Permanent Ink

Permanent InkTitle: Permanent Ink
Author: Laura Simcox
Series: Something to Celebrate #2
Also in this series: Ivy Entwined
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Humor, Love & Romance
Pages: 318
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC on 2014-08-14
Format: eARC
Source: author

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
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From the back cover...

Blair Whitaker has one goal: get the hell out of Celebration, NY. Her ticket out is helping the town take the grand prize in a parade contest, which will ensure she lands her dream job. It's a win-win.

Standing in the way is Ben Lambert, a sexy, local tattoo artist whose smile makes her weak. To win the contest, she'll have to sideline his plans for the tattoo festival the town council allowed on the same weekend. But trying to thwart Ben is more than she bargained for, and before she knows it, she's starting to see Celebration–and Ben–as something more than a temporary distraction.

But Blair's in too deep to change directions now. Celebration is behind the parade contest, the mayor revokes the tattoo festival permit, and Blair is on the cusp of getting everything she'd planned.  But coming clean will turn Ben against her for good, and going forward means losing what she really wants and hurting the town she's grown to love.

My Review

I love this Something to Celebrate series!  The first book, Ivy Entwined, introduced us to a small town in central New York, Celebration.  This latest book, Permanent Ink, has many of the characters from the first book that I loved, as well as some new faces to Celebration.  I can’t deny that as a inked and steeled mama, I love Ben Lambert, the tattooed hunk of manliness at the front and center of this book!

This one centers around Blair and Ben.  Blair has come to Celebration from NYC to stay with her Aunt Lola (whom we met in the first book) after her life took a downward turn.  Blair is in a bad place in her life, ambitious and wanting more for herself.  Coming home with her tail between her legs was never part of her plan.  But she finds an unexpected opportunity in Celebration, one that could get her career back on track.  But then there is Ben, a inked hottie with a big heart, and more than a few secrets of his own.

While Blair and Ben are our main characters, there is a whole cast of supporting characters that are as nutty as the others, some of whom we met in the last book.  Ivy, Marcus, and Ivy’s crazy grandmother are back, the latter of whom was one of my favorites.  Ben’s friend and mentor Grizz is hilarious and clearly the father figure in Ben’s life.  And then there is Starling…!  This chick was nuts in so many ways, but an interesting character with a story line of her own that pretty much tore me up.

This is what I love so much about these books.  So many of the characters, whether main or supporting, have their own story lines that are fantastic.  They may not be the focus of the story, but they are just as interesting.  The author has a way of making you feel like you are a member of the community, invested in the characters as you would be with a friend.

Things to love…

  • The crazy characters.  Some of them are certifiably nuts but so much fun!
  • The story lines.  Some of the story lines are funny, but many of them are deep and heart wrenching.

My Recommendation

This is a book that could probably be read as a standalone, but it is so much more if you read Ivy Entwined first.  This is a great book with a great story and fantastic characters!

 

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.6

About Laura Simcox

After spending twenty years in professional theater as a costume designer, with a few of those years also spent as a college instructor, Laura abandoned the nomadic lifestyle to sit in a comfy pleather office chair at a beat up ginormous second hand oak desk and write. The result? Romance novels! Her favorite thing ever since she was, oh, about twelve. She is thrilled to be counted among the romance authors of this world and enjoys reading all genres. She writes contemporary, light novels and enjoys creating quirky characters and funny dialogue. Sometimes it’s even juvenile dialogue, but hey, who couldn’t use a dose of silly humor every now and then? Still, the love story is the focus and Laura has a huge soft spot for a sappy, happy ending.

Laura lives in North Carolina with her husband (true love is real!) and her adorable, high energy four year old son who is currently obsessed with Curious George. And that’s cool, because she loves him too.

Laura is represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

July Wrap-Up

What the Diva read in July…

Something Strange and Deadly

Something Strange and DeadlyTitle: Something Strange and Deadly
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #1
Also in this series: A Dawn Most Wicked, A Darkness Strange and Lovely, Strange and Ever After
Genre(s): Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Historical Fiction, Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Published by HarperTeen on 2012-07-24
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia...

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family as fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walkers by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor... from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. An now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

My Review

Steampunk and zombies!  This may sound like an odd combination, but it is one that works!  Petticoats and parasols mixed with steam-powered machines and pulse bombs that kill zombies?  Yes, please!

The story is set in the midst of Philadelphia’s high society in 1876, the time of chaperoned dates, petticoats, bustles, séances, and burgeoning technology.  The Dead have risen, their numbers seemingly increasing every day.  The city has hired a group of veritable misfits, The Spirit Hunters, to hunt them down and protect the city.  But instead of supporting them, it seems as if they have been brought in mostly for show.

