diamond_brillantenWho says diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

I think BOOKS are the BLING!  They are beautiful, sexy, scandalous, delicious, telling and intriguing.  Everything from the classics to pop culture tweaks my interest.  I’ll rummage through half-priced books and finger the finest collection to tickle my fancy, so if you have a recommendation, drop me a line.  To check out what I’ve already read and reviewed, browse Genres above or click on the Categories list in the right side-bar.

Laundry List An ongoing list of books I am reading and will be featured for review.

Bitsy’s Star Rating:  What does it mean?

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The Vespertine

The Vespertine
Author Saundra Mitchell
Release date: March 7, 2011

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Gems: From the first line the lyrical prose flow beautifully.  The dark poetic-style of each description sings along like a haunting carnival tune.  The metaphors are juxtaposed and grounded in concrete images giving it just enough of a dreamy feel without leaving the reader floating in absurdity.

I fell fast for this read and found myself enraptured with the story late into the night.  I did not want to return from historical Baltimore anymore than I ever want to leave Victorian England.  This is a historically dark romance that celebrates youth, love, expectations and fate.  It possesses a touch of the paranormal that presents in the popular form of spiritualism or mysticism which was a growing fascination during this time period.  It begins with what seems the end, much like a prediction, the finality of the picture is never certain.  As the story continues the reader can only hope that the foreseen fate is not realized.  Small tragedies are diverted only to reappear in another form, so it is plausible that a different ending might ensure.  I adored this book and will read it again because the intensity of the prose-style left me breathless.  I do not easily swoon, but Mitchell captured the painful hunger of first love and exploded it onto the page.

Flaws: Without discussing key parts of the story, I will only comment that I wish a few parts were slowed down with a hint of explanation.  I was left with a couple questions that would have been easily resolved with short paragraph.

* ARC provided for review via Netgalley courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

Bitsy’s Rating: 5 Stars

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Paranormal, Young Adult & Teen | Leave a comment

The Mischief of the Mistletoe

The Mischief of the Mistletoe

Author Lauren Willig

Set between the fourth and fifth novels in her charming Pink Carnation series, Willig offers up a holiday tale centered around Turnip Fitzhugh, the bumbling but well-meaning nobleman who is often mistaken for the English spy known as the Pink Carnation. Turnip isn’t looking for trouble when he visits his younger sister at her boarding school, but when he literally runs into Arabella Dempsey, a pretty young teacher, the two find themselves drawn into international intrigue via an unlikely source: a message written in French on the wrapping of a Christmas pudding. Turnip’s own limited experiences with espionage lead him to want to check it out, and Arabella agrees to go along. What seems like a frivolous endeavor soon proves to be something else entirely when Turnip learns of a missing list of English spies in France and Arabella is attacked after a school play. Forget all the Austen updates and clones—Willig is writing the best Regency-era fiction today. This delectable, exciting holiday tale will appeal to longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike.

Review: Who better to snag the lead in a romantic comedy than Turnip our favorite vegetable from the Pink Carnation series! What a delight this book was to read. It’s an absolutely enchanting holiday mystery complete with intrigue, parties, pretty ladies and diabolical Christmas puddings. Admittedly, I am already a fan of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, but I found this book, which was cleverly squeezed between The Temptation of the Night Jasmine and The Betrayal of the Blood Lily to be my favorite thus far. I had nearly forgotten just how addicting these reads could be and I am more than eager to jump into the next adventure. In a previous tale, Mr. Fitzhugh makes an appearance as a supporting character and throughout comes across as ridiculous. I’m pleased to say that he remains ridiculous, but in the most charming way imaginable and that Arabella compliments him perfectly. Willig makes a match that even the Dowager of Dovedale would approve.

I suggest reading the author’s note before beginning the story. It is most helpful. Also, if it has been some time, or if you haven’t read the other Pink Carnation stories, I suggest reviewing the character list and descriptions also located in the back of the book. It’s a very nice refresher.

A special cameo celebrity makes an appearance in this book, a Miss Jane Austen. I must say it takes guts to include a national treasure that every country wishes they could claim. Purest might be put off and I was taken back in the beginning, but Willig works the star nicely into the tale. I felt Willig honored Austen’s style and consider The Mischief of the Mistletoe a light-hearted tribute to her champion influence.

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Posted in Historical Fiction, Literature & Fiction | Leave a comment

Mistletoe & Mayhem

Mistletoe & Mayhem

Author Kate Kingsbury

As friends, family, and guests gather at the Pennyfoot Hotel to share the joys of the season, Cecily Sinclair Baxter and her staff are hustling and bustling more than ever. Cecily’s friend Madeline arrives with her new baby and adds a kissing bough to the decorations. Cecily believes that the holiday couldn’t get off to a better start… But, after a footman and a new maid are seen kissing under the bough and then turn up dead afterwards, the downstairs staff is convinced a serial killer is among them…perhaps the mysterious guest known only as J. Mortimer. When Madeline’s baby disappears, Cecily desperately tries to find the child. If she doesn’t catch this killer in time, everyone’s cheer will quickly turn to fear.

GEMS: A cozy holiday murder mystery with a special cameo star character guest. Mistletoe and Mayhem is an easy read that is surprisingly light despite the occurrence of four murders. Out of politeness and not wishing to ruin the guests holiday, the staff of the Pennyfoot do their best to keep the unfortunate events secret. However, this proves to be difficult and soon rumors spread dampening the holiday cheer. In the good old fashion tradition of whodunit mysteries