Book Review: Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Book Review: Edenbrooke by Julianne DonaldsonEdenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
Published: March 31, 2012
264 pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Source: Purchased

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she'll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.
5 Stars

If Jane Austen could write about scandalous things (in a proper manner of course) like highwaymen robbing you etc. then it would have come out like Edenbrooke.  The author, Julianne Donaldson, did a good job of making a Regency romance a little more modern.  The characters, settings, and manners were are all Regency but the plot had a more modern, quick pace which was really fun.  While the writing was in the Regency style, it still felt modern because of mentions of vomiting a “revolting stomach” and ugly men with spittle.  The ugly guy with the spittle was half amusing and half disgusting.

I don’t usually like romance, but this one was really good. I was not expecting it to be such a page turner.  The main characters had great chemistry with each other.  I adored the characters figuring out who they are as an individual and how that fits into finding romance.  That theme shows up in one of my favorite quotes from the novel.

I have discovered happiness in being true to who I am. I hope you will give that idea some consideration.

- Julianne Donaldson, Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance Chapter 11

Overall, it was a charming romance that focused on the connection between characters with a modern, fast-paced plot that kept me turning the pages.

Content Rating: None. Clean read.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Julianne Donaldson

Julianne Donaldson

Julianne Donaldson grew up as the daughter of a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. She learned how to ski in the Italian Alps, visited East Berlin before the wall came down, and spent three years living next to a 500-year-old castle. After earning a degree in English, she turned her attention to writing. She writes historical romance when she is not busy with her four young children and husband. Edenbrooke is her first novel.

Book Review: Let the Storm Break by Shannon Messenger

Book Review: Let the Storm Break by Shannon MessengerLet the Storm Break by Shannon Messenger
Series: Sky Fall #2
Published: March 4, 2014
400 pages
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Source: For Review

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

With the Gale Force weakened by recent attacks, and the power of four collapsing, Vane and Audra are forced to make a choice: keep trusting the failing winds, or turn to the people who’ve betrayed them before. But even if they survive the storms sent to destroy them, will they have anything left to hold on to?
5 Stars

Spoiler free even if you haven’t read the first book in this series. 

I loved Let the Storm Break as much as the first book, Let the Sky Fall.  I flew through this whole book so fast that I hardly took any notes.  Being that immersed in a story is a lot of fun but it makes for crappy reviews.  I’m going to try to think of more to say than “asdjfkl it’s so awesome go read it.”

Vane is such a great character and I love his sense of humor.  He’s cracking jokes about Legolas that no one gets and I love it.  He has this sarcasm and blunt honesty that make him so much fun to read about.  Vane feels like a realistic teen.  He’s got this immature streak that I find so funny.

So there are “relationship issues” like there are in many second novels that have romance.  But I thought it was very well done because it was more about each of them working out their own things and not just trying to tear apart the relationship that was just made for the sake of conflict.  I hope that makes sense without spoiling it.

The power of the winds coming from their songs that only sylphs can sing is one of my favorite things about the world building in this series.  It’s just beautiful and simple.

One of the things I did not like about the first book was the lack of an interesting villain motivation.  This book shed some more light on the villain.  The villain just got upgraded from “I want to take over the world for no reason” to “Mad Scientist” and I found it very interesting.

Overall, this book has great romance, funny and realistic characters, and a beautifully simple world.

Content RatingMedium, for kissing scenes and a few immature jokes about things like farts and boobs.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  I received this book for review from the publisher, Simon & Schuster, in exchange for an honest review. I was not told what to say, I was not paid to write this review and all the opinions expressed are my own.  I read an Advanced Reading Copy for this review. 

About Shannon Messenger

Shannon Messenger

Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she learned--among other things--that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She also regularly eats cupcakes for breakfast, sleeps with a bright blue stuffed elephant named Ella, and occasionally gets caught talking to imaginary people. So it was only natural for her to write stories for children. She's the author of the middle grade series, KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, and LET THE SKY FALL, a trilogy for young adults. She lives in Southern California with her husband and an embarrassing number of cats.