Eleanor and her mother live on the edge of high society, having fallen from favor since her father’s business went south and his subsequent death.  They are barely hanging on and her eldest brother has seemingly disappeared when they need him most.  After receiving a letter from him, delivered by one of the Dead, Eleanor seeks out the Hunters in her desperation to find out what happened to her brother.  Her choice changes her life and draws her into a mystery that she never imagined, full of intrigue, surprises, and so many twists and turns.

I loved Eleanor as a main character.  In many ways, she reminded me of Arabella Holmes in Boneseeker by Brynn Chapman, which I reviewed here.  Both of these characters are very different from most of the women/girls of their time, bucking social norms with their ideas and behavior.  I love that rebellious quality in a female protagonist!  She is loyal to her family, even to her overbearing and rather icy mother, and she has an extremely strong sense of right and wrong and she refuses to compromise herself.  She hated the social classes that dictated so much of her life and yearned for the freedom to live her life how she chose.

The Spirit Hunters truly were a band of misfits in that time.  They got no respect from the city leaders, whose city they were trying to save.  But this never deterred them from their mission.  Joseph was the leader, a black man in a less than tolerant time.  Daniel was a convict with a mushy heart of gold.  And then there was Jie.  There is so much to say about Jie, but it is best left to be discovered!

Things to love…

  • The ending.  Not exactly a cliffhanger, and not exactly a HEA, it leaves it open nicely for the rest of the series!
  • The characters.  I loved the different kinds of characters and all of their quirkiness.

My Recommendation

The story is fast-paced and fun, full of unexpected twists and turns.  The premise is unlike anything I have read before and I loved that!  Steampunk and zombies!

 

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.6

About Susan Dennard

I am a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. I used to be a marine biologist, but now I write novels. And not novels about fish either, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues (I really like swoon-worthy rogues).

I live in the Midwest with my husband and two dogs (Asimov and Princess Leia), and you can learn more about my crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on my blog or twitter.

My debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY is now available from HarperTeen along with the prequel, A DAWN MOST WICKED, and the sequel A DARKNESS STRANGE & LOVELY.

Look for STRANGE & EVER AFTER in summer 2014 and TRUTHWITCH in fall 2015!

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

A Matter of Mercy

A Matter of MercyTitle: A Matter of Mercy
Author: Lynne Hugo
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Love & Romance
Pages: 278
Published by Blank Slate Press on 2014-08-01
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Caroline Marcum thought she'd escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past-and his prison term-behind him to return home to take over his father's oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor'easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline's lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust-and love. Inspired by an actual lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends. And where it begins.

My Review

This was a beautiful book, albeit one that was hard for me to read for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book and everything to do with me.  It is the story of Caroline Marcum, who has come home to care for her mother in her final days.  There is so much sadness, so much heartache, so much emotion.  It tugged at my heart from start to finish, even as the suspense of the mystery underlying Caroline’s life unfolded.

The last several years have been less than perfect for Caroline.  The pain of it and the pain and guilt she carries with her threatens to overwhelm her, especially when faced with the fact that her mother is dying from cancer.  She is emotionally wrought when she runs into an old friend and, in a moment of vulnerability, has a fling.  That one moment changes everything for her and, in many ways, makes her feel even more lost and confused and guilty.

This is a story of moments.  In a moment with Ridley, her life changes.  During a trip to a nearby library, another moment sets in motion a scary series of events in Caroline’s life.  There is a lesson there, that those small moments can change your life in ways you can’t possibly imagine.

The characters are wonderful in this story.  Caroline and Rid seem rather flat at the beginning of the story, but I think that this was intentional on the part of the author.  It seems to underscore the idea that life without the presence of love is not really living, that with love comes pain and loss, but that we can survive that pain and loss.  Caroline has become so guarded with her emotions over the last several years and she has to learn to be vulnerable again, even to her mother in her dying days.  Rid is used to relying on himself and is going through some things that make him distrustful of most everyone outside his immediate circle.  Love and trust does not come easy to either of them.  As they grow, their characters develop beautifully!

This is a beautiful story set in the midst of the Cape Cod oyster culture.  The setting is rich with detail and teaches without feeling like a lesson.  I felt like I was on the dunes of the oyster flats, experiencing the area right along with the characters.

Things to love…

  • The detailed setting.
  • The emotions and growth of the characters.

My Recommendation

I loved the depth of the characters and the depth of the emotions for me as a reader.  Parts of Caroline’s story were painful for me, in light of my own loss, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.6

About Lynne Hugo

Lynne Hugo is an American author whose roots are in the northeast. A National Endowment For The Arts Fellowship recipient, she has also received repeat individual artists grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her publications include five novels, one volume of creative non-fiction, two books of poetry and a children’s book. She lives with her husband, the Vice President for Academic Affairs of a liberal arts college, in the Midwest. They have two grown children, three grandchildren, and a yellow Labrador retriever.

Ms. Hugo has taught creative writing to hundreds of schoolchildren through the Ohio Arts Council’s renowned Arts in Education program. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College, and a Master’s from Miami University.

When an editor asked her to describe herself as a writer, she responded:

“I write in black Wal-Mart capri sweatpants. They don’t start out as capris, but I routinely shrink them in the drier by accident. And I always buy black because it doesn’t show where I’ve wiped the chocolate off my hands. Now that my son and daughter are grown, my previous high grade of ‘below average’ in Domestic Achievement has dropped somewhat. But I’m less guilty about it now. I lose myself in crafting language by a window with birdfeeders hanging in the branches of a Chinese elm towering over the house. When I come up for air, I hike by the ponds and along the river in a nearby forest with my beloved Lab. My husband, with whom I planted that elm as a bare root sapling, joins us when he can.”

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me

Lies My Girlfriend Told MeTitle: Lies My Girlfriend Told Me
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Gay & Lesbian, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 247
Published by Little, Brown and Company on 2014-06-10
Format: ARC
Source: publisher

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

When Alix's charismatic girlfriend, Swanee, dies from sudden cardiac arrest, Alix is overcome with despair. As she searches Swanee's room for mementos of their relationship, she finds Swanee's cell phone, pinging with dozens of texts sent from a mysterious contact, L.T. The most recent text reads: "Please tell me what I did. Please, Swan. Te amo. I love you."

Shocked and betrayed, Alix learns that Swanee has been leading a double life--secretly dating a girl named Liana the entire time she's been with Alix. Alix texts Liana from Swanee's phone, pretending to be Swanee in order to gather information before finally meeting face-to-face to break the news.

Brought together by Swanee's lies, Alix and Liana become closer than they'd thought possible. But Alix is still hiding the truth from Liana. Alix knows what it feels like to be lied to--but will coming clean to Liana mean losing her, too?

My Review

I just received this book in Friday afternoon’s mail and was finished by Saturday morning.  I just couldn’t put it down!

Alix is a 17yo girl who goes to bed one night and wakes up the next morning to find that her world has changed irrevocably.  Her girlfriend Swanee unexpectedly died while running.  What follows is a twisted tale of sadness and grief, frustration and confusion, lies and betrayal, loss and change, healing and love.  At first, Alix is lost in denial, unable to believe that her girlfriend is dead.  Then the secrets begin to be revealed and she is torn between grief and anger.

One of the things I loved most about this book was that it was, at it’s heart, about all of those emotions that surround loss and betrayal, love and forgiveness.  Yes, the main characters were lesbians, but (other than a few rather minor moments) that wasn’t the focus of the book.  It was just who they were.  It was refreshing to read a story that featured lesbian characters without making that the most important thing about the characters.  I often feel that sometimes so much attention is paid to that aspect of the characters that it creates a divide.  This is a story with themes that are entirely universal.

One of the other things I loved was the growth of Alix’s character.  At the beginning, she made some questionable choices, both before and after Swanee died.  By the end, she has grown considerably.  One of her most important lessons was that the grass isn’t always greener in other places.  She looked at Swanee’s life and family through rose-colored glasses, not ever really seeing the truth that lay beneath the surface.  This realization led to some self-discovery for Alix, which I really loved.

There was a sweet smaller plot line that made my heart sing, too, the story of Alix and her baby brother.  There was so much I couldn’t understand about that relationship, seeing Alix as a bit of a brat when it came to him.  As the book progresses, we learn so much more about that and suddenly it all becomes clear.  I loved the story!

Things to love…

  • The fact that sexuality was a part, but not the whole, of the story.
  • The emotional journey that comes with grief, especially when combined with anger and betrayal.
  • The subplot of Alix and her brother.

My Recommendation

I really loved this book!  I thought that the story was beautiful and touching, with universal themes that touch us all!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.4

About Julie Anne Peters

Julie Anne Peters was born in Jamestown, New York. When she was five, her family moved to the Denver suburbs in Colorado. Her parents divorced when she was in high school. She has three siblings: a brother, John, and two younger sisters, Jeanne and Susan.

Her books for young adults include Define “Normal” (2000), Keeping You a Secret (2003), Luna (2004), Far from Xanadu (2005), Between Mom and Jo (2006), grl2grl (2007), Rage: A Love Story (2009), By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead (2010), She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not… (2011) and I Hope You Dance (2012). Her young adult fiction frequently deals with LGBT issues.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: