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Blog Tour: The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

[ 4 ] March 13, 2014

collector-of-dying-breaths-coverPlease welcome M.J. Rose, author of The Collector of Dying Breaths, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Reviewed by Colleen Turner

If you have never read a book by M.J. Rose then you are missing out on an immersive, sensual adventure that twists and turns through time and across the world, one that is laced with mystery, romance and heartbreak unlike anything else I’ve read. In her Reincarnationist series she introduces us to an unforgettable character named Jac L’Etoile, a woman from a long and illustrious line of French perfumers who has continually fought against her abilities to experience past life memories, her own as well as others, and who has spent her life trying to debunk the mysteries of the past in order to make sense of the mysteries surrounding her in the present. In The Collector of Dying Breaths, Jac will be forced to face her abilities head on and to trust in not only those abilities but in the people closest to her if she stands a change of finding some peace in a life that has been marred by tragedy.

When Jac’s life is turned upside down (once again) by the death of one of the people closest to her (no spoilers for those who know the series) she is thrust into contact with Melinoe Cypros, an eccentric and cunning heiress who wants Jac to decipher the work of the 16th century perfumer Rene le Florentin and use it to figure out the formula to reanimate a person’s dying breath. Taking on this project will also bring Jac’s one and only love, Griffin North, back into her life, a man she has loved not only in this life but in all others and whom she has caused the death of in each previous life. Even as Jac initially tries to refuse Melinoe’s offer she soon gives into the temptation of finishing Rene’s work and possibly finding a way to bring back her loved one. But agreeing to Melinoe’s terms to work on the formula at her opulent home in the forests of Fontainebleau, a home dripping with the priceless art collection Melinoe is determined to keep in this life and the next, brings Jac into the lair of a conniving, ruthless woman who will do anything to get what she wants. And what she wants might just cost Jac everything.

Weaved together with Jac’s story is that of Rene, the man who rose from nothing to become the perfumer to Catharine de Medici. This great honor comes with a heavy price, however, and Rene finds himself also creating poisons for his queen to use against her enemies and continuing his mentor’s work of discovering the secret to bringing back the dead. As Rene trusts Queen Catharine he does not question what she asks of him. But when Rene falls in love with one of Catharine’s ladies in waiting he discovers just how dangerous this Medici princess can be.

It is hard to find exactly where to begin my praise of The Collector of Dying Breath because I just loved it all! The meticulous sensory descriptions work to transport the reader through time much as Jac experiences it and it is hard not to feel the joy, passion and pain of the characters. The depths of obsession experienced by both Catharine and Melinoe and the lengths they both will go to to get what they desire is quite frightening and adds a heavy dose of shock, terror and passion to the suspenseful plots. I have long hoped that Griffin and Jac would somehow come together and watching their connection unfold alongside Rene and his love pulls at the heartstrings. Combine all of this emotion with the detailed and immersive history and the reincarnation twist and what isn’t there to love?

My only complaint would be that the story ended too soon for me and, from the ending, I have a very sad feeling that this might conclude Jac’s story. I truly hope I am wrong because I, for one, want more. This series is something not to miss, regardless of which book you decide to start with. They are magical.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Atria Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

[ 1 ] March 12, 2014

20140209_510640.xml-book.glitter.0209Reviewed by Jax Kepple

Kelly Corrigan found herself as a young twenty-something in Australia with no money to get home after she and a friend blew it on a trip of a lifetime. Applying to job after job, she finally settles for a nanny job with a widower, John Tanner, who has two small children (not kids – “kids are goats,” as Kelly’s mother would say) and realizes that her mother Mary, despite Kelly’s perceived flaws of her, is a pretty great mom and Kelly understands why she acts and parents the way she did. Later, Kelly reflects on this time while she’s undergoing cancer treatment, faced with the possibility of leaving her two children without a mother, just like the Tanner family.

