November 23, 2011

Book Review: FAMILY STORMS and CLOUDBURST by V.C. Andrews

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  In the eye of the storm . . . 

Living on the streets with her destitute mother, selling knickknacks and trinkets just to survive, Sasha Porter dreams of someday having a normal life, with a real house and family. But she never dreamed a devastating tragedy would bring her those very things: on a stormy night by a rainspattered highway, a speeding car veers out of control, striking and killing her mother and badly injuring Sasha. 


. . . is anywhere truly safe? 

In the hospital, Sasha is whisked off to a fancy private suite at the request of wealthy Mrs. Jordan March, a complete stranger who keeps watch by Sasha’s bedside and insists she come live at her family’s sprawling, luxurious mansion. Sasha soon learns Mrs. March never recovered from the loss of her daughter Alena, and with nowhere else to go, Sasha agrees to use Alena’s room, sleep in her bed, and wear her clothes. But someone will make sure that Sasha never takes Alena’s place: a jealous sister dead set on making Sasha’s life a living hell.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Fate swept Sasha Porter into the lap of luxury, and into a torrent of bitter lies and shocking betrayals—all revealed in the riveting new novel CLOUDBURST (Pocket Star Books; October 25, 2011; $7.99) from bestselling author V.C. Andrews®.


Since being taken in by wealthy Mrs. Jordan March and living in her exquisite home like a daughter, Sasha Porter’s traumatic past—destitute on the streets, and the shattering accident that killed her mother—seems like a fading nightmare.  Beautiful and sophisticated, as bold and daring as her “sister,” Kiera March, Sasha still keeps her mother’s wise words close to her heart: never fully trust anyone.  Inside her privileged new world, it’s advice that will prove more precious than gold.

Against the wishes of Jordan’s husband, Donald, Sasha attracts the attention of Ryder Garfield, a shy, handsome athlete, and maneuvers her way into his heart.  But Ryder’s hidden torment soon explodes in a horrific tragedy that pulls Sasha into a flood of guilt and despair.  And when someone she thought she could trust targets her vulnerability, Sasha recalls her mother’s warnings—and a violent storm of dark deceptions and shocking family secrets is unleashed.  Will she sink or swim?  

When I think back to my adolescence, V.C. Andrews always pops into my mind.  She was my absolute favorite author, with her Dollanganger/Flowers in the Attic series being the first set of books I became absolutely obsessed with.   I still remember the thrills and excitement of a new V.C. Andrews release and hurrying to the local B. Dalton (pre-Barnes & Noble and Amazon) to pick it up as quickly as I could and staying up late into the night to devour it.   Such were my emotions when I was asked to read and review Family Storms and  Cloudburst, the two entries in the new "Secrets" saga - - thrills, excitement and a flashback to my teen years.  

For those readers not in the know, author V.C. Andrews passed away in 1986, leaving her family to hire a  writer to continue her legacy with outlines of future stories.  Sadly, those sketches left by Ms. Andrews seem to be long gone.  

Perhaps it's unfair for me to rate these books against the Flowers in the Attic series - - my absolute favorites - - but I can't help but do so.  No one would accuse V.C. Andrews' writing of approaching Shakespearian levels; in fact, she was the late 70s/early 80s generation's Stephenie Meyers.  She was a storyteller of addictive proportions, creating absolutely unforgettable characters and giving her tales a creepy, gothic factor.  Family Secrets and Cloudburst fall short in this regard, although not for lack of potential.  

The premise is good enough - - homeless young girl taken in by an obscenely wealthy family shrouded in secrets and with a young daughter who died tragically and a living daughter, spiraling out of control, who not only is responsible for the accident that placed Sasha in her family home and took her mother away from her but who deeply resents her.  

I can't help but think if this book had been written and published 25-30 years ago, a deep dark secret would have been revealed about the younger daughter's death, one of the housekeepers might have been a Rebecca-esque Mrs. Danvers and perhaps Jordan Marsh may have literally tried to turn Sasha into her deceased daughter.  Alas, none of this came to pass.  