Book Review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Book Review: The Power of Habit by Charles DuhiggThe Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Published: January 1, 2011
286 pages
Genres: Non-fiction, Self Help
Source: Library

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.
5 Stars

Is it cheesy to say The Power of Habit changed my life? Well it has. I finished this book yesterday and today I decided to change one of my bad habits that I’ve had my whole life. Using the steps in the book I quickly found out that my bad habit was a distraction for me from my stress and within three hours I learned that I had no clue how to deal with my stress.  It was funny because I discovered something about myself that I hadn’t realized before.  I’m better at dealing with large, life changing stress than I am about dealing with the small everyday stresses of life like a cluttered house and dirty dishes.

I used my bad habit to distract myself all day long and suppress my stress and anxiety so I didn’t have to think about the things that were bothering me. I completely broke down within four hours and called my husband in tears telling him I just didn’t know what to do. How DO people deal with stress? I talked it out instead. Some of the stresses we came up with plans to change and some seemed to go away just from talking about them. My husband was a little shocked and saddened when he realized how often I must be stressed (because I do my bad habit all day long). Yeah, I can’t believe how much I am stressed out either and I’ve been running from it too which I’m sure just adds to my stress.

After I talked things out I blogged for an hour which helped me relax and the temptation for my bad habit was gone for the time being. It came back in full force later that day when my son’s bus was late. I couldn’t find a distraction big enough to stop thinking about all the many, many things that could have gone wrong (my imagination uses it’s power for evil sometimes), so I did some serious praying to calm my racing heart. His bus got there 5 minutes later and I survived, though honestly I was a little shaky and it felt like my heart was racing. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to learn good stress management and I’ll probably need another book for that. :) I’ve tried and failed many times to change my bad habit over my life time feeling like I’m worthless or that I’m a bad person or that there was something wrong with me, but I don’t feel like that anymore.

It is critical to understand that self-control doesn’t fail because the person cannot muster the needed resources.  Instead it fails because the effort seems too great for the payoff.

-Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit (Footnote 5.6)

I can tell you for a fact that my habit is going to be just as hard to change as it’s always been but I have faith now that I can do it. And that faith is something I’ve never had before. Also, if you have any stress management books I would be very much interested in them. :)

I flew right through this book. It is truly fascinating how our brain works. Our brain is literally designed to make everything it can a habit to save energy and resources. Once you figure out how it works you can “program” your brain to do anything without even thinking about it.  I highlighted the heck out of this book.

Here are some of my favorite things I highlighted while reading:

  • Habits never disappear.  You can replace the bad habits but without faith in God or the belief that you can in fact change, old habits can come back.
  • If you want to change a habit, use the same cue, provide the same reward but get a new routine.
  • It’s interesting how new habits form.  Toothbrushing was from an ad campaign.
  • Pick a reward you crave. That’s the key to lasting habits.

While I am still working on changing my bad habit, I did successfully create a new habit.  Exercising.  I hate exercising.  I always have.  To be honest I STILL hate exercising but I do it regularly now.  Why? I used the tools in this book.  My cue is my son going to preschool.  It’s at the recreation center so I wear my workout clothes when I drop him off and just walk around the indoor track the whole time he is in school and pick him up when I’m done.  I can get two miles in about an hour.  There’s an old guy that teases me when he passes me.  Whatever.  My 28 minute mile is an awesome pace.  My reward is what keeps me doing this.  I listen to audiobooks which I look forward to.  Exercise is boring to me but audiobooks make the time fly by.  I crave my alone time and listening to good books.  I would be sad now if I didn’t exercise.

I had a friend ask me (after I told her about how much I loved this book) what the basic steps were for changing a habit, so here they are:

  • Identify the routine
  • Experiment with rewards (try different routines that give different rewards)
  • Isolate the cue (Location, Time, Emotional State, Other People, Immediately Preceding Action)
  • Have a plan

In handy infographic form if you’d like :)


Overall, this was a self help book that truly changed my life and I think everyone should read it.

Content Rating: Medium, for two uses of strong language (n word and f word).

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg

My name is Charles Duhigg, and I’m a reporter for The New York Times. I’m also the author of the recently published book, The Power of Habit, about the science of habit formation in our lives, companies and societies.

I’ve worked at the Times since 2006. My latest series focused on Apple and was named “The iEconomy.” It won a Pulitzer prize for explanatory reporting in 2013. Before that, I contributed to other series, including ”Golden Opportunities,“ ”The Reckoning,” and ”Toxic Waters.”

