I was lucky enough to meet Mingmei Yip at the 2010 Romantic Times Convention in Columbus, Ohio. She was on a panel for multicultural creative writing along with L.A. Banks and Barry Eisler. From her very first description of her book, Peach Blossom Pavilion, I was hooked. Throughout the panel I learned many things about Mingmei Yip as a writer and a person. I learned that she is quite the Renaissance woman, having written adult and children’s books as well as being a skill Qin player and artist.
I immediately purchased copies of her novels Peach Blossom Pavilion and Petals from the Sky and a grand love affair with her work began. Last summer I was overjoyed to pick up a copy of her book Song of the Silk Road and this year I was over the moon that she actually asked ME to review her latest novel, Skeleton Women. As a longtime fan you can imagine how exciting it was to be personally contacted by one of my favorite authors and to receive an advance copy of the book that I was eagerly awaiting. The works of Mingmei Yip have always captivated me and before I even read the first page I was certain that Skeleton Women would surely enthrall me from start to finish.
In 1930s China, the underworld of mafia was at its peak. Femme fatales (also known as skeleton women) were the secret weapons of gangs, so named because their charms and beauty often brought death upon their victims who became nothing more than skeletons.
Beautiful lounge singer Camilla wasn’t always a rich and respected woman. Her humble beginnings were that of an orphan who was later adopted by Brother Wang (head of the Red Demons gang) for the sole purpose of luring Master Lung (head of the Flying Dragons gang) to his death.
When she is forced to become Master Lung’s mistress she meets two other skeleton women, Rainbow (the head of a gossip column) and Shadow (a magician who rivals Camilla for Master Lung’s affections.) Both of these skeleton women cause Camilla to be on high alert, for her safety and status are soon at risk. But the biggest threat to her mission is Jinying, Master Lung’s son who has returned from Harvard to not only fall for Camilla but to capture her affections in return. The only way that Camilla can escape is to plot the demise of Master Lung, but at what cost is she willing to sacrifice for true love?
As always, Mingmei Yip did not disappoint. Skeleton Women is a dynamic novel jam-packed with action, suspense, romance, lust, scheming, and twists and turns. This was an incredibly well written novel that not only captures the setting of China but it also manages to pull you into the 1930s and make you feel like you are an outsider looking in on the gangs of Shanghai.
The characters are not only complex but also have the ability to evoke an array of emotions in the reader. Some of the characters of lovable, some loathsome, and some are in between. The plot for this book is original and mesmerizes the reader from page one to the very last sentence. Mingmei Yip proves once again why she is a master of creative writing, suspense, and romance....more
The Taker left off with everything calm and peaceful in Lanny’s world yet there is foreshadowing that the peace is about to be shattered. After waiting a year to find out what danger that I had feared would befall Lanny in Alma Katsu’s second novel in the series The Reckoning I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to find that my wild imagination had not produced any of the scenarios Katsu has come up with.
Suddenly Adair is free and his only thought is to find Lanore (Lanny) and make her pay for her transgression. The time has come for Lanny to pay the price for what she has done and her reckoning is upon her. We can feel the fear and anxiety she is feeling over the inevitability of this reunion as she races across the world trying to keep ahead of Adair. Katsu’s exquisite writing takes us on twists and turns as Lanny has a few startling revelations about what she had thought love was and begins to confront emotions she did not realize she felt. Much like The Taker we are drawn between past and present as Lanny and Adair both remember events from their lives. This effectively helps us to see the person Lanny has been becoming over the past two hundred years as well as how Adair became the tyrant we have come to know him as.
One thing that I immediately enjoyed is the new perspective we gain on Adair. As you can imagine he has been entombed for 200 years and quite a few advances in technology have taken place. It is almost humorous to watch him learn about computers and debit cards. I found myself laughing out loud more than once at his thoughts on modern life. Adair has had two hundred years to think about his life choices and he too has come out a changed man. Many of the profound moments in the book revolve around Adair’s battle between his nature and the new person he would like to be. The changes in him are intriguing and with the stories from his past a different more complex picture of him begins to emerge.
Love actually becomes a bigger theme in The Reckoning and we begin to see a little more about love lasting an eternity. Some of the characters from the previous book are revisited as well as a few new ones. Nothing is as it appears to be and Katsu continues to shake up your understanding of what has happened. Sometimes we believe what we have been told because we want to believe the story rather than face the truth.
