Thursday, July 31, 2014

Brunette Ambition
by Lea Michele

Publisher: Harmony Books
Pages: 208
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  The star of the hit show Glee shares her experiences and insider tips on beauty, fashion, inner strength, and more in an illustrated book that’s part memoir, part how-to, and part style guide.

Lea Michele is one of the hardest working performers in show business. Whether she’s starring as Rachel Berry on Glee, rocking a glamorous look on the red carpet, recording her solo album, or acting as the spokesperson for L’Oreal, Lea is the ultimate multi-tasker. She knows better than anyone that it is difficult to be your best self and keep things in perspective when your to-do list is overflowing and you are faced with challenges, so she’s developed a foolproof system for remaining healthy and centered. In Brunette Ambition, she reveals the lessons and advice that have worked for her--from beauty and fashion secrets to fitness tips, and career insights. Supplemented with never-before-seen photos and revealing anecdotes, it’s the book Lea wishes she’d had in her teens and early twenties: A practical and inspirational guide to harnessing tenacity and passion and living the fullest life, no matter what obstacles life puts in your way.

Kritters Thoughts:  The world knows Lea Michele from Broadway, Glee and from the magazines, but Lea Michele took a moment and wrote a book that tells her story and includes some great life and beauty tips to make it a well rounded book.

I am a Glee fan.  I am a fan because I love music and I love the mix of broadway and pop - have never aimed to be a singer, but have always loved music, so I have been a Glee fan since the pilot.  I am also a Lea Michele fan.  I didn't know about her until Glee, but since being introduced I have loved finding out about her Broadway past.  With her recent ups and downs, I loved reading a book that she wrote about her family and friends who have been there before Glee and Corey and will be there long after.  She did a great job of balancing putting her story in the book as well as health, beauty and life tips.  

I was so thankful to receive this for review and loved reading a chapter here and there over a week and a half.  It was great to read a bit at a time.

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel
Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Blogging for Books.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Best Supporting Role
by Sue Margolis

Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  When her gambling addict husband died, Sarah Green was left penniless—and with two children to raise. Since then, she’s been desperate to keep her professional and personal lives on firm financial footing. And what could be safer than dating an accountant and working at a non-emergency crime help line?

But then Sarah’s aunt dies, leaving Sarah her once famous—now flailing—lingerie shop. With her fashion background, Sarah reluctantly decides to make a go of it, even if that means breaking up with her too-prudent boyfriend over the risk.

Suddenly Sarah finds herself falling for Hugh, the handsome struggling actor she hired to renovate her new boutique, and entering a prestigious lingerie competition. Taking chances has never been her forte, but the built-in support of family and friends could give her the boost she’s been looking for....

Kritters Thoughts:  Sarah is a fantastic main character - mom of two and at the beginning married to a man who is very successful in his career, but started to use gambling as a stress reliever and in doing so has gambled away everything they had.  As I won't be spoiling the book a bit, as Sarah decides to leave the marriage, her husband dies - I won't tell you how, that is worth reading!  So although Sarah is free from a horrible relationship and situation; she is now a single mom of two with no income and lots of debt.  This is where the story begins!

Each character in this book was spot on!  Sarah, the kids, the grandparents, "the Aunties", and so on were just written to a T.  The ups and downs of the story were perfectly timed and couldn't contain my excitement when I was surprised by a few of Sarah's decisions.  Although I am not usually a fan of books set in London with all the London speak, this one didn't make me feel left out of the joke - I honestly read it in two sittings!

Although I own a few Sue Margolis books, this was my first one to read, so obviously you will see me reading more of her and reviewing them here on this blog - new fan!  I put this down as a perfect beach read because it was so easy to get into the book and without any heaviness to the book, this is one that I am giving to a friend to throw in her beach bag for vacation!

Rating: perfect beach read

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Penguin.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Courtney Hamilton’s “Worst Breakup Ever” Contest (International)

Courtney Hamilton is giving away a signed copy of her novel, Almost Royalty, to the top 2 winners! To enter, all you have to do is tell her:

What is your “Worst Breakup Ever” experience? Share your story in the comment section below.

Courtney will personally read every participant’s entry and pick the top 2 worst breakup stories The winners will be announced through Courtney’s Facebook pageTwitter, and blog. This contest will also be hosted on various blogs, social media sites, and forums. I want to give a huge shout out to all participating blogs! You can find the full list of host blogs from the link below!

 Only 99¢

Enjoy the “Worst Break up Ever” contest and, for the first time, download your Kindle copy of Almost Royalty by Courtney Hamilton for only 99¢!