Similarly, in Cloudburst, several interesting storyline opportunities were passed up or allowed to slowly peter out.    Characters that could have and should have been fleshed out were not; some issues were dragged out to nearly painful proportions.  

Sasha was a confusing heroine for me.  I liked her better in Family Storms although her ignorance at times was confounding.  In Cloudburst she didn't seem like the best kind of friend and frankly, I couldn't understand how she kept the friends she had or why any of them would want to befriend her.  I wanted to like her more than I did but she was so frustrating at times that I wanted to pull at my own hair.  

I was disappointed with the ending of Cloudburst, which felt more like a non-ending to me.  I waited for the trademark V.C. Andrews twists and turns and they simply were not forthcoming.  Also missing was the gothic feel so apparent in early Andrews works, like the Flowers in the Attic series and the stunning stand alone, My Sweet Audrina.  

Purely cosmetic and shallow but I loved the covers from the earliest Andrews books - - they added to the stories and told tales of their own.  I don't particularly care for the more recent covers that feature simple photos.  They are rather dull and honestly, the model(s) on the covers look(s) much too old to be Sasha.  

That said, these are still V.C. Andrews books and, as such, they make great vacation books, or a good book to curl up with on a cold and rainy day.  They won't be the filet mignon of your library but they are a quick fast food burger and will satisfy your literary cravings.  

Family Storms and Cloudburst are available for purchase at major booksellers now, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliateIf you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

Review copy of this book provided by Simon and Schuster in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.


GIVEAWAY TIME!!

Thanks to the lovely Melissa Gramstad of Simon & Schuster, I have one copy of Cloudburst to give away to a lucky reader!  

To enter, please leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite V.C. Andrews book or series is.  

For an additional entry each, like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and/or subscribe to Psychotic State Book Reviews via Feed Burner.

Blog, Tweet or Facebook this giveaway (leaving a link) for an additional 2 entries.  

Winner to be drawn at random via randomizer.org.  Shipment to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.

Deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. PST Friday, December 9, 2011.  

Good luck to all!






Giveaway Winner: JANE AUSTEN MADE ME DO IT

And the lucky winner of a brand new copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by Laurel Ann Nattress is . . .

Mama Zen

Congratulations!  I will be emailing you directly to get your mailing address for your new book.

A big THANK YOU to all who visited my blog and entered this giveaway. I do appreciate each one of you taking the time to visit and post here. I hope you all will stick around for future giveaways, reviews and interviews. 

Thank you again to author Laurel Ann Nattress for making this giveaway possible.  Please visit Laurel Ann at her blogs, Austenprose and Jane Austen Made Me Do It, as well as Facebook and Twitter.   Click here to read Laurel Ann's guest blog at Psychotic State Book Reviews. 

Compliments to randomizer.org for selecting the lucky winner.

Happy reading!


November 15, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY: November 15, 2011




Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday is being hosted at the Mailbox Monday blog for the month of November. 

Here is what I received last week: 

Poisoned Love by Caitlin Rother (received for book tour with Pump Up Your Book)

SYNOPSIS:  On November 6, 2000, paramedics answered a call to find Kristin Rossum, 24, sobbing. Her husband, Greg de Villers, wasn't breathing and she claimed he had overdosed on drugs after learning she was leaving him. But family and friends who knew of Greg's distaste for drugs weren't buying Kristin's story--particularly the idea that he would take his own life.  

The daughter of a well-to-do California family, Rossum was a brainy blonde beauty whose talent for toxicology had won her a post at the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office. But her sweet smile masked a dark side. She'd developed a taste for methamphetamine in high school, and six months after her marriage to Greg, she'd begun seeking secret trysts with other men.

At the time of her husband's death, Rossum was engaged in an illicit affair with her married boss. Investigators found that the Medical Examiner's Office was missing supplies of meth and fentanyl, the narcotic that had killed her husband. With each clue discovered, another piece of Rossum's "good girl" façade fell away. What the world would eventually see was the true face of a murderer--and the hand of justice. . .