Glitter and Glue is more than a memoir. It’s the story of a daughter’s love and appreciation for her somewhat strict mother, and how she grows when faced with children who are missing that essential piece in their lives. Kelly gets on very well with the Tanners, including stepbrother Evan and father-in-law Pop, and adjusts very well to life as an Australian. She goes about her days watching soap operas and developing a small crush on Evan, while holding it together for still-grieving John and being a pseudo parent for the children. She wants daughter Milly to accept her, and lives for each time Milly expresses the slighted satisfaction with Kelly’s attempts to relate to her. Milly, in turn, clings to having someone she can come to with girl problems. Martin is the young brother who is full of love and goofiness and Kelly loves being around him. The whole family is brought to life years later, by Kelly’s love for them, and the reader can tell that this is a time in her life that she holds very close to her heart.

While Kelly is living the life of an Australian housewife, she keeps thinking of what her mother would do or say in each situation, and throughout the book, there are vignettes about her life with her family, including her flighty, always-looking-on-the-bright-side dad and two lacrosse-playing brothers. Her mother, Mary, is quite the character – brash and independent, fun yet strict. Kelly tags along when her mom goes on a girls-only beach trip with friends who call themselves the “Pigeons” which is fantastic. Mary is portrayed as a strict woman who has it all together, so it was especially sad when she was in the hospital for a simple cut that got infected and, when faced with possible amputation, is racked with fear. Then it was Kelly’s turn to nurture.

Corrigan’s writing is so gripping that the story flies by and tells the poignant tale of understanding, love and motherhood. As a somewhat bittersweet ending, you find out she hasn’t kept in touch with the Tanners, but the lessons she learned while living with them transcended her entire life and relationship with her mother and her children.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Vintage by Susan Gloss

[ 5 ] March 11, 2014

VintageHC-C-1-e1386603710842Reviewed by Kathie Smith

Vintage by Susan Gloss is a heartwarming story of three very different women who find common ground among the treasures of Violet’s vintage clothing store, Hourglass Vintage. Violet’s interest in the history behind the items in her store is what fostered the bond between her, April and Amithi.

After a rough start with a bad marriage, Violet took a chance by taking college courses then moving to the city to open a vintage clothing store. She is happy with her life and, put off by prior experience, content without a man in her life to complicate things. She is following her dream and enjoying her freedom.

April enters the picture in a whirlwind of tears and hormones with the intention of returning her wedding gown. Violet has a firm “no returns” policy but begins to reconsider as she learns more about April’s circumstances. Young and unexpectedly pregnant, she is trying to cope with the surprise cancellation of her wedding to the father and his move out of town. She is also grieving the loss of her mother while shouldering the full responsibility of sorting through her mother’s things and preparing the house for sale.

Amithi arrives at Hourglass Vintage to sell a few of her beautiful, traditional clothing from India. She has also recently found the rug pulled from under her feet and is struggling to come to terms with the fact that she was betrayed by her husband. She finds herself finally trying to find her American footing as she rethinks her traditional views of marriage and her place in the world. A large part of her transformation includes letting go of some of her treasured scarves and saris so she finds herself drawn back to Violet’s store more and more.

Violet is shocked by the sudden news that her store, which is also her home that she has been renting, is being put up for sale. Soon. She will lose her dream unless she can come up with money to buy the building. Already subconsciously connected by lives that have taken a drastic turn based on the men in their lives, the three women collaborate on a plan to save Hourglass Vintage.

Gloss has created realistic, well developed characters. Vintage is a true read that will charm and warm the hearts of its readers.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Kathie is a writer, wife, mother and volunteer living in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Her passion for the written word is fulfilled by creating her own fictional work, freelancing, acting as an adviser to another author, and reading with her six year old daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

[ 1 ] March 10, 2014

18039484Reviewed by Rachel Mann

The advance reader’s copy of Manor of Secrets seems marketed as Downton Abbey lite, or Downton Abbey for a tween audience. The front cover’s close-up of an elegant girl—she looks rather like Downton’s Lady Sybil—and the back cover’s portrait of a servant girl in the distance seem to promise upstairs and downstairs, propriety and scandal, and a crossing of class barriers.

The book does deliver on the elements suggested on the cover. Lady Charlotte, the girl shown on the front, is the upstairs heroine who’s unfulfilled by society and feeling unrequited given her status and privilege. Janie, the downstairs kitchen maid, lacks Charlotte’s opportunities, but has other freedoms (and maternal love) to balance things out. Both know their place, and both struggle with it. Both are longing for something more.

Potential love interests abound: Lawrence, the too-handsome scoundrel of a footman; Harry, the sweet servant with an eye for Janie; and Lord Andrew, who initially seems dull but oh-so-suitable for a society lady like Charlotte. Lawrence and Harry live up to their first impressions, for worse and for better; Andrew’s not what he appears to be initially.

There’s also no shortage of villains to threaten the two heroines, from Charlotte’s mother, the status-conscious Lady Diane, to the housekeeper and other downstairs employees who are jealous or concerned about those crossing class boundaries. These villains, though, are no match for Janie and Charlotte in their pursuits of love, happiness, and, most surprisingly and rewardingly, female friendship. Romantic love is certainly an interest for Janie and Charlotte, but friendship—specifically, sorority—comes first.

Since Charlotte and Janie both have brown hair and look rather similar, I was hoping Longshore would include a Prince and the Pauper style switcheroo in the plot. But while the book reveals a few surprises about the characters, this isn’t one of them. I was hoping for even more secrets and surprises, although there are some shocking revelations that alter the characters’ trajectories and which, fortunately for them, forestall an unhappy outcome.

The book’s tidy solution proves that Janie and Charlotte are right to stand up for themselves and that they should stand up for each other, too. In them, Longshore gives us characters who aren’t just focused on love, friendship, family, or vocation, but on finding a place in the world that allows them to seek out all of that on their own terms.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Point Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 15 ] March 9, 2014

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday are hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog

Here are the books that made their way into my mailbox last week:

For Review – Paper Copies

61cNFILBCyL._SX300_71YaxI8UKzL510O83VTowL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_178573961738606297807653742959780989512503-EternalCafe-COVER-350x533apocalypse-by-dean-crawfordDeceiving-Liesfullcoverfront-final-lorez (1)How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb ThingsNever Too Latethe hardest thingThe Midnight Witch by Paula Brackstonthe_forgotten_rosesw501719

For Review – NetGalley and Edelweiss eBooks

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Additions to My Personal Library

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Review: The Field of Wacky Inventions by Patrick Carman

[ 2 ] March 9, 2014

9780545255219_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Field of Wacky Inventions is the third (and final?) book in the Floor Series. I had an opportunity to read the first two books in the series but I passed them up. Now I am regretting it. At the time they seemed a little too wacky and childish, however, the third installment was a very fun and enjoyable book.

Leo is a boy who owns and runs his own hotel called the Whippet Hotel. It is a rather unique and interesting place and it was designed and built by a rather unique and interesting person. Merganzer D. Whippet is a billionaire genius inventor who seems to live life to its fullest. Merganzer has taken Leo and his step-brother Remi on an adventure to a place called the Field of Wacky Inventions. Their mode of travel? Merganzer attached a Zeppelin to the top of the Whippet hotel and took the top floor as ballast.

After flying above the clouds for a while, they met up with five other airships with what looked like other hotel tops hanging under them. As it turns out, that is exactly what they were. Merganzer has planned for a competition between all the managers of his hotels, and the winner will be put in charge of running them all. Leo and Remi spent the night in a tree house and were the last ones to make it to breakfast where everyone else was waiting for them. After breakfast everyone was told about the competition.

I thought this was a very good book and even though it was written for middle school kids I still felt it was a fun read for myself. The writing was not skimped on just because of the target audience; the story was well done and the important things in the story were ‘explained’ to help one understand what was going on. On top of that the story was very upbeat and gave positive reinforcement for many social interactions that people in general should follow. It gives a better way to deal with people that are not so nice without becoming like them.

Overall, an excellent book! I’ll have to try and read the first two.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scholastic Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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