

Riven Review


Title:  Riven
Author:  Roan Parrish
Publisher:  Random House LLC - Loveswept
Release Date:  May 29, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating: 
Cover:  5 Seductive Hearts
Story:  5 Raw, Sensual Hearts

*Many thanks to Loveswept for a copy of this arc via Netgally.


Synopsis:
Theo Decker might be the lead singer of Riven, but he hates being a rock star. The paparazzi, the endless tours, being recognized everywhere he goes—it all makes him squirm. The only thing he doesn’t hate is the music. Feeling an audience’s energy as they lose themselves in Riven’s music is a rush unlike anything else . . . until he meets Caleb Blake Whitman. Caleb is rough and damaged, yet his fingers on his guitar are pure poetry. And his hands on Theo? They’re all he can think about. But Caleb’s no groupie—and one night with him won’t be enough.

Just when Caleb is accepting his new life as a loner, Theo Decker slinks into it and turns his world upside-down. Theo’s sexy and brilliant and addictively vulnerable, and all Caleb wants is another hit. And another. That’s how he knows Theo’s trouble. Caleb can’t even handle performing these days. How the hell is he going to survive an affair with a tabloid superstar? But after Caleb sees the man behind the rock star, he begins to wonder if Theo might be his chance at a future he thought he’d lost forever.

Review:
Readers Beware!  Riven is raw, seductive, and highly addictive!  Once you partake, you'll be hopelessly hooked and craving more, more, more . . . more of Theo & Caleb, more of their sensual, passionate story & music, more of this author's rhythmic, unique voice.  What struck me like a lightning bolt about this story is the "honesty" resonating throughout, growing stronger & more demanding beat by beat.  Although denied by both men for a long time, it drives both main characters to finally face the haunting, debilitating truths holding them each back individually.

There's little doubt that Riven is character driven - the story of two men consumed heart and soul by music in its purest form.  Caleb's career has waned as he succumbed to the rock lifestyle and is now paying his penance - left believing that the only hope for his sanity and survival is giving up the very thing that keeps his heart beating - music and everything & everyone associated with it.  On the other hand, Theo is riding the monster crest of fame, but he's drowning under the never-ending adoration of fans and the relentless pursuit of paparazzi - a reluctant rock star in that he hates the fame, lifestyle, and all it entails.  He, like Caleb, lives for the music and songs reverberating in his head. 

As this story opens, the two men meet and their erotic, passionate, troubled journey begins.  Their chemistry is electric, and readers are gifted with love scenes that are highly combustible.  Parrish's characterizations are authentic - so real and powerful and explosive that my heart overflowed with their truths and turmoil.  There's a song from Dan Hill (later recorded by other artists) from way back that portrays Theo & Caleb and their conflicted emotions and inner battles best for me (it is not used in this book).  I began hearing it in my head as this story played out and will quote it here as it describes the way I saw and felt these two men better than my own words can.  The chorus goes like this:


Sometimes when we touch,

The honesty's too much,
And I have to close my eyes & hide.
I wanna hold you 'til I die,
'Til we both break down & cry,
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides.
(*by Dan Hill - Protected by copyright)

The honesty and love of these two men for music and each other is painful, all-consuming, & overwhelming at times as they work through their fears in an effort to move forward. And yet, through it all, they always feel genuine.


Riven is NOT your typical Rock Star story; in fact, there's nothing "typical" about this book.  It's a gift, a rare treasure - one readers only dream of discovering once in a blue moon hidden among all the other books on the shelf.  The sensuous yet mysterious siren of a cover seduced me into taking a closer look at this book, and the blurb sealed the deal.  I decided to take a chance on it and am so glad I did.  Roan Parrish has delivered a story and characters that will forever play in my head, heart, and soul.  All I can ask is "More, please!"  A Page Burning, Must Read!


My Rating:  5 Raw, Seductive, Sensual Hearts . . . And that's the truth!



Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra



Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Southern Quilts: Celebrating Traditions, History, and Designs Review

Title:  Southern Quilts: Celebrating Tradition, History, and Designs
Author:  Mary W Kerr
Publisher:  Schiffer Publishing
Release Date:  April 28, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Quilted Hearts

*Many thanks to Schiffer Publishing for an arc of this book via Netgally.