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (received from Sourcebooks for review)

SYNOPSIS:  Fledgling illustrator and Darcy fanatic Kay Ashton settles in the seaside town of Lyme to finish her book, The Illustrated Mr. Darcy, when a film company arrives to make a new adaptation of Persuasion. Kay is soon falling for the handsome bad boy actor playing Captain Wentworth, but it's the quiet screenwriter Adam Craig who has more in common with her beloved Mr. Darcy. Though still healing from a broken heart, Adam finds himself unexpectedly in love with Kay, but it will take more than good intentions to convince her that her real happy ending is with him.



Death on a High Floor by Charles Rosenberg (received for book tour with Pump Up Your Books)

SYNOPSIS:  When the much-despised Marbury Marfan senior partner Simon Rafer turns up dead, with an ornate dagger buried between his shoulder blades, it comes as a surprise to no one. Simon was an abusive boss and had recently been on the warpath, clearing the "dead wood" from the legal firm he treated as his personal fiefdom. Nearly a thousand attorneys and associates, scattered across four continents, had good reason to want Rafer dead, but homicide Detective Spritz has his eye trained on Marbury Marfan partner Robert Tarza, in particular. Tarza and his friend and colleague---and maybe a bit more---Jenna are soon forced to play detective themselves, in a race to find the real killer or killers before Spritz finishes assembling a collection of evidence that will make a very credible case against Tarza.

What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?  






November 13, 2011

Giveaway: BLACK SUN'S DAUGHTER SERIES by M.L.N. Hanover



UNCLEAN SPIRITS (BOOK ONE):  In a world where magic walks and demons ride, you can't always play by the rules.

Jayné Heller thinks of herself as a realist, until she discovers reality isn't quite what she thought it was. When her uncle Eric is murdered, Jayné travels to Denver to settle his estate, only to learn that it's all hers -- and vaster than she ever imagined. And along with properties across the world and an inexhaustible fortune, Eric left her a legacy of a different kind: his unfinished business with a cabal of wizards known as the Invisible College.
Led by the ruthless Randolph Coin, the Invisible College harnesses demon spirits for their own ends of power and domination. Jayné finds it difficult to believe magic and demons can even exist, let alone be responsible for the death of her uncle. But Coin sees Eric's heir as a threat to be eliminated by any means -- magical or mundane -- so Jayné had better start believing in something to save her own life.
Aided in her mission by a group of unlikely companions -- Aubrey, Eric's devastatingly attractive assistant; Ex, a former Jesuit with a lethal agenda; Midian, a two-hundred-year-old man who claims to be under a curse from Randolph Coin himself; and Chogyi Jake, a self-styled Buddhist with mystical abilities -- Jayné finds that her new reality is not only unexpected, but often unexplainable. And if she hopes to survive, she'll have to learn the new rules fast -- or break them completely....



DARKER ANGELS (BOOK TWO):  In the battle between good and evil, there's no such thing as a fair fight.

When Jayné Heller's uncle Eric died, she inherited a fortune beyond all her expectations -- and a dangerous mission in a world she never knew existed. Reining in demons and supernatural foes is a formidable task, but thankfully Jayné has vast resources and loyal allies to rely on. She'll need both to tackle a bodyswitching serial killer who's taken up residence in New Orleans, a city rich in voodoo lore and dark magic.
Working alongside Karen Black, a highly confident and enigmatic ex-FBI agent, Jayné races to track down the demon's next intended host. But the closer she gets, the more convinced she becomes that nothing in this beautiful, wounded city is exactly as it seems. When shocking secrets come to light, and jealousy and betrayal turn trusted friends into adversaries, Jayné will soon come face-to-face with an enemy that knows her all too well, and won't rest until it has destroyed everything she loves most....