Download the novel here:

Terms and Conditions for Entry Eligibility
No purchase necessary to enter. Sponsored by Forrest Thompson Publishers. Giveaway ends August 5, 2014 at 11:59 PM (PST). Open Internationally. 18+ years of age. Void where prohibited. Winners will be announced on Courtney Hamilton’s blog at of Dating Facebook Page, and @ecochaindating. Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or their winnings will be forfeited. By entering the giveaway, you give Courtney Hamilton and Forrest Thompson Publishers permission to repost your story or recite it in a video for media purposes. Forrest Thompson Publishers reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this contest at any time without prior notice.

Participating Websites: The full list of participants in Courtney’s “Worst Breakup Ever” Contest is available on her blog at: 

Let the Worst Breakup Stories Ever begin!

Flight of the Sparrow
by Amy Belding Brown

Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 368
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson is captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the on-going bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Kritters Thoughts:  A historical fiction set in a time and place that I am not sure I have ever read - Mary is a wife of a pastor at a time when the man of the house is REALLY the man of the house.  She has blindly followed the path until her world is turned upside down by native americans who are pillaging towns and taking hostage the women and children.  She is taken into their home and her preconceived notions are shot to hell!

My absolute favorite parts of this book were the moments where Mary was second guessing everything she thought she knew both about her own "people" and the native people.  Like many people she had never put herself "in their shoes" and in doing so found some perspective and saw the truths and falsehoods in the stories that the English settlers were sharing amongst themselves.  As a religious studies major in college, I loved the sociology of religion or in this case in societal groups and how one group can judge another before even understanding one another.  This book took me back to my college days and reminded me to keep my judgements in check.  

In many books where native people are depicted, the savage characteristics take center stage.  I loved how this author showed a civilized view of this group that very closely mirrored the English settlers and gave me a new view on a people that I had always viewed through a certain lense.  For historical fans of course, but I would also recommend this book to those who like to read about society through the ages.

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Peguin.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Fortune Hunter
by Daisy Goodwin

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies.

Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

Kritters Thoughts:  A historical fiction set in England, but the royal monarchs do not take center stage and I liked it!  Don't get me wrong, I love the crazy stories of the monarchs, but in this instance, I loved hearing about England with Queen Victoria just making a few appearances and life at court was just visited.  Instead a family with a very young heiress who has lost both her parents and is having her older brother controlling her state of affairs and a lowly Captain trying to win her affections while being distracted by the Empress of Austria - it was great.

With quite a hefty page count, don't let that fool you with this book.  I absolutely whizzed through this story at an alarming pace and was completely engrossed in this story quickly.  I loved the young heiress who will eventually have wealth to her name, but at the time she can't access any of it and she watches her brother and soon to be sister-in-law enjoy living off her and this Captain who actually cares for her and not the money that she has coming to her.  It was a sweet love story with some fantastic twists and turns.

If you have read many of the historical fictions set in London with royal monarchs all over the place and like me may be over this genre, give this one a chance.  It was different and I liked it exactly because of that!

Here are the links to follow the author:

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from St. Martin's Press.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

by Jennifer Weiner

Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 38
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Shannon Will is twenty-eight and has made six trips to rehab (not that anyone's counting). But this time, she swears, will be different. She'll clean up her act, go to meetings, find a sponsor, and make a clean break with her past—starting with a new phone number.

But old ties aren't so easy to sever. When Shannon's new phone starts getting messages she was never meant to see, Shannon has to decide whether to risk getting involved, or stay safely disconnected.

Kritters Thoughts:  Every so often it is nice to sit and read a short story and just enjoy a full story in one sitting!  It is also awesome when that story comes from an author that I know that I will love!

Jennifer Weiner is known for fantastic "women's fiction" and this short story had a great suspenseful twist at the end!  Of course I will not spoil!  

Shannon is an addict who can't find the motivation to quite her ways and leave the friends who keep her in the dark place of addiction.  So as she finally turns over a new leaf and gets a new phone with a new number to disconnect her from her previous ways, she starts getting weird text messages and must make a big decision.

As short stories must have, it was easy to get to know this main character and want to know what her short journey would be.  Also, the conclusion was awesome - I was sad to see it end, but wouldn't mind a full novel based on this character.

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel (or full novel!)

Ebook 2014 Challenge: 3 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Friday, July 25, 2014

by Emily Kiebel

Pages: 358
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Suddenly the voice she prized is now dangerously seductive...

