"An Affair Downstairs" Review

"An Affair Downstairs"
by Sherri Browning
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: Jan 6, 2014
Source: ARC sent by publisher

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars

Summary from goodreads.com:

The Countess of Aberford is determined to make a match for her sister, Lady Alice Emerson, but each man she brings to Thornbrook Park only inflames Alice's improper interest in unsuitable Logan Winthrop, a rugged man once accused of murdering his great rival.

Logan's determined to shelter himself from the pain of unrequited love—he knows the feeling all too well—but something about Alice stirs his desire to start living again. Though they fight their urges, the pair can only resist for so long; eventually they must choose between bowing to society's rules or breaking them...

My Review:

As a Downton Abbey addict, I really wanted to love this book. However, it was just ho-hum for me. Logan was likable, but Alice came across as a little bit spoiled in my opinion. I think I was also a little bummed that the story doesn't fully commit to an affair 'downstairs.' Logan is the manager of Thornbrook Park, hardly a lowly position, and he is from a titled background. I was hoping for some actual conflict between the classes, but it didn't really seem to be that way. I really wanted to see more about the servants' side of life and how two people might be able to make a relationship work between classes.

Sometimes a slow read can be fun and a great escape, and I did feel like I was having a lazy day rambling around a huge estate as I was reading. So the overall mood and tone of the book was enjoyable. I think I just wanted a little more excitement.

Main Characters: 3/5
Supporting Characters: 3/5
Setting: 5/5

Romance: 3/5

Uniqueness: 4/5
Cover: 4/5
Writing: 4/5

Bottom Line: I know I'm not the only reader starved for more books similar to Downton Abbey, so please, publishers and writers, keep this type of book coming! But this one just need a bit more intrigue and excitement for me, and more of a look at life 'downstairs.'

Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Say Yes to the Marquess" Review

"Say Yes to the Marquess"
by Tessa Dare
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: Dec 30, 2014
Source: sent by publisher

My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Summary from goodreads.com:

Your presence is requested at romantic Twill Castle for the wedding of Miss Clio Whitmore and . . . and . . . ?

After eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She's inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.

Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother—even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.

So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride's cold feet?

● He starts with flowers. A wedding can't have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.

● He lets her know she'll make a beautiful, desirable bride—and tries not to picture her as his.

● He doesn't kiss her.

● If he kisses her, he definitely doesn't kiss her again.

● When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.

● And no matter what—he doesn't fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.
My Review:

This is definitely one of the best historical romances that I have read for a really long time! I'm sad to say this was my first book by Tessa Dare. What took me so long?? Now I know that all the rave reviews are 100% deserved. The main characters are so lovable, and add to that an engaging plot, a well-rounded supporting cast, and fantastic writing, and you have the perfect romance novel!

Clio is a wonderful heroine. She has just the right amount of vulnerability along with an independent side. She has inherited a castle, and she no longer wants to bother with a husband. Definitely not the husband she has been waiting on for 8 years. Rafe is the complete opposite of his straight-laced brother, also known as Clio's perfect-on-paper fiance. He rejects any societal norms and wants to make his own way as a prizefighter. Clio and Rafe were inseparable as children, and now they are realizing that their feelings are deeper than friendship.

I loved the secondary cast of characters as well. Rafe's friend, Bruiser, was hilarious in his disguise as a 'gentleman'. He had it all figured out down to the monocle.  Clio's sister and her somewhat bumbling husband fit their roles to a tee, not quite mean-spirited, but always saying the wrong thing and hurting Clio.

This is just the perfect romance, historical romance fans are bound to be swept into Tessa Dare's story and the historical world of these characters. The characters will probably find a way into your heart like they did mine.

Main Characters: 5/5
Supporting Characters: 5/5
Setting: 5/5

Romance: 5/5

Uniqueness: 4/5
Cover: 4/5
Writing: 5/5

Bottom Line: A wonderful historical romance, sure to satisfy fans of the genre.

Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Monstrously Funny Cartoons" Review

"Monstrously Funny Cartoons"
by Christopher Hart
Publisher:  Watson-Guptill
Release Date: Oct 14, 2014
Source: sent by publisher

My Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Summary from goodreads.com:

Learn to draw the silliest and scariest monsters, zombies, vampires, witches, mummies, and other creepy cartoon favorites.