VICIOUS GRACE (BOOK THREE):  When you’re staring evil in the eye, don’t forget to watch your back . . .
For the first time in forever, Jayné Heller’s life is making sense. Even if she routinely risks her life to destroy demonic parasites that prey on mortals, she now has friends, colleagues, a trusted lover, and newfound confidence in the mission she inherited from her wealthy, mysterious uncle. Her next job might just rob her of all of them. At Grace Memorial Hospital in Chicago, something is stirring. Patients are going AWOL and research subjects share the same sinister dreams. Half a century ago, something was buried under Grace in a terrible ritual, and it’s straining to be free. Jayné is primed to take on whatever’s about to be let loose. Yet the greatest danger now may not be the huge, unseen force lurking below, but the evil that has been hiding in plain sight all along—taking her ever closer to losing her body, her mind, and her soul. . . .


KILLING RITES (BOOK FOUR):  Jayné Heller has discovered the source of her uncanny powers: something else is living inside her body. She’s possessed. Of all her companions, she can only bring herself to confide in Ex, the former priest. They seek help from his old teacher, hoping to cleanse Jayne before the parasite in her becomes too powerful. Ex’s history and a new enemy combine to leave Jayne alone and on the run. Her friends try to hunt her down, unaware of the danger they’re putting her in. Jayne must defeat the past, and her only allies are a rogue vampire she once helped free—and the names thing hiding inside her skin.



Thanks to the lovely Melissa Gramstad at Gallery Books/Pocket BooksI have A COMPLETE SET of The Black Sun's Daughter Series, Unclean Spirits, Darker Angels, Vicious Grace, and Killing Rites (due out November 29, 2011) to give away to a lucky reader!  

To enter, simply leave me a comment with your name and email address (or at least indicate that your email address may be found in your profile). NO EMAIL ADDRESS = NO ENTRY!

For additional entries: 

+2 New blog followers
+1 Current blog followers
+2 New subscribers to Psychotic State Book Reviews via Feed Burner
+1 Current subscribers to Psychotic State Book Reviews via Feed Burner
+2 New Psychotic State Book Reviews Facebook follower
+1 Current Psychotic State Book Reviews Facebook follower
+2 New Twitter follower
+1 Current Twitter follower
+5 Repost or re-Tweet giveaway (leave link)

Please be sure to note if you are a current follower, new follower, etc. so that you get proper credit. Please leave a separate comment/post for EACH entry and a valid email address with each entry.

No P.O. boxes. No Military APOs. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada only. My apologies to my overseas friends. Only one copy per household. 

Contest to end on Black Friday, November 25, 2011 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winners drawn by randomizer.org on Saturday, November 26, 2011.

Good luck!


November 12, 2011

October Readathon: WINNERS!




At long last, I have the winners for the October Readathon, THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT.  I apologize for the delay.

Because I had a relatively small turnout with some "repeat offenders" (and many thanks to you!) I put all the bloggers'/reviewers' names in a list and let Randomizer select them in order of 1 through 8.  Winner 1 will get her choice of book from the list of available books, then we will go to Winner 2 who can choose from the remaining books and so forth.  Without further ado, the following are the winners in order: 

1.  Petra @ Hazel the Witch
2.  Lovely Lit
3.  Nikki at Close Encounters
4.  Sweet Marie83
5.  Teresa @ Read All Over Reviews
6.  Joy Renee
7.  Cassandra @ Book and Movie Dimension
8.  Michelle @ Castle Macabre

Congratulations!!  Ladies, please click here to view the post with the listing of books.  I will email Petra first and once she selects her book, I will then contact Lovely Lit and so on.  

A big THANK YOU to all who visited my blog and entered this giveaway. I do appreciate each one of you taking the time to visit and post here. I hope you all will stick around for future giveaways, reviews and interviews. 

Compliments to randomizer.org for selecting the lucky winners.

Happy reading!