Lorelei Clark's only concern was her future as a classically trained soprano, that is, until the day her father was tragically killed. Shattered by his death, she hesitantly accepts an invitation from a mysterious aunt to visit her lavish oceanside home in Cape Cod. She quickly discovers that her aunt and the two women who live with her are harboring a frightening secret they are sirens, terrifying mythical creatures responsible for singing doomed sailors to their deaths. Even more astounding, Lorelei is one of them. In this new world where water comes alive at her touch and an ancient power pulses beneath the tide, the most important rule Lorelei must learn is that a siren never interferes with fate. When she breaks this rule by rescuing a handsome sailor who should have died at sea, the sirens vow she must finish the job or face grave consequences. Finding herself inexplicably attracted to him, she must fight to keep him safe from the others, even if it means risking her own life, and her heart, in the process.

Kritters Thoughts:  What could be categorized as a little fantastical or a little magic realism, this book was out of my wheelhouse, but I loved it!  Lorelei Clark is a young girl who is testing the limits of her parents by going to a school for voice far away from her home town.  Her father comes to visit and through an accident Lorelei is struck with tragedy and doesn't know what her future looks like for herself.  In walks a great-aunt, an aunt and a cousin who take her in and show her her family's past to maybe inspire her for her future.

As the back of the book spoils it, I will give the news that Lorelei learns she is from a long family line of sirens.  As I haven't read a book about sirens and don't know much about "fantastical" characters, I really enjoyed learning with Lorelei what good sirens are really about.  The reader also learns about when sirens go rogue!  I am not usually a fantasy fan, but I enjoyed that at the heart of the story is a real human girl who is trying to decide what kind of future she wants for herself.  It was a coming of age with a bit of a twist!

I would recommend this to young readers as it is a great book about family and self discovery.  There may be a little bit of a romance, but nothing in the steamy realm which keeps this book focused on its true themes.  

Rating: perfect YA read

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from BookSparks PR.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Strange Creatures
by Emily Arsenault

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years, one marriage and divorce, three cats, and a dog later, Theresa still hasn’t finished her dissertation. Instead of a degree, she’s got a houseful of adoring pets and a dead-end copywriting job for a local candle company.

Jeff, her so-called genius older brother, doesn’t have it together, either. Creative, and loyal, he’s also aimless in work and love. But his new girlfriend, Kim, a pretty waitress in her twenties, appears smitten.

When Theresa agrees to dog-sit Kim’s puggle for a weekend, she has no idea that it is the beginning of a terrifying nightmare that will shatter her quiet world. Soon, Kim’s body will be found in the woods, and Jeff will become the prime suspect.

Though the evidence is overwhelming, Theresa knows that her brother is not a cold-blooded murderer. But to clear him she must find out more about Kim. Investigating the dead woman’s past, Theresa uncovers a treacherous secret involving politics, murder, and scandal—and becomes entangled in a potentially dangerous romance. But the deeper she falls into this troubling case, the more it becomes clear that, in trying to save her brother’s life, she may be sacrificing her own.

Kritters Thoughts:  Brothers and sisters have a unique sibling relationship as they are from the opposite sex, but still have the competition element that is alive in all sibling relationships!  I only have a sister, but I still enjoy reading books about other types of sibling relationships.  Although Theresa is the younger sibling for me she felt like the older as she was trying to help Jeff solve the mystery of his murdered girlfriend and she took the lead.  

The twists and turns and final result in this book were all fantastic.  There are many thrillers were someone stands accused and someone else knows they are guilty but the facts point to the accused, but the twist of siblings took this book to a different place that I liked.  I also loved that the life of the victim plays a role in the entire book - as Theresa must learn about this woman in her brother's life before she can find out who murdered the girl.  The family dynamics were great with parents who are quirky and no longer together and have no clue what is going on in their adult children's lives!  

If you are a fan of the genre, than add this one to your list.  If you don't typically read in the mystery/thriller genre, then you will love the addition of the family drama in this book! 

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Sea Garden
by Deborah Lawrenson

Publisher: Harper
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  THE SEA GARDEN
On the lush Mediterranean island of Porquerolles off the French coast, Ellie Brooke, an award-winning British landscape designer, has been hired to restore a memorial garden. Unsettled by its haunted air and the bitterness of the garden's owner, an elderly woman who seems intent on undermining her, Ellie finds that her only ally on the island is an elusive war historian …

THE LAVENDER FIELD  Near the end of World War II, Marthe Lincel, a young blind woman newly apprenticed at a perfume factory in Nazi-occupied Provence, finds herself at the center of a Resistance cell. When tragedy strikes, she faces the most difficult choice of her life . . . and discovers a breathtaking courage she never expected.