I’m also a native of New Mexico. I studied history at Yale and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. I have appeared on This American Life, N.P.R., The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and Frontline. Before becoming a journalist, I worked in private equity and – for one terrifying day – was a bike messenger in San Francisco.

Book Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Book Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini TaylorDays of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2
Published: November 6, 2012
513 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices...
5 Stars

Spoiler free even if you haven’t read the first book in this series. 

As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny.  I especially loved the Monty Python references.  While Daughter of Smoke & Bone was more of a love story, this sequel was more a story about war.  The author does an excellent job of showing how pointless war is.

Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.

- Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight pg 205

I thought I would lose interest in this book since the romance wasn’t as prominent, but I care so much about the unique and interesting characters that I couldn’t put this one down.  This is one of those books where I did nothing all day but read and my house was a complete mess by the time I was done.

The only way I can think of to describe the writing is “intelligent.”  There are witty references and Laini Taylor can play with my expectations like a violin.  And like I said – the writing is just so funny.

Well, Karou wanted to retort, with all the gravity and maturity she could muster. Duh.

-Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight, pg 45

Karou, the main character, grows so much in this book.  You can see the small steps of her becoming an adult.  Karou learns about forgivness to herself and others, seeing the big picture, and not blaming herself for everything.  The huge amount of character growth like this is one of the reasons I love to read Young Adult.  Laini brings up a lot of interesting questions about Akiva, too.  The book brings up his past, his people, and hints at what role they might play in the next book.

Overall, I loved this beautiful and intelligent sequel as much as the first book in this series.  It’s a great look at how pointless war really is.

Content Rating: High, for an attempted rape scene, frequent language, violence that was sometimes kind of graphic.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor

Hi there! I'm a writer of fantasy books for young people, but my books can be enjoyed by adults as well. My 'Dreamdark' books, Blackbringer (2007) and Silksinger (2009) are about faeries -- not dainty little flowery things, but warrior-faeries who battle devils. My first young adult book, Lips Touch, is a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award! It's creepy, sensual supernatural romance. . . about kissing. I am also an artist with a licensed gift product line called "Laini's Ladies."

Book Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Book Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana PeterfreundAcross a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #2
Published: October 15, 2013
464 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Retelling, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.
5 Stars

Spoiler free even if you haven’t read the first book in this series. 

Sink me if I didn’t just adore this most excellent retelling of the Scarlet Pimpernel. I do say the lovely author pulled off the futuristic and sci-fi world just splendidly.  Alas, I admit that the politics were a little confusing at first, but I got them straightened out in my head soon enough and it was definitely much easier to understand than the politics of the first book.  And oh such lovely politics they were!  What a glorious exploration of the deep-rooted problems of sexism and inequality.  It gave me so many things to ponder and the author represented the issues very well.  You won’t find a combination of dystopian, romance, science-fiction, and retelling in such a fashionable way as it is in Across a Star-Swept Sea.

But seriously.  I loved this book.  The role of the Scarlet Pimpernel, who is called the Wild Poppy in this book, is a woman instead of a man like in the original.  I really enjoyed the gender reversals in the story.  The pace felt faster than the first book, For Darkness Shows the Stars.  At first, Across a Star-Swept Sea felt like a companion novel until the very cool tie-in at the end.  I would even say that I liked this book more than the first in the series which is saying a lot – I loved that book, too.

The romance was just superb.  They have such a complicated relationship and I’m still impressed how well Diana Peterfreund pulled it off.  I say! Bravo!!

What more can I say other than this book had so much heart.  The fashion, the flakey Persis, the extravagant parties were entertaining but it never sacrificed being meaningful at the same time.  This is my favorite quote from the book that I think sums up the story in a beautiful way.

Because I know from experience that sometimes it’s only the young ones who are crazy enough to change the world.

- Diana Peterfreund, Across a Star-Swept Sea pg 166

Overall, an excellent science-fiction/dystopian/romance that I could not put down.

Content Rating: Medium, for a few kissing scenes.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Diana Peterfreund

diana peterfreund

Diana Peterfreund has published eight novels for adults and teens, including the four-book Secret Society Girl series (Bantam Dell), the “killer unicorn novels” Rampant and Ascendant (Harper Teen), and For Darkness Shows the Stars, a post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. In addition, she’s written several critically acclaimed short stories and a variety of non-fiction essays about popular children’s literature. Diana lives in Washington D.C., with her family.