The Reckoning will leave you wondering what new revelations will be unearthed about the main characters in the final installment. Can love last an eternity? Are some things beyond redemption? What makes Adair immortal? The character growth is so complex and so rich in this installment I personally can’t wait to see what lies in store for Lanny and Adair....more
I love reading books about food, particularly books about baked goods. And when a fictitious book about food also contains recipes I’m pleased as punch to add it to be to-be-read list.
The Icing on the Cupcake is a tale of family, friends, heartache, mistakes, revenge, love, humor, and cupcakes. Each chapter ends with a different and intriguing cupcake recipe that really sends your appetite into overdrive.
With lovable and loathsome characters, vastly different settings, and recipe after recipe, Jennifer Ross not only paints a candid picture of the New York lifestyle but the Texas lifestyle as well.
Ansley is beside herself with grief. The love of her life, Parish, broke off their engagement because he claimed that she was too mean to like. Her dreams of becoming a Texas housewife have been shattered and she is left confused and in search for a new path to take in life. Her grandmother abandoned her mother and grandfather decades ago to move to New York, leaving Ansley’s mother broken and fragile. But Ansley decides to give her grandmother and New York a chance, hoping to discover a new way of life for herself and ultimately happiness.
Ansley befriends a southern belle named Dot and decides to use her life savings to open a cupcake bakery. Meanwhile, after the death of her husband, Ansley’s grandmother, Vivian, is in the middle of an IRS audit that not only reveals a sinister revenge plot against her but also the feelings that she is developing for Agent #1432 in the process. Can Ansley get her business up and running, save her grandmother from tax evasion charges, forget about Parish, and bring her mother and grandmother back together?
The Icing on the Cupcake is a cute read. Many of the characters are likable and the villains are loathsome. Jennifer Ross paints a quaint picture of Texas and a glitzy picture of New York through her writing. Each of the two settings brought something different and endearing to the novel.
With several recipes included and numerous mentions of food, The Icing on the Cupcake is sure to strike up an appetite for readers. Throughout the novel, the reader witnesses a change for the better in each of the main characters, bringing overall satisfaction to the reader by the end of the book. The plot was typical of its genre, but overall fun to read. ...more
Deirdre Griffin is a strong, intelligent woman feeling trapped in her brothers’ shadow. Deirdre has always felt that she was the wallflower in the family, the one that nobody sees. Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook is the story about what happens when she finally decides to forge her own path in search of her own identity. I had requested a review copy of this book because the aspect of discovering who you are later in life appealed to me and where I am in my life at the moment. I hung on every word and read the entire book in one sitting.
Wallflower in Bloom is about family and how we view ourselves in our family. The story investigates how it is hard to view our siblings as the adults they have become instead of the children or teenagers they used to be. The part that resonates with me the most is Deirdre’s realization that her life is not where she thought it would be and she must take charge now because only she can forge the life she wants. It is a bit frightening to step out and follow your dreams and as Deirdre begins to do so we are right there with her. My only disappointment was that the book seemed to end way before I was ready to put down the book. I wanted to know more about Deirdre’s growth and her family. I felt there could have been more character development and the story could have been longer.
Overall Wallflower in Bloom is a fantastic summer read and I highly recommend it to anyone that is looking for an insightful, funny, light-hearted book to read on their summer vacation. ...more
Any book that has food in the title tends to catch my eye almost immediately. A large slice of yellow cake coated in chocolate icing and topped with a single birthday candle graced the cover of this book and seemed to call to me from afar. But the title, strange as it may be, was ultimately what caused me to take it home from the library—The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. After reading the book synopsis, I couldn’t wait to take this novel home and get started on reading. But there is more than meets the eye when it comes to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.
On her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein obtains a very unique ability—she is able to taste the emotions of the person who prepares her food. It begins with her mother’s lemon cake with chocolate icing, a cake that leaves Rose feeling empty and sad. Her brother thinks that she is crazy and his best friend continues to help her experiment with taste testing sessions throughout the restaurants in greater Los Angeles.
Over time she grows and her ability grows with her, becoming part of her until she decides that she will only eat food from vending machines and prepackaged meals. Her senses are so heightened that she is able to break down the ingredients into the regions that they came from. Forced to endure the speculation of her brother, her unrequited love for his best friend, her mother’s life outside of their home, and her father’s distant demeanor, Rose must harness her abilities while keeping the secrets that every bite of food reveals to her.
While there are many intriguing aspects of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, I found it to be an unsatisfying read as a whole. There were several aspects of this novel that were quite enjoyable (the humor, the setting, Rose’s point of view, and the quirkiness of the plot) but as a whole it left me feeling like the lemon chocolate cake that Rose’s mother made—unfulfilled. Of all the characters I found Rose to be the only likeable one. The language and grammar utilized by the author makes this book a little difficult to read, it simply does not have a steady flow that keeps you turning page after page. The concept of the book was brilliant, but the execution left much to be desired. Three quarters of the way through the book the storyline takes an unexpected turn and veers into the truly bizarre and unexplained. The book ends with many unresolved issues and unanswered questions which, again, leaves the reader feeling unfulfilled and, in a way, cheated....more
I am having trouble writing this review. I don’t want to gush like a fan girl but it seems that is all I can cOriginally posted at PaperbackDolls.com.
I am having trouble writing this review. I don’t want to gush like a fan girl but it seems that is all I can come up with right now so before delving into Somebody To Love I’ll share a little of my reading history with you.
I discovered Kristan Higgins approximately two years ago when I decided I would try to read as much contemporary romance I could get my hands on. I was ordering some Rachel Gibson and Susan Elizabeth Phillips and a Kristan Higgins book was in the “people who bought this book also bought…”. I only had about $20 left on the gift card I was using and I was saving it for an upcoming planned prowl of the Bargain Books section at B&N so I opted out of the website and looked forward to a Monday morning off from work and the kids in school. You know Mommy time, book lover/addict style.
I woke up the next day with two sick kids. After bedding them down and loading them up with meds I found myself bored and bookless. My latest order wasn’t due to arrive for days. I couldn’t leave my sick kids alone while I made a mad dash to Barnes and Nobles for something, right? Right? No, no of course not! I had one option left. I had recently downloaded the new Nook app onto my iTouch. I know what you are thinking, tiny screen, but I don’t care how tiny the screen if I can read a book I’m in!
I sat down with the Mac and started searching for a book. I decided if I was going to finally break down and use a new technology to read then I should christen it with a new author and I downloaded my first Kristan Higgins book, Fools Rush In. Over the next two weeks I downloaded every book available from her. I was addicted to her worlds and characters. I loved them so much I re-read each book a minimum of three times. I was never one to revisit a stand alone title but I found I loved to laugh and cry along with Higgin’s characters and her writing style was so easy to sink into that when I read a different author I didn’t like or found the style to be bothersome I would cleanse my reader’s palette with Catch of The Day or Just One of Guys.
Last year Ms. Higgins released Until There Was You and some of you may remember it made my top ten for 2011. I absolutely adored that book. I finished it so quickly I rationalized an immediate re-read in case I missed something. The truth was I was totally in love with Liam Murphy and I wasn’t quite ready to put him on the shelf. Once I was done, for the second time, I started to feel nervous about Kristan’s next book. I mean how could it live up to Posey and Liam’s story? Will she hit a plateau? Will I find myself wishing for a sequel to UTWY instead of new characters? How can any guy live up to Liam?!? I tried not to think of these question when my book came in the mail and I immediately sat down with Somebody To Love……
A good sign I’m going to like a book? The author has me giggling halfway through page one and laughing out loud by page two. We enter the world of Parker Welles just before it’s about to fall out from underneath her. Of course this isn’t the first time we meet Parker Welles. Parker was a supporting character in The Next Best Thing which just so happens to be my favorite Higgins title. Parker is an accidental writer who has hit a crossroads in her career and her struggle to find her muse is something I can appreciate. She shares custody of her five year old son with her ex Ethan who just so happens to be married Parker’s best friend Lucy. When Parker is forced to move and her only option is to flip a remote property in Maine Lucy encourages her BFF to have a summer fling. Lucy believes Parker has been nooky-less since breaking up with Ethan. Can you say awkward?
Our male lead is James Cahill. I kept seeing Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid Love (after he fell for Emma Stone’s Hanna) *sigh*……. Yeah James is dreamy. James has some issues in the family department and we see him face them along with his growing feelings for Parker. James relationship with Parker’s dad is more than business. It’s more father/son on some levels and Parker resents the closeness because she doesn’t have that with dear old pops. James feels indebted to Mr. Welles but right from the start you can see how much he likes Parker even when she calls him Thing One. I really like James aka Jamie aka super hottie.
The book flows well and we get to dig deep with our leads while getting a nice second visit to Gideon’s Cove, Maine (the setting for Catch of The Day). Kristan is able to hit her stride fairly quickly with S2L, we get a happy balance of humor, angst, and romance. As a reader I never set the book down because I wanted to take a break. It only left my hot little hands because I had no other choice. I recently read a book I wanted to dump in the pool because I couldn’t get close to the characters and everything was distant and cold. Entering the S2L world you are wrapped up in Parker’s life and buckled in for a bumpy yet entertaining ride. Higgins makes it easy to see the world she has created for Parker and James to fall in love in.
The secondary characters help fill up the pages and tell a story worth reading. I have noticed in books where authors revisit characters after a long time away they are a shadow of what they once were. In S2L we get familiar characters we love in Hi-Def. One character in particular I wish would get her own book is animal rescue owner Beth. The dynamics between the new and old meld onto the page as if they were planned from the beginning and maybe even written at the same time. Somebody To Love was a refreshing love story that contemporary romance lovers are going to love. And as for me? There are very few authors that can have me wrapped around their fingers in less than three pages, Ms. Higgins is at the top of that list. ...more
I chose this book on a whim based solely on the title and quickly fell in love with it. McAfee has created a humorous homage to friendship, love and self acceptance centered around the main character, Graciela “Ace” Jones. Loud, loyal, and gregarious, Ace and her friends find themselves at crucial turning points in their lives.
Ace is stuck in a job she desperately hates and wonders if she has lost her one chance at happiness because of her pride & insecurity. Deeply in denial over her abusive marriage timid Chloe’s life is in shambles but her shame alienates her from her friends just when she needs them most. While worldly sophisticated Lilly is willing to sacrifice her own reputation to give another at chance at true love & happiness. Minor story lines round out the novel with humor and at times heartbreaking moments.
Set in Bugtussle, Mississippi,a small Southern town where most people stay from cradle to grave. Bugtussle feels genuinely like most small towns except for one crucial element towards the end of the book. That change is necessary to move the book forward but is so preposterous it breaks the spell McAfee had so convincingly laid.
Ace, Chloe and Lilly remind me of women I have met through the years. McAfee accurately and honestly taps into the unspoken rules of adult friendships – knowing when to respect a friend’s decision and when to intercede. Of course more often than not, Ace sees herself as a protective mama hen ready to rise to any challenge or perceived slight.
This book reminds me of a small town “Sex in the City” replete with drinks, gossip, sex and wild escapades! I can’t wait to read the follow-up, HAPPILY EVER MADDER when it comes out!...more
I loved how Sarah Jio wove love, mystery, past and present in her last novel The Violets of March and she has accomplished this perfect combination yet again with her latest novel The Bungalow. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest novel and Plume was nice enough to provide Paperback Dolls with an ARC. Jio’s latest novel begins in the present as Anne’s daughter is trying to solve a mystery about a beautiful sculpture at her college and Anne receives a note from Bora-Bora requesting her help in solving a long forgotten murder on the island. With this note Anne is swept back up in the past of her youth and memories of the love she has never forgotten.
Jio takes us on a journey from the young Anne Calloway who is smart and living in a time when women did not have the choices they do today. For a young girl of her time and her privilege she was expected to marry, stay home and raise children. In a brief moment she decides to head off to Bora-Bora in the Army Nurse Corps. One of my favorite quotes centers around this inevitability in Anne’s life when she is told “You be yourself,” she said. “And never ignore what your heart is telling you, even when it hurts, even when it seems like following it will be very difficult or untidy.” I wish I had followed this advice a few times in my own life.
The story takes shape as Anne discovers the true nature of others, the reality of her childhood friendship and the beauty of love. I could imagine lounging on the beach in the warm breeze and the beauty of young love. I have to admit that I loved The Violets of March more but I think it’s because I could identify with the character and what was going on her life than I could with Anne. I also thought the mystery aspect was less exciting in The Bungalow than it was in Violets however, the romance and complicated relationships involved among friends was just as endearing in this book.
Overall, I finished the book quickly and loved the fact that it centered on nurses in WWII. The descriptions of the Bora-Bora made you feel as if you were there walking on the beach with your feet in the water, sand between your toes and the breeze in your hair. I was engrossed in the changes in Anne as she meets Westry and discovers what passionate love is and with her despair as her friendship with Kitty begins to falter after so many years. Jio once again has written a touching story of the complex relationships in our lives and how they affect us. I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for an engaging quick read....more