A SHADOW LIFE  Iris Nightingale, a junior British intelligence officer in wartime London, falls for a French agent. But after a secret landing in Provence results in terrible Nazi reprisals, he vanishes. When France is liberated, Iris is determined to uncover the truth. Was he the man he claimed to be?

Kritters Thoughts: One present day story and two in the past make this novel.  All take place at points in France and the two historical deal with World War II.  A great spot in history to spotlight and interesting to have a present day story to tie into them.  Three different ladies are spotlighted and take the main character in each book and although at the beginning they don't seem related at the end the reader is given the connection (more on this later).

Although I would put historical fiction with current storylines as my favorite genre, I am not sure this is one that will rise to the top for me within the genre.  This is due to - three separate books that are advertised as connected, but for me the connection was made way too late in the game and I wish there had been more connection earlier on.  This was the big glaring problem I had.  I wanted them to come together a little earlier and enjoy the connection instead of it getting thrown in at the end.

If the above issue wouldn't bother you, then you would love this one.  It was honestly enough for me to get frustrated, but I know there are readers out there who could overcome my issue and love it!

Rating: enjoyable, but didn't leave me wanting more

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

After I Do
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 352
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

Kritters Thoughts:  My first Taylor Jenkins Reid and after hearing all the praise, I was so excited to read this one!  With a premise that I may have shied away from due to the subject matter - I am not usually one for negative relationship storylines, but I had to give this author a try.  

The set up for the book was fantastic.  The first chapter was a present day snapshot of their marriage in the middle of a speed bump and then the author takes you back in time to when they met, through their dating courtship and into the early moments of the marriage.  I loved the rewind to get the reader up to speed.  Then the real drama of the story began and I loved the honesty.  The characters felt like they were based off people in real life - I even laughed at some of the things they did and said because I could see myself doing those things.

I am officially a Taylor Jenkins Reid fan and will definitely be looking for her previous book and upcoming books.

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Ebook 2014 Challenge: 43 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from BookSparks PR.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Left by Tamar Ossowski

Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Therese Wolley is a mother who has made a promise. She works as a secretary, shops for groceries on Saturdays, and takes care of her two girls. She doesn’t dwell on the fact that her girls are fatherless, mostly because her own father abandoned her before she was born and she has done just fine without him.  Even though her older daughter regularly wakes with nightmares and her younger one whispers letters under her breath, she doesn’t shift from her resolve that everything will be fine. She promises . . . and they believe.

Until the morning an obituary in the newspaper changes everything. Therese immediately knows what she has to do. She cannot delay what she has planned, and she cannot find the words to explain her heartbreaking decision to her daughters. She considers her responsibilities, her girls, and her promise. Then she does the only thing that any real mother would do. She goes on the run with one daughter . . . and abandons the other.

Kritters Thoughts:  Two little girls have known the company of only each other and right into this book they must learn to live without the other as a safeguard.  Through the story you learn the real story about how they became sisters.

Told through three different characters points of view - the mother, Therese; the older daughter, Matilda; and the young daughter Franny - they each contribute an unique view into the story of these women.  Therese's story is told straight from the past and gives the reader the background knowledge they need, while both Franny and Matilda are telling the current story of their separation and how each are coping without the other.  

Unfortunately the men in this book did not get a good deal - they were all told in a pretty negative light and each had issues keeping it together.  I think I would have enjoyed at least one male character showing how to be a respectable family man, would have balanced out the negativity from the rest of the men folk.  

This book was different and interesting, although definitely hard to read.  There were a few times where I wish Therese had told more of the past and maybe didn't keep me guessing as much!

Rating: enjoyable, but didn't leave me wanting more

Ebook 2014  Challenge: 12 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Edelweiss.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I feel like a broken record, but it was a crazy week of work - its the retreat time of the year and with 325 attendees, organization is ridiculous!  But after a crazy week of work, I checked out over the weekend and just read!  I was inspired to read with all of the booktubeathon things on twitter, it was fun to be on the sidelines for it.

Do you have a booktube channel?  I started one but life got crazy and that is what I had to drop.

A meme hosted by Sheila at BookJourney. 

Finished this past week:
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault
Brunette Ambition by Lea Michele
Serenade by Emily Kiebel
The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

Currently Reading:
Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown

Next on the TBR pile:
Best Supporting Role by Sue Margolis
Gravel on the Side of the Road by Kris Raddish
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