Cartooning master Christopher Hart teaches aspiring artists all the drawing tips and tricks they need to create laugh-out-loud renditions of their favorite monsters and scary creatures. This jam-packed cartooning guide shows readers how to capture the lighter side of these creepy creatures by combining them with Hart's incredibly popular cartoon drawing style! Taking readers step-by-step through each monster type, Hart demonstrates how to draw everything from terrifyingly silly heads to wacky comic strip-like scenes of monstrous menace. Chockful of hints, humor, and horror, Monstrously Funny Cartoons is guaranteed to be a real scream for aspiring and professional artists, as well as all fans of things that go bump in the night.
My Review:

What a fun book! This instructional cartooning book, has it all-easy to follow how-to advice, and background information, as well as a fun writing style. The author blends his drawings of fun cartoon monsters with funny descriptions as well as the reasons why the characters are drawn the way they are. He doesn't just tell you to draw a zombie with an open jaw, he tells you WHY zombies have open jaws. This is such a great teaching style. The artist learns why they are drawing a certain way, not just copying what another artist has done. This method really helps you develop your own style instead of copying the instructor's style.

The book is divided into section by type of monster. Zombies are first, followed by vampires, mummies, aliens, etc. I really enjoyed the vampire and zombie monsters the most, but I liked all of the monsters. There is a good variety  of types to draw, some are cute like the zombie cheerleader on the cover, and some are more silly and icky. All of the monsters are in good fun though, there's nothing scary in the book. It's perfect for children, teens, and adults in my opinion.

I think the author achieved his goal of providing information for both beginning artists, and for experienced artists who want to develop their craft and learn how to draw a new category in order to stay current.

Bottom Line: A monstrously fun cartooning book, suitable for all ages and skill levels. Let's get drawing those zombies, vampires, and mummies!

Disclosure: book sent by bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for an honest review

Waiting on Wednesday 262

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and it is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released!!

This week I chose: 

"Anne & Henry"
by Dawn Ius
Simon Pulse
Release Date:  Sept. 2015

Wild, brazen, mischievous, bewitching

Driven, haunted, charming, magnetic

Apart, they are bound to destroy themselves. Together, they are bound to destroy each other.

Henry Tudor's life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father's. But ever since the death of Henry's brother—perfect, high-achieving Arthur—his family has been twice as demanding. And now Henry's trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who's not Tudor approved.

Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life.

Anne is wild, brash and outspoken. She is everything Henry is not allowed to be—or to want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, yet his desire for Anne consumes him. Henry is willing to do anything to be with her. But once he has her, their romance could destroy them both.

Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Anne & Henry reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time.
I haven't seen a modern retelling of Anne and Henry's story before. Admittedly, I told myself I wasn't going to read any more books about them, they started to be repetitive, but I don't think I can resist this one.

What are you waiting for this week???

Waiting on Wednesday 261

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and it is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released!!

This week I chose: 

"A Wicked Thing"
by Rhiannon Thomas
Release Date:  Feb 24, 2015

Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.
I can't resist a fairy tale retelling, and I love that this one starts AFTER her happily ever after.

What are you waiting for this week???

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" Writes a Self Help Book Review

 "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today"
by FX Networks
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Release Date: Jan 6, 2015
Source: sent by publisher

My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Summary from goodreads.com:

"The Gang" from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia attempts their most ill-conceived, get-rich quick scheme yet: publishing a “self-help book” to hilarious, sometimes dangerous, and often revolting, results.
The Gang may have finally found their golden ticket. Left alone to close down Paddy’s Pub one night, Charlie Kelly inadvertently scored himself, and his friends, the opportunity of a lifetime—a book deal with a real publishing company, real advance money, and a real(ly confused) editor. While his actual ability to read and write remains unclear, Charlie sealed the deal with some off-the-cuff commentary on bird law and the nuances of killing rats (and maybe with the help of some glue fumes in the basement with an unstable editor on a bender). While The Gang is stunned by the news, and the legally binding, irrevocable contract left on the bar, they are also ready to rise to the task and become millionaires—and of course, help Charlie actually write the book.
In their own inimitable voices, Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Sweet Dee, and Frank weigh in on important topics like Relationships, Financial Success and Career, Fashion and Personal Grooming, Health and Diet, and Survival Skills, providing insane advice, tips, tricks, and recipes (Rum Ham anyone?) as only they can.
Fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia rejoice and welcome the most influential work in the history of the written word (or at least since the script for The Nightman Cometh): The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today.
My Review:

The premise of the book entails that the gang from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" write a self-help book for Harper-Collins. You can only imagine their ideas for self-help. As a fan of the show, I think this is a great book, IF it were quite a bit shorter. When I first started reading the book, I was laughing so much, and I could just 'hear' the characters reading their chapters aloud. However, at about the midway point, I started to lose interest, and I was ready for the book to be over.

A word of warning, I would only recommend this book to readers who are already fans of the tv show. Otherwise, the book would be crazy offensive to...nearly everyone. If you've ever seen the show, you know what I mean. I think you have to go in realizing that the book is going to try to offend everyone, no one is safe-haha.