CONQUER CANCER FUNDRAISER


My very dear friend Sherri Lacy was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Sherri is a fighter (one of the many reasons I love her) and has a large, loving group behind her, supporting her and her family as she begins this battle.  Because treatments can be costly, I am donating all proceeds from the sales of my products until the end of the year to Sherri and her family.

If you are looking for holiday gifts, or would like a unique and personalized bag, tote, storage accessory and/or stationery and note cards, please visit my website.  

You can also find information on THE CONQUER CANCER FUNDRAISER Facebook page.  

If you'd like to donate to this warm and wonderful lady without purchase of a product, please contact me for further information.  

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I ask that you please keep Sherri and her family in your thoughts and prayers.  






November 5, 2011

Book Review: BURIED SECRETS by Joseph Finder

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Joseph Finder introduced Nick Heller, a "private spy" who finds out things powerful people want to keep hidden, to widespread acclaim from the critics and wild enthusiasm from the readers, in the New York Timesbestselling novel Vanished. Now, in Buried Secrets, Nick Heller returns, finding himself in the middle of a life-or-death situation that's both high-profile and intensely personal.
Nick has returned to his old home town of Boston to set up his own shop. There he's urgently summoned by an old family friend. Hedge fund titan Marshall Marcus desperately needs Nick's help. His teenaged daughter, Alexa, has just been kidnapped. Her abduction was clearly a sophisticated professional job, done with extraordinary precision. Alexa, whom Nick has known since she was young, is now buried alive, held prisoner in an underground crypt, a camera trained on her, her suffering streaming live over the internet. She's been left with a limited supply of food and water and, if her father doesn't meet the demands of her shadowy kidnappers, she'll die. And as Nick begins to probe, he discovers that all is not quite right with Marshall Marcus's business. He's being investigated by the FBI, he has a lot of shady investors, his fund is in danger and now he has a lot of powerful enemies who may have the motivation to go after Marcus's daughter. But to find out who's holding Alexa Marcus hostage, Nick has to find out why. Once he does, he uncovers an astonishing conspiracy that reaches far beyond anything he could have imagined. And if he's going to find Alexa in time, he will have to flush out and confront some of his deadliest opponents ever.


I have been a fan of Joseph Finder's for many years, appreciating his action-a-minute books, complete with mystery, intrigue and characters you can really root for.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Buried Secrets and it did not disappoint.  

Fair warning - - if you are claustrophobic or have anxiety thinking about being entrapped in some fashion, Buried Secrets at the least will make you squirm and, at worst, will be downright unreadable.  The mental and emotional torture depicted on the pages is so intense that it's painfully disturbing.  And yet I wasn't able to put the book down.  

Nick Heller, the private investigator in the midst of all the action, is a terrific character this reader quickly and easily warmed up to and wanted to succeed.  He's smart, he's wily and determined and he's not going to give up until he gets what he wants.  He also has a delicious sense of humor that brings some much needed lighter moments to the book.  

Finder is an adept and skilled writer, one of the best thriller novelists out there.  If you haven't read one of his books, I cannot encourage you enough to give him a try.  He knows how to pen tension like no other and some of his scenes will literally make your skin crawl.  He does not waste a page, a paragraph or a word.  You will find some of the tightest, taunt writing out there in a Joseph Finder novel.  

Finder places plot twists throughout like indiscriminate land mines, making the book unpredictable, explosive and swiftly paced.  Reading Buried Secrets is like running a mad dash or being involved in a high speed chase - - your heart will pound, you will be moving on adrenaline and when it's over you will be physically spent.  But the exertion is well worth it.

Reading Buried Secrets, like reading any Finder novel, is an event, plain and simple.  And one you won't want to miss.

This is the second book in a series featuring Nick Heller (Vanished being the first) and I look forward to Finder's next outing with the intrepid PI.  Even if you haven't read Vanished, Buried Secrets will be an addiction you won't be able to shake.

Buried Secrets is available for purchase now at major booksellers including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliateIf you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

Review copy of this book provided by Amazon Vine in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.