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review 2018-03-17 00:02
Catarina's Ring
Catarina's Ring - Lisa McGuinness

Catarina Pensebene grew up in Italy's farming country.  Her life was filled with olive groves, hard work, good food and a large, loving family.  When Catarina is put to work as a maid for another family, she attracts the attention of the husband and is almost raped.  Salvation comes in the form of a letter from the United States.  A family friend is asking for Catarina's hand in marriage for their son, Franco.  Catarina gains the courage to leave her home and her family in order to travel to America and marry a man she only knew in her youth.  Making the best of the life she now leads, Catarina finds love with Franco and his family, she dutifully passes on her life lessons along with the ring Franco made for her to her daughter and granddaughter.  Years later, Catarina's granddaughter, Juliette decides to escape to Italy after a tragedy.  Juliette calls upon the strength of her grandmother to get through heartbreak and find the courage to follow her dream and open her own Italian restaurant. 

Beautiful scenery and intriguing plot immersed me into both Catarina and Juliette's stories.  I am a sucker for dual time stories and I loved that I knew the connection between Juliette and Catarina from the beginning, but not the full importance of the ring.  I felt a strong connection to each character; I experienced the struggle of Catarina's decision as she weighed leaving her home for a new land and fiance, as well as her resolve in being happy and making love grow.  Juliette's experience began in tragedy, however Italy was a wonderful place to recuperate.  I was brought into the sights, smells and food as Juliette cooked her way to recovery.  I enjoyed that Juliette also found solace in her Grandmother's letters, the shared experiences through time and the bond of the ring deepened their links. Overall, an emotional and enchanting story of love, lessons, loss and family.

This book was received in exchange for an honest review. 

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review 2018-03-16 10:00
New Release Review! Highland Dragon Master (Dawn of the Highland Dragon #3) by Isabel Cooper!
Highland Dragon Master - Isabel Cooper



Legend claims
When Scotland fell to English rule
The Highland dragons took a vow:
Freedom at any price.

The war for Scottish independence rages on, but it's only a matter of time before England is victorious. Exhausted and battle-weary, Highland dragon Erik MacAlasdair will face unknown seas to seek the Templar stronghold and claim a power so great it could free his beloved homeland forever.

If only that kind of power didn't come with such a terrible price.

Daughter of a mortal woman and an ancient dragon, Toinette has never forgotten the proud Scot who once stole her young heart—she'll gladly fight at his side. But when dark forces leave them stranded on a cursed island, it will take everything they have to defy their fate...and trust the passion that burns within the heart of every dragon.




The Highland Dragon Master has readers joining in the fight against a curse in adventure that draws readers in and refuses to let go.


Toinette an Erik are two very strong and compelling characters that make it easy for readers to get know them and become captivated by the story. The romance between Erik and Toinette progresses at a steady rate as it builds from their past, it has lots of sizzling sexual chemistry that heats up the pages and they must overcome the turmoil of a perilous situation that adds lots of obstacles and emotional distress which has readers empathizing with the couple as they strive for a happy ending to the nightmare.


Suspense and anticipation builds throughout the story as Toinette, Erik and their crew sail right into the heart of an evil curse that would destroy their very lives. The adventure becomes full of danger and thrills that send chills down the reader’s spine as they try to discover just what they are up against and the path they must take to achieve that is full of surprising twists that keeps them on their toes and the readers guessing just what might happen next.


Isabel Cooper brings her brilliant world to vivid life with well written words that paint vibrant images that make it easy for the reader picture each and every scene and makes it easy for them to become part of the fascinating world of her mesmerizing dragons and their companions.  Her dragons always seem life like and fit into her time frame and the events so well that I can easily imagine them being real during that time period. Highland Dragon Master held me captive from the very beginning and I can’t wait to find out what the author has it store for us next.




Highland Dragon Master is the 3rd book in the Dawn of the Highland Dragon series.


Highland Dragon Master is available in print or ebook at:

Amazon   B&N   GPlay   Kobo   eBooks


Isabel Cooper can be found at:

Website   Goodreads   BookBub  

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review 2018-03-16 01:03
The War that Saved my Life
The War that Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


In the end it was the combination of the two, the end of my little war against Jamie, and the start of the big war, Hitler's war, that set me free.

- Chapter 1


She was not a nice person, but she cleaned up the floor. She was not a nice person, but she bandaged my foot in a white piece of cloth, and gave us two of her own shirts to wear. Miss Smith was not a nice person, but the bed she put us in was soft and clean, with smooth thin blankets and warm thicker ones.

- Chapter 7


Huh, I thought. Imagine dressing up tables. Imagine wasting cloth to dress up tables.

- Chapeter 18


I wanted Mam to be like Susan. I didn't really trust Susan not to be like Mam.

- Chapter 26


Ada was born with a club foot, and because of this, her mom doesn't let her leave the house. But that isn't the worst of it. Ada's mom (Mam) punishes her by putting her in a kitchen cabinet -- sometimes overnight. Mam calls Ada rubbish and tells her no one wants her with her ugly foot. Ada "escapes" this abuse by going somewhere else in her head. 


When Ada finds out her younger brother Jamie is to be evacuated with the other kids from his school, she is determined to go with them. The journey takes them to a small village where families have agreed to take in the evacuated children. Ada and Jamie end up living with Susan Smith, an old, grumpy spinster who doesn't really want them.


Ada is a heart-wrenching character. She has been taking care of her brother all his life, but no one takes care of her. She has suffered unimaginable abuse from the woman who should love her the most. She doesn't know how to accept love and kindness, and she doesn't even think she deserves it. Her mother has told her that her foot is messed up because Ada did something wrong.


Susan has her own issues. She recently lost her best friend and suffers from severe depression. Having Ada and Jamie around gives her something else to think about and an important responsibility - a reason to get up every day and engage with others.


Wow. This book is powerful. It is set in England during World War II. I loved watching Ada's development and bonding with Susan and others in the village. Despite everything Ada has been through (or maybe because of it), she is stubborn and courageous. She is also slow to trust and filled with self-doubt. The last chapter had me in tears.


I recommend this book to kids in grades 4-8 and their adults. I think it will touch their hearts in a major way.

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review 2018-03-15 20:30
I Have Come for the Airing of Grievances
Perfect - Judith McNaught

So here's the thing. I love, love, love romance books. I love the HEA, I love the hot sex scenes, I love a guy that is totally into the heroine and the heroine being kick ass. But as we have all said here time and time again, older romance novels are problematic. There are a lot of tropes that just don't get done anymore unless that's a genre that you are trying to market to these days. These book had a whole mess of issues that made me cringe. Then again, this was written in 1993 so I was trying to give McNaught some leeway here, but honestly there was so much other stuff that didn't work that I just could not give this above two stars. I bought this book and have no intention of even looking it's way again.


I think that McNaught's historical romances are set up a bit better than this book though we still have the trope of heroine does something and hero takes it badly without listening that appears twice in this one. We also have the heroine is a virgin and has the best first time ever trope. Let us not even get started on the TSTL kicks that Julie kept getting on throughout this entire book. 


"Perfect" is book two in the Paradise contemporary romance series that McNaught wrote. Book one is "Paradise" starring other characters that appear in this book as secondary characters (Matthew and Meredith). Book two is focused on Zachary Benedict and Julie Mathison. 

Zachary Mathison is thrown out of his family's home by his grandmother. Zack then is able to turn around and become a stuntman (of course he did) and from there go on to acting and directing. He ends up being a highly respected actor and is now in the process of directing his wife in what many are calling an Oscar caliber film. When Zack finds his wife in disarray with the lead actor on the film and demanding a divorce. When a scene involving a gun leads to her death, Zack is then charged and convicted of her murder. 


Julie Mathison is a foster kid that is shuffled around until someone realizes her potential. She is eventually sent to live with the Mathison family in Texas and promises she will do whatever she needs to be the "perfect" daughter, sister, friend. She eventually grows up and becomes a teacher and is happy with her life with her boyfriend (I think his name was Greg) even though she feels like something is missing from their relationship (it's the sex Julie, that's what is missing). 

When Zack escapes from jail he eventually comes across Juile at a cafe, Julie because she realizes he has on new jeans and invents a reason for why he would have on new jeans (no I am not kidding) gives him a ride where eventually Julie figures out that Zack is an escaped convict who then takes her hostage. He just has to guys cause he's so drawn to her. I mean he's been in jail for five years (ughhhh).


That is just the bare bones to this story. We also have a plethora of characters in this one. Why McNaught got into Julie's brother Ted's romance in this one made no sense. That is honestly why this book was so endless and went on for more than 700 pages. She could have just broken up Ted's story and at least laid out the bare bones in this one without taking away from the main story.

That said, Ted sucks and can kick rocks. Most of the men in this story just sit around and either treat the women they supposedly care/love like crap through verbal and sometimes physical abuse (Zack and Ted) or they sit around and decide they know that's good for the woman (Zack, Paul-the FBI agent who falls for Julie, Julie's dad, Ted again (you still suck) or the feel like they have ownership over Julie's chastity (Julie's freaking father). The last few chapters of this book are actually about not having sex before marriage. I could not deal with this many men in my life being that up in my body. 


To wrap it up most of the men (not Matt) are awful and I honestly thought the character of Paul was a freaking chump. Who hangs around someone who is not into you at all?  

Katherine and Meredith were better heroines in my eyes than Julie. Julie is passive through this whole freaking book. And her going from being a virgin to all of a sudden wanting to have sex with Zack, who has kidnapped her by the way blows my mind. I wonder if McNaught even thought of the implications of Stockholm Syndrome? Zack repeatedly makes Julie tell him she believes that he is innocent. I mean even if she didn't believe it, you are alone with a guy with a gun what are you going to say/do? I think that would have been an interesting side road for her to go down. 


The initial part of the book with regards to writing held a lot of promise. I always get annoyed when an author rushes the backstory to characters to get to the meet cutes and all. But McNaught did a very good of setting up Zack and Julie's circumstances. However, as I said above, there was way too much going on. This book did not need to be 700 pages. The flow was up and down depending on where McNaught took the story. Sometimes we would follow Zack and Julie around, then we would shift back to Ted and Katherine, Matt and Meredith, and then freaking Paul. 

The writing in this book hurt my soul sometimes, but hey at least Sam (AMReader) and 

WhiskeyintheJar/Kyraryker are having fun making fun of it.


Some of the passages where I include the percentages just so you can see my notes/comments as I was reading:


1 percent-“If you don’t like my offer,” Margaret informed her in a steely voice, “then I suggest you get yourself a job as a waitress or find yourself a pimp, because those are the only two careers for which you’re fit right now.”



19 percent-"Julie had never before offered a hitchhiker a ride; the risks were far too high, but she decided to do it this time, not only because he’d changed her tire or because he seemed nice, but also because of a simple pair of jeans—new jeans."


So Julie is not smart is what you are saying. Also don't tell me how she doesn't even let men come into her home and she's all let me give a total stranger a ride cause of his jeans


24 percent-"He had tasted her lips and felt their response to him. His starved senses wanted to feast on the entire banquet."


He has literally kidnapped her at gunpoint?! Maybe wait a while on the hot smexy times. 


28 percent-“Have something to drink,” he ordered, thrusting a long-stemmed glass toward her. “Drink it, damn it!” He made a visible effort to soften his tone. “It’ll help you relax.”


Ughhhhhhhh. I mean sure, let's get her drinking so you can do whatever. Gah.


31 percent-“My father is a minister!” she wept. “He’s a respected man and you’ve made his daughter into a public slut! I’m a teacher!” she cried hysterically, “I teach little children! Do you think they’ll let me teach children now that I’m a national scandal who wallows in the snow with escaped murderers?”


You have literally just kissed the dude! How do you go from that to I am a slut?! Also I should not be laughing at this, but I am. 


31 percent-“I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life,” she sobbed brokenly, struggling harder against his grasp, “trying to be perfect. I’ve been so perfect!” she wept,"


You have been lame and exhausting. I have only been reading this for a little bit, but no, you have not been perfect.


40 percent-"Apparently, she had withheld her virginity from her own boyfriend, who obviously loved her and wanted to offer her respectability and a future. Tonight, however, she was willing to surrender it to an escaped convict who was incapable of loving anyone and who had nothing whatsoever to offer her."


Enough said. 


42 percent-"Her body stiffened with the brief pain, but before he could react, her arms were around him and she was opening for him like a flower . . . welcoming him, sheathing him."


I love how back in the day all virgins in romance land either had the easiest first time ever or were assaulted by the hero.  FYI these two didn't even use condoms. I can't with Julie having sex with a convicted criminal and not even thinking about STDs. AIDS was a thing back in 1993 and my first thought would be men being raped in jail or raping others and ugh this is why sometimes I have to yell at myself to just read and not get all actually about books, but it's hard. 


44 percent"Now she looked at the man she loved"

So much wrong here I can't even.

FYI, you can follow Whiskey's buddy read updates, here: 10 percent25 percent, and 50 percent


The ending was ludicrous. I am not a fan of male characters being abusive to the heroines and it all just getting wiped away. There of course is HEA that honestly I don't see is remotely believable, but hey at that point I just wanted to be done with this. 


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review 2018-03-14 22:06
The City of Brass - S.A. Chakraborty
The City of Brass - S.A. Chakraborty

Recently, I seem to be bouncing off (or at least struggling with) books that other people really love and The City of Brass is sadly no exception to that rule. First off, it's a hefty tome even in paperback and it felt like it was taking forever to read because the first half of the book really dragged, to the point where I considered putting it down permanently.


It's a real odd mix of a book, in my opinion - fantasy but one where the main (supernatural and otherwise) characters are Muslim, set in a geography that is essentially (in parts) the Middle East and Central Asia of the 19th century. So we start off in Egypt as ruled by the Napoleonic army and end up in Daevabad, the djinn city of the book's title, then it's all sprinkled heavily with as much terminology for local colour as we can manage - nobody gets to wear a robe, it has to be a dishdasha, and so on.


Anyway, the story is told from the point of view of two characters, Nahri and Ali, the former once a street urchin now turned hustler and the latter the second in line to the djinn throne. When Nahri sticks her nose in somewhere it doesn't belong once too often, she ends up running for her life with another of the djinn, who reluctantly agrees to take her to Daevabad since he's actually a historic enemy of the folks who now rule there. Meanwhile Ali is trying to better the lot of the half-djinn in his city despite everyone telling him it's a bad idea and discovering just how little head he has for politics. 


I'm still not completely convinced as to whether The City of Brass is YA or not, especially since Nahri in particular is a teenager, and also because of the incipient love triangle. At least that wasn't overwhelming but it was also pretty hard to ignore and it doesn't really do much for me at the best of times, especially when one of the participants is a mass-murdering war criminal. I know girls like a bad boy but that seems a bit extreme. Unfortunately, Nahri as a character leaves something to be desired when it comes to sensible decision making anyway, which gets worse as the book goes on, so I guess it's in keeping with the rest of the things she thinks are a good idea!


Anyway, I finally finished it, the pacing issues started to work themselves out towards the latter third of the book though I still think it could have done with a tighter edit in places. It will come as little surprise that there's a sequel coming out (The Kingdom of Copper) at some point next year. Hopefully the author will sort out some of the first book issues but I have to say I'll probably be looking for a library loan rather than laying out cash. 

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