My favorite chapters were written by my favorite characters on the show-Charlie and Dee. I would have loved to have read more of Charlie's own words, instead of  most of his chapters being written "as told to" other characters. Perhaps more usage of a tape recorder and transcripts would have worked since his writing skills involve crayons and mispellings. Dee's chapters were written spot-on in her voice. I could just hear her reading the pages, cursing and all. Sometimes the characters of Dennis and Frank push the envelope for me personally, so I didn't really love their chapters.

Bottom Line: For fans of the show, this book is a funny companion to the tv show. It could have been great if only it were shortened by half or so.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"The Duke of Dark Desires" Review

"The Duke of Dark Desires"
by Miranda Neville
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: Dec 30, 2014
Source: sent by publisher

My Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Summary from goodreads.com:

Wanted: Governess able to keep all hours . . .
Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified—to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation . . . without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.

Desired: Duke skilled in the seductive art of conversation . . .
Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn't seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke's relatives is responsible for the death of her family—and take her revenge. She certainly can't afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her.

But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she's faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she's sworn to kill?
My Review:

This was a very enjoyable historical romance. The plot and time period were just different enough to stand out from the pack of historical romances. A lot of times with romances, I find the 'mystery' plots so forced and over the top. However, in this book, I genuinely cared about just who was truly responsible for what happened to Jane's family, something that Julian had always blamed himself for. I also was on pins and needles waiting for the moment that Jane and Julian would discover each other's true identities.

I looooove this cover, and I think it captures the book so well. It's a bit dark, but not grim, and definitely beautiful as well. The cover captures Julian's character especially well. Julian wears all black, he's a bit of a grouch, and wants everyone to think he is horrible, but he isn't the least bit horrible at all. His relationship with his three young sisters proves that he's a caring, tender person.

I loved the three girls so much, each of them had a distinct, well-rounded personality, and they were never used for their cute factor. The girls were their own characters, not just children thrown in to move the story along. Family was such an important part of the book, and both Jane and Julian had such great relationships with the three girls. It was wonderful to see their relationships grow.

Main Characters: 5/5
Supporting Characters: 5/5
Setting: 5/5

Romance: 5/5

Uniqueness: 5/5
Cover: 5/5
Writing: 5/5

Bottom Line: I loved this historical romance, the lead characters were strong yet tender, and the plot kept me on the edge of my seat. This one definitely stands apart from other books in the genre.

Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Hitrecord on TV! Season One" Spotlight

"Hitrecord on TV! Season One"
by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Release Date: Dec 2, 2014
Source: sent by publisher

Summary from goodreads.com:

HITRECORD ON TV is a new kind of variety show. Join host Joseph Gordon-Levitt as he directs a global online community of artists to create eight episodes of television--all made collaboratively. Each installment focuses on a different theme and features short films, live performances, music, animation, conversation, and more!

HITRECORD ON TV invites anyone with an internet connection to contribute, create, and develop art and media collectively through hitRECord.org, an online collaborative production company that brings together artists from all over the world to participate in the creative process, bridging cultural divides and false distinctions that separate professional artists from those who simply love to make art.

Through hitRECord.org, 1,295 artists contributed their original artwork to all of HITRECORD ON TV's eight episodes.

This nine-book box set is the official companion to the first season, taking fans deeper inside the show's themes and the making of the series as a whole. It comes with special download codes for all eight episodes and the complete soundtrack album.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire" Spotlight

"Crouching Tiger, Forbidden Vampire"
by Kerrelyn Sparks
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: Dec 30, 2014
Source: sent by publisher

Summary from goodreads.com:

New York Times bestselling author Kerrelyn Sparks delivers the exciting conclusion in the Love at Stake series, where a Marine-turned-vampire finds love with the shifter princess forbidden to him...

Russell wakes from a coma to find he's become a vampire. Now he has a thirst for revenge. Determined to hunt down the master vampire who turned him, he's used to working alone . . . until he meets Jia. She is after the same vampire for murdering her parents and insists she can help Russell on this mission. Reluctantly, he agrees, and sets up some ground rules:

Rule #1: Their partnership is strictly business. If he holds her a little too close . . . if she looks at him with those exotic eyes . . . well, that has to stop.

Rule #2: He's in charge. Jia isn't used to taking orders and questions every move he makes. So he stops her the only way he knows how.

Rule #3: Don't fall in love. But the kiss that was supposed to quiet her awakens something else in him . . . something forbidden. Because Jia is engaged. To someone else.
This is the 16th and final book in the "Love at Stake" series!

Find out more about the book here

Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this post.

Sunday Shout Out 59

Recently, I introduced a new feature here at In the Hammock on Sundays. It's called "Sunday Shout Out" and it's a place where I can give a special shout out to those publishers and authors who have sent me books over the week, as well as those bloggers who have hosted contests that I've won! I'll also be giving shout outs to any other cool books, blogs or bookish news that I've spotted during the week.

For Review

 "The Everyday Supermodel" by Molly Sims

 "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today " by FX Networks

What books did you receive this week?