Synopsis:
In more than 270 color images, hundreds of quilts, juxtaposed for the first time, celebrate and explore the South's rich quilting history. Quilt expert Mary W. Kerr joins 13 other textile historians to show why Southern quilts have a distinctiveness setting them apart, including factors like their patterns, use of tiny pieces, and specific color choices. Learn how the South's quilting traditions developed among all socioeconomic levels, and in communities such as African American, Scots Irish, and German. The use of cotton, the prominence of making-do aesthetics, and other characteristics are discussed, with in-depth looks at topics like feed sack use and tri-color quilts. Explore the classic patterns of Crown of Thorns, Whigs' Defeat, and Double Wedding Ring. Enjoy regional treasures like Texas Rattlesnake, the Shenandoah Valley Farmers Fancy, and many more. This compilation includes quilts from every Deep South state, offering commentary, examples, and insights.

My Review:
Rich in the tradition of the old South in which my grandmother and mother grew up, Southern Quilts is a beautiful treasure trove of hundreds of stunning quilts - all vividly brought to life in pictures and by the inclusion of many of the South's quilting traditions and the history accompanying them.  This is not a "how-to" book on quilting, but rather a book to be enjoyed and shared with others interested in vintage quilts and the history of their journey over time.  I especially liked the in-depth look at the materials used as Southern women learned to not only make-do, but turn out beautiful quilts from the materials available to them.  The patterns, colors, and quilting designs are unique and reminiscent of the time period . . . truly classic pieces of art and history.  Quilts that began as a way to keep family members warm at night evolved into beautiful works of art deserving of being showcased and handed down from generation to generation.  Years ago, most girls learned to quilt as a child as did I.  I was blessed with the opportunity to perfect my skills at the hands of my aunt who was an award winning, master quilter in our area.  I have never equaled her level of work, but pride myself on the quilts I have made just the same.  Quilting is truly a work of love as is, I suspect, this beautiful book of quilts.  A Must Read for both experienced and want-to-be quilters!

My Rating:  5 Quilted Hearts . . . And that's the truth!




Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra


Friday, February 9, 2018

Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) Review

Title:  Force of Nature
Series:  Aaron Falk #2
Author:  Jane Harper
Publisher:  Flatiron Books - Macmillan
U.S. Release Date:  Feb. 6, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Thrilling Hearts

*Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of this arc via Netgally.




Synopsis:
Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?


Review:

A riveting, meticulous, suspenseful follow up to Harper's award winning debut novel, The Dry!  It's never easy for a sophomore book to live up the hype and anticipation of readers when the first one was such an astounding success.  The temptation is great to compare them and expectations are always high for the second novel to be as good or even better than the first.  Like other readers, I couldn't wait to see what Harper would do with book 2 and where she would take Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk.  While The Dry remains my favorite of the two, I quickly found myself totally engrossed in Force of Nature and with heart racing, I read nonstop until I reached the end.

In Force of Nature, five women strike out on an office team-building hike through the rainy, cold, and deadly Giralang Ranges of Australia.  Readers soon sense a strong undercurrent of animosity among them, and by the time they finally stumble back out into civilization, there are only four women remaining.  The mystery of what happened on the dangerous trek plays out in "real" time as the story alternates between the hour by hour agonizing, seemingly doomed trek of the women and the current search by authorities, including Falk & his new partner.  Readers should do themselves a favor and avoid any and all spoilers.  Dive into the book unaware of what's to come - just as these women were unaware of the perils and challenges they would face before all was said and done.


As in The Dry, the setting plays the part of a character in Force of Nature and is a relentless, ongoing threat to the women's survival.  Harper writes in beautifully vivid, descriptive detail placing readers right in the heart of the potentially deadly forces doled out by an unforgiving mother nature.  As the story unfolds, the tension escalates and fear and panic serve to uncover the ugliest mask worn by human nature (masterfully portrayed by Harper), revealing several secret unknowns to readers.  As sure as the gray skies and incessant rain, a feeling of impending doom descends setting an ominous tone early that escalates all the way through to the heart-pounding end.  Jane Harper brilliantly delivers another stunning novel that I found as addictive and seductive as the first!  A Page Burner!  A Must Read!


My Rating:  4 Thrilling Hearts . . . And that's the truth!



Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Sandra






Wednesday, February 7, 2018

IWSG: Pick A Favorite?! *Gasp*


Like many of you, I have a passion for books as both a reader and a writer and find it nearly impossible to pick one all-time favorite.  I can list my Top 10 Favorites (maybe) and after agonizing over it (and begging forgiveness from the heroes & heroines who deserved, but didn't make the final cut), I can name my Top 5 books (in no particular order).  But ask me to name my Favorite Book out of the thousands of books I've read in various genres, and I'll most likely hyperventilate and quite possibly pass out.  Like a mother picking a favorite child, I just can't do it.  Why?  Because like people, the best books in any genre are unique in their own way - each commanding my attention for different reasons and yet all holding me in a trance and ultimately owning me heart and soul.

No matter the genre (whether I'm reading or writing it), a well-crafted "real" book must include several things to excite me and find its way onto my favorite book list including but not limited to:

1) Well-developed, complex characters that I love to love or love to hate - either way they're unique, believable (whether human or not), and unforgettable, often preying on my mind long after I read (or write) the ending of their story. 
2) Well-developed, intriguing plot lines that quickly draw me in - as curvy and dangerous as our back country roads, winding perilously near the edge causing me to hold my breath in trepidation before I finally emerge on the other side to find everything expertly woven together in a surprise ending. 
3) Settings so vividly alive that I see, smell, taste, and feel them as they evolve into a living, breathing character, often leaving me knowing that this particular story would never have worked as well in any other setting.
4) A distinctive tone that defines the mood early and maintains it throughout.

Many good books I've enjoyed meet some of my requirements, but those that leave a forever mark on my soul are gifted with all of them and always leave me feeling a little giddy and emotionally drained as I yearn for just one more page, chapter, or book . . . needing to feel that "falling in love" feeling all over again.  As an author, it's what I aspire to do - write a book that leaves someone somewhere feeling that way.  And I hold my own writing to the same high standards I demand from other writers which leads me to this month's IWSG question.

What do you love about the genre you write in most often? 
For an established author who writes almost exclusively in one genre, this is probably a no-brainer.  For authors who have published in multiple genres, it's most likely a fairly easy question. But for writers still trying to find their own path, it can be a little more complicated as they need time to develop their creativity and style and discover the genre that excites them most.  As for myself, there's so much I enjoy about reading and exploring my writing potential in different genres. But for now, I find myself gravitating toward the paranormal and suspense genres or variations thereof.  My current work in progress is romance/suspense - a little dark and edgy with an ominous undercurrent of pending doom - and yes, if pushed to choose, it's my favorite genre in which to write.  As to what I love most about writing in this or any genre, see my four "must-haves" above.  They hold true for any book in any genre whether I'm writing or reading, and the creation process involved is the reason I love writing.  I get stoked about the endless possibilities when planning and developing my setting, plot lines, tone, and characters, and I love the giddy feeling that occurs when ideas are popping and things click.  No drugs needed here to get high!  Give me a story that's working, and I'll fall in love all over again.

How about you?  What do you love most about the genre you write (or read) most often?  What makes you shout to others, "You simply MUST read this book"? (other than the fact that it's yours, and it's awesome, of course!)

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage other writers. It's a great place to express doubts and concerns as well as offer and receive tribulations and guidance from other writers. IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. I think you'll find it to be a great writer's resource that's well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with some of the other IWSG writers/bloggers at IWSG Members.

Many thanks to our awesome February Co-Hosts:  Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!









Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Hand Lettering Review


Title:  Hand Lettering
Authors:  Gabri Joy Kirkendall & Jacklyn Escalera
Publisher:  Thunder Bay Press
Release Date:  February 6, 2018

My Rating:  3.5 Artistic Hearts

*Many thanks to Thunder Bay Press & Netgally for a copy of this arc.


Synopsis:

Add your own creative flourishes to any handwritten note, sign, or piece of art by using the techniques in Hand Lettering. This kit includes a 64-page project book with suggestions and examples of how you can put a little flair into any written word. How-to sections provide useful information on font selection, must-have supplies, and practice techniques. Get your creative gears spinning, and you’ll soon master your own unique style of lettering!

Review:
I've always been fascinated by creative, embellished hand lettering, and will admit to being just a bit envious of those who do it well.  I certainly don't as my handwriting more closely resembles chicken scratch (no insult intended to the hens who do it much better than I).  When I saw Hand Lettering on Netgally, it was an easy decision to request it.  

Hand Lettering introduces ten different techniques for lettering embellishment and includes a brief history of each style.  I found the history interesting and was a little surprised how many different styles date back to medieval times.  The styles include but are not limited to art deco, cubism, southwestern, and coastal.  Each style includes illustrations  and a breakdown with "How-To" tutorials which I enjoyed.  This book includes information on needed supplies and font selection and concludes with information on other special techniques such as illumination, and floral, animal, and object embellishments.  Instructions are clear and concise and come with lots of encouragement to practice, practice, practice.  When Hand Lettering is released, it will include an art kit which will be nice, I think.  All in all, it's a good how-to for anyone wishing to add a little extra flair to their hand-written notes and letters.  

My Rating:  3.5 Artistic Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra





Sunday, January 14, 2018

How to Walk Away Review



Title:  How to Walk Away
Author:  Katherine Center
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  May 15, 2018
Preorder Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Unforgettable, Courageous Hearts

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press & Netgally for a copy of this book.



Synopsis:
From the author of Happiness for Beginners comes an unforgettable love story about finding joy even in the darkest of circumstances.
Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment .

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.

How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best: an utterly charming, hopeful, and romantic novel that will capture reader’s hearts with every page.

Review:
How to Walk Away is a powerful, poignant, heartfelt story of one woman's tumultuous journey from being on the cusp of a perfect life to losing it all in a heartbeat to clawing and scratching her way out of the depths of despair while desperately searching for the courage, determination, and motivation to live again - whatever that might mean for her.  I started this book late one afternoon and finished it before midnight in one sitting.  From cover to cover, I remained ensnared in the web of a story I simply couldn't stop reading.  Katherine Center's brilliantly written book engages a range of human emotions - the giddy highs of hope, anticipation, and happiness to the dark lows of despair, utter hopelessness, and uncontrollable grief and loss.  From tears and an aching heart to smiles and a ray of hope, this book moved me.  I can never ask for more than that from a book or author.

I'm not discussing details of this story as there's no way to do that without completely spoiling it for future readers.  Instead, I'll share the beautiful job Center does in delivering characters that are realistically depicted given the devastating situation they find themselves facing.  Love them or hate them, every character's role is portrayed flawlessly - in color - vivid and rich with emotional turmoil - either degrading and condescending or supportive and loving.  I found myself wanting to hug some and strangle others, but either way they felt real.  The genuine, thought-provoking plot line that was so obviously researched in minute detail is conveyed through a writing style that flows and ebbs like an ocean wave at all the right times, portraying the highs and lows of this story with an emotional punch to the heart and a serious reality check to the brain.  As the story unfolds, several beautiful, life messages emerge from Center's gripping telling of Maggie's agonizing journey, but none ring truer than the importance of summoning the will to try again - to reach for your new happy ever after.  We must recognize, embrace, and accept that there are many different kinds of happy ever after.  You may not get the one you once dreamed of, but you can achieve another that is just as beautiful if you dare own it.  Katherine Center's How to Walk Away is a captivating, breathtaking story of hope, courage, perseverance, and the never-ending power of true love.  A Page-Burning, Must Read!

My Rating:  5 Unforgettable, Courageous Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra




Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Staircase Review


Title:  The Staircase
Author:  Deryn Lake
Genre:  Historical Romance (PNR)
Publisher:  Endeavour Press
Release Date:  Nov. 2, 2017
Buy Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Magical Hearts

*Many thanks to Endeavour Press for a copy of this book via Netgally.






Synopsis:
Helena had always been haunted by the dream of the staircase.

It prevents her from forming any real relationship with a man, because who could live up to the haunting, handsome figure that awaits her at the top of the staircase?

When her on-off boyfriend and childhood sweetheart Hal takes Helena on a romantic trip to Paris, he offers her a final ultimatum, and she is suddenly forced to decide between dreams and reality.

But, as her two worlds begin to collide, Helena begins to realise that everything is not as it seems – and that some dreams are nightmares…

Review:
The Staircase is a haunting, mystical, historical romance novella that spans centuries.  The dream-like atmosphere sets a chilling, surreal tone throughout the story.  Helena's sleep is disturbed repeatedly by her eerie dream of a dark, handsome man in eras-past clothing standing at the top of a staircase in what appears to be an ancient castle.  His dark, compelling eyes beckon her to come to him, and her body wholeheartedly responds.  At the same time, she is issued an ultimatum by her "boyfriend" Hal to commit to marriage or let him go.  They agree to take a week-long romantic trip to France to explore historical sites and their relationship, and after that, Helena will have one week to give him her answer.  Little does she know that magical forces beyond her control are at work, and what she discovers in France will change her life forever.  Is it her dream come true?  Or her worse nightmare?

A spooky, eerie tone settles over this story early-on and continues through the ending.  I found the writing and story to be compelling and, much like Helena, I found myself hypnotized and drawn in by the mysterious stranger on the stairway.  The story that unfolds is a vivid historical journey through time, spanning five centuries as it introduces several famous historical figures.  But are they real or a dream?  The author does a beautiful job with descriptive passages throughout and easily transports readers inside the mysterious Chambord Castle in France alongside of Helena.  I wish the author had chosen to write a longer story, giving readers a more in-depth introduction and understanding of the main characters, but I think Lake does a nice job given the book is only 80 pages long.  I did note a few errors in the book which is always disappointing, but even so, they didn't distract from my reading pleasure.  All in all, I found The Staircase to be a good, haunting novella with beautiful descriptive passages, compelling characters, and an unique, intriguing plot line.  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4 Magical Hearts . . . And that's the truth!


Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra