Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Excerpt from BITE ME

I cannot wait for this 2014 release . . . 
come on March!


Unable to resolve how her life had come to this, Livy ended up where she felt most comfortable in her office—under her desk. It was a small space under there because of the desk drawers, so it gave her the illusion of being in a nice burrow.
And that’s where Livy stayed until the smell of roses, lilies, and some other annoying flowers filled her sensitive nostrils.
She tried to ignore the smell but it kept getting more potent as someone moved in and out of her office. Repeatedly.
She sniffed the air, trying to ignore the flowers and center on the person.
Vic. It was Vic in her office. With flowers.
Confused and curious, Livy quietly crawled out from under the desk and peeked around the corner of it to see Vic Barinov bringing in another giant flower display as well as a large fruit basket.
Getting to her knees, Livy asked, “What are you doing?”
Vic stopped and looked at her. “Were you under the desk?”
“Are you always under the desk?”
“Not always.”
He shrugged, walked out, came back with another basket. This time filled with an array of cookies.
“We couldn’t agree.”
“Who couldn’t agree…what?”
“It’s Shen’s fault,” he complained, which really didn’t answer her question.
“First he said, you wouldn’t want flowers. Then today, he thought you might, although he had no empirical proof regarding the veracity of that belief.”
“Empirical proof?”
“Right. So I brought you flowers. And cookies.” He walked out of her office. “I also,” he said from the hallway, “got you a plant.” And he came in with a five-foot-tall standing plant that he put in a corner. Christ, Livy was only five-one.
“And,” he said, gesturing at two other baskets, “food.” He pointed at one basket. “Nuts and fruits, nuts being the emphasis of the overall basket.” He pointed at the other. “Fruits and nuts, with fruits being the emphasis.” Went back into the hallway and came in with another basket. “And meats and fish.”
He placed the baskets in front of her desk.
“And”—he walked out again and quickly returned with one more basket—“honey. European and American. They didn’t have any African bee honey.”
Glancing around the room, he finally settled on placing that basket beside the standing plant.
Resting back on her heels, Livy asked, “Why?”
“Why what?”
“Why are you bringing me anything?”
“It’s what people do when a friend suffers a loss.”
“We’re friends?”
“I just bought you all these baskets, so we better be.”


Vic had always found Livy…unusual. But why was she hiding under her desk? That seemed weird. Even for her.
Even worse, when he suggested they were friends, she just stared blankly at him. It kind of hurt his feelings.
“I brought you honey. You could at least pretend we’re friends.”
“Yeah. We’re friends. Just don’t know why you felt the need to buy me baskets of…stuff.”
“Because that’s what people do, Livy. It’s called empathy.”
“I’ve heard the word.”
Vic rolled his eyes. “Look, Livy, I know you’re this great photographer but—”
“Oh, yeah,” she suddenly cut in. “Great wedding photographer, maybe.”
Livy shook her head. “Forget it.”
“Livy, what’s going on with you?”
“Nothing.” She suddenly dropped down and crawled back under her desk.
Vic, not sure how to deal with this side of Livy, walked around her desk and crouched down so he could see her.
“Do you want to go somewhere and talk?” he asked.
“Because I’m so chatty?”
“No. But I understand that after the loss of a parent—”
“We weren’t close.”
“As you’ve already said. Still, we could go get some coffee.” He glanced at his watch. “Maybe get lunch.”
“You asking me out on a date?”
Without thinking, Vic leaned back a bit. “No.”
“You don’t have to look so horrified.”
“It’s not horror. It’s confusion. You’re confusing me. Which,” when he thought about it, “may lead to horror. But I simply don’t like being confused. So the horror wasn’t directed at you, so much as the confusion.”
“Well, when you put it like that…”
Copyright © Shelly Laurenston 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Audiobook Review: Duck the Halls

 photo duck_zpscc20ad94.jpg Duck the Halls 

by Donna Andrews
Series: Meg Lanslow #16
Publication date: 22 October 2013
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: my own copy
Date Read: 09 December 2013
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Length: 8 hours 17 minutes

A new side-splitting Meg Langslow mystery from award–winning, New York Times bestselling author of Six Geese A Slaying, just in time for the holidays

The brilliantly funny and talented Donna Andrews delivers another winner in the acclaimed avian-themed series that mystery readers have come to love. A few nights before Christmas, Meg is awakened when Michael is summoned to the New Life Baptist Church, where someone has rigged a cage full of skunks in the choir loft. The lengthy process of de-skunking the church requires its annual pre-Christmas concert to relocate to Trinity Episcopal, where Mother insists the show must go on, despite the budget-related protests of Mr. Otis, an elderly vestryman. Meanwhile, when Meg helps her grandfather take the skunks to the zoo, they discover that his boa has been stolen—only to turn up later during the concert slithering out from the ribbon-bedecked evergreens.

It’s clear that some serious holiday pranksters are on the loose, and Meg is determined to find them. But before she can, a fire breaks out at Trinity, and Mr. Otis is discovered dead. Could this be a bit of nasty revenge from the now deposed Pruitt family? Or harassment from the Evil Lender? As Meg searches for answers she also races to finish all of her Christmas shopping, wrapping, cooking, caroling, and decorating in time to make the season jolly for Michael and the twins.

Guaranteed to put the "ho ho hos" into the holidays of cozy lovers everywhere, Duck the Halls is a gut-bustingly funny mystery, the latest from the award-winning Donna Andrews.

My thoughts: I generally enjoy cozy mysteries. They have a kind of fantasy, over-the-top feeling as I am sure these situations just do not creep up on you in real life. And more often than not, some of these situations make you want to laugh out loud. I love that!

Unfortunately I chose book 16 to enter into this chaotic Christmas mess that is the Langslow family. I wish I started at the beginning . . . I am usually very particular about starting a series at the first book but this time, this one just crept up on me and I wanted to enjoy the Christmas setting. This was a mistake. I am sure that I would have enjoyed it all much more if I had come to know the family and their friends and felt invested in what happened in their lives.

There is no time wasted introducing the family characters as I am sure everyone is loved by regular readers already. This unfortunately made me feel like an outsider looking in and not part of the story at all. I am not sure if this is the way that a small town act but it did seem a bit far fetched at times.

There is a big religious feel to the book as well. I felt some of the church activities was a bit of a clique and I could not imagine that it bore any resemblance to reality but then again this is fiction. And maybe if you live in a small town . . .

The main character, Meg, did not endear herself to me either. In fact I thought she was overly protective of her husband who is a volunteer firefighter. I am sure my husband would not have appreciated it if I acted like Meg at some of the crime scenes.

Having said all of the above, I still enjoyed the light hearted sillyness of this book but I would recommend starting at the first book . . . 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Long Walk

 photo longwalk_zps6bebba25.jpg  

The Long Walk 
by Stephen King

Publication date: 01 April 1999 (first published 1979) 
Genre: Science Fiction; Dystopia; Horror 
Source: my own copy 
Date Read: 09 August 2013 
Narrator: Kirby Heyborne 
Length: 10 hours 40 minutes 

Every year, on the first day of May, one hundred teenage boys meet for an event known throughout the country as "The Long Walk." Among this year's chosen crop is sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty. He knows the rules: that warnings are issued if you fall under speed, stumble, sit down. That after three warnings... you get your ticket. And what happens then serves as a chilling reminder that there can be only one winner in the Walk - the one that survives...

My thoughts: 
When I was younger, I was a huge Stephen King fan and read anything with his name on it. As I have become older, I have read less and less of his novels as I have gradually lost interest in his writing style. I have found a few gems here and there but overall I have been disappointed.

Then I came across this audio copy of The Long Walk. I read it quite a few years ago and it was a happy surprise as I remembered the creepiness of it. I was not disappointed in this “re-read”, it held the same creep factor that I remembered loving from his earlier titles.

The Long Walk is about winning a race that will mean all your dreams coming true – for the rest of your life. So it is quite an honor for the 100 boys that is chosen from the lottery draw. Unfortunately only one boy can win and that means that 99 other boys will die. I cannot
imagine someone being eager and excited about this possibility but these teenage boys all seem to think they will live forever.

In this dystopia television extravaganza, warnings are given for any “infringement” of the rules . . . if your pace becomes too slow, you get a warning. If you sit down to rest your bleeding feet, you get a warning. If you try to leave the race in any way, you get a warning. Every warning can only be erased by walking an hour without any incident. And if you receive three warnings in an hour, you get your ticket – delivered by a gunshot. Your race is terminated – forever, while the spectators cheer.

This book is very entertaining even if it all takes place on a highway during a few days' stretch. We meet a few of the characters and not all of them are very likeable . . . The ending is somewhat strange. I have read a few reviews that speculate about the real meaning of the ending but I thought it was perfect just as it was. I recommend this for all dystopia lovers.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Cuckoo's Calling

 photo cuckoo_zpsc7294e1b.jpg The Cuckoo's Calling 

by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) 
Series: Cormoran Strike #1 
Publication date: 18 April 2013 
Genre: Murder Mystery Detective Novel 
Source: gift 
Date Read: 20 August 2013 
Narrator: Robert Glenister 
Length: 15 hours 53 minutes 

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.

A war veteran, wounded both physically and psychologically, Strike's life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model's complex world, the darker things get - and the closer he gets to terrible danger . . .

A gripping, elegant mystery steeped in the atmosphere of London - from the hushed streets of Mayfair, to the backstreet pubs of the East End, to the bustle of Soho - The Cuckoo's Calling is a remarkable debut. Introducing Cormoran Strike, it is a classic crime novel unlike any other book you will read this year.

My thoughts: 
This was really a great surprise for me. I am not a Harry Potter fan and the first adult novel by JK Rowling (Casual Vacancy) did not blow me away although I felt compelled to finish it.

I was not sure if I should be giving it another shot, maybe JK Rowling just wasn't for me.  But I love detective novels, so I decided to give it another go.  And The Cuckoo's Calling hit the right spot at the right moment. I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery.
Our hero detective is Cormoran Strike Together with titbits from his temporary secretary, he tries to solve all the conflicting leads in this twisting murder mystery when he is hired by the victim's brother to find out the truth about her death.

Cormoran has all the usual hangups that we have come to expect from our favorite detectives but this just makes him seem more human and easy to like. He is a disabled military veteran and I hope to see a lot more of him (and his secretary) in future. The ending gave us an inclining that this might be the first of a series . . . 

I enjoyed this detective murder mystery and would recommend it for a nice and relaxing holiday read.  I look forward to future cases in Cormoran Stike's career.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Program

 photo program_zps2bc9380d.jpg

The Program
by Suzanne Young 

Source: my own copy 
Publication date: 30 April 2013 
Genre: Dystopia Sci-Fi Young Adult 
Date Read: 26 December 2013 
Narrator: Joy Osmanski 
Length: 10 hours 56 minutes 

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories. 

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

My thoughts:
I loved the beginning of The Program. I could not stop listening to the fabulous Joy Osmanski introducing me to Sloan and James and all their friends.

It was strange to think of suicide being a sickness of epidemic proportions. In this future world, suicide is contagious and more and more young people are dying every day. The powers-that-be try to cure this rising tide by erasing the flagged teenagers' memories. So everyone is on edge, trying to not be noticed by hiding all emotions and completing the daily questionnaire by stating that they feel happy and contented. It is smiles all around.

Even with this hard-to-believe concept, I soon gave in to the story's buildup and enjoyed
Sloane's experience in the program. It was definitely fast paced and scary, with a few icky characters making an quick appearance.

Unfortunately when she was released back into the normal world, things started to grate on my nerves. The control that was enforced into all aspects of life was especially hard to take even when I tried to remind myself that that was the point of the story. Sloan's parents was especially irritating and I think the author did an excellent job of us just having to hate them. On the other hand, I can't imagine that Sloan would not want to distance herself from them.

The love story between Sloan and James was very intense for a YA title but I found their re-discovering of their love sweet and heartwarming. Their relationship is just as perfect as we want our fictional romances to be.

I enjoyed some parts of this book and but unfortunately there were stages where I wish I could just fast forward toward the end and the obvious conclusion. I would even go as far to say that if I have not been invested in Sloan and James “finding” each other again, I would have given up. Thinking back, I do not see the point of the introduction of some of the characters and can only imagine that they will feature in the future books.

I liked the story but unfortunately I am not invested in Sloan and James enough to look out for the sequel. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Super Six Sunday: My favourites of 2013

Super Six Sunday is an original bookish meme hosted at Bewitched Bookworms You can see the weekly schedule of themes here. 

I did not have a good year and the reading was not so much better.  I do not have any five star reads and only a few four star reads.  Very disappointing . . . 

My favorite ones, in no order . . .  

 I love horror stories.  This is the second in the parallell world trilogy by SL Grey (a South African duo).  The Ward is not your typical horror and I really enjoyed it.  The first book was sent in a shopping mall.  This one is in a hospital and the third in the series (already waiting in my TBR pile) is set in a boarding school.

 The Pride series is one of my all time favorites.   Wolf with Benefits is book #8 and you are missing out if you have not met this clan.  Start with the first book in the series and I promise you will not be disappointed.  This is the perfect series for holiday reading.

 This was a big surprise.  I enjoyed The Night Circus although I cannot exactly pinpoint why.  It was a very unique story and the narration just gave it that extra "oemphf".  

I enjoy Mira Grant and Parasite was the beginning of another great series.  I am looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

I am not a Harry Potter fan and did not read the books or see the movies.  But this detective series caught my attention and I will definitely be looking for the next in the series.  The Cuckoo's Calling was a pleasant surprise and PI Cormoran Strike was wonderful.

I started this book under the misconception that it would be a horror story - it is Stephen King after all.  But no, Lisey's Story was something in a category all on its own.  It has elements of horror and of fantasy . . . and of life . . .  

I am looking forward to see your favourites, so I can add them to my reading list.  I want 2014 to be more readable . . .

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Audiobook Review: Heart of Obsidian

 photo obsidian_zps40295d1c.jpg  

Heart of Obsidian 

by Nalini Singh 

Source: my own copy 
Publication date: 04 June 2013 
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Date Read: 20 November 2013 
Narrator: Angela Dawe 
Length: 13 hours 11 minutes 

Step into New York Times bestseller Nalini Singh’s explosive and shockingly passionate Psy-Changeling world… 

A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained bloodred. A woman whose very existence has been erased. A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself. A deadly price that must be paid. The day of reckoning is here. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:
I have forgotten how much I enjoyed the Psy-Changeling series – it has been so long! 

I must admit that I love a strong alpha male in my stories and this book did not disappoint. Our hero is one of the strongest and most powerful Psy in the series.

Heart of Obsidian is all about the love between Kaleb and Sahara. They have known each other since they were young children. Sahara disappeared seven years ago and Kaleb has been on a mission ever since to find her.

Our story starts when Kaleb rescues Sahara and brings her to her new home. I don't want to reveal any spoilers but if you have been following the series, you are going to be shocked!  
But this is not only a love story. There are lots of action and the series moves along very rapidly in this book. 
There are some huge discoveries in this installment.

I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to Psy-Changeling followers. If you have not followed the series, you will not be able to find all the surprises that is in store for you.   So I would suggest that you start at the beginning.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Audiobook Challenge 2014

The Audiobook Challenge is back for 2014! 

Join The Book Nympho and Hot Listens for the 2nd year of great audio books. 

Audiobooks are great for those times you want to read but can’t for some reason like driving, doing chores (makes them just fly past), sneaking the earbuds in while working, or going for medical treatments like I have to do for the next few months. 

When you find a great narrator, they can make the story even better. I would never have found some awesome stories if I did not find the audio books.  I am sure that the words on paper would have made me close the book!

Reading Challenge Details:
  • Runs January 1, 2014 – December 31, 2014. You can join at anytime.
  • The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2014 than you did in 2013.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Shelfari, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweeting about the challenge.

  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multi-tasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
I am going to choose the Stenographer level - I am sure that I will be able to listen to at least one book per month.   

This will be the first time that I do an audio book challenge and if you want to join me, just click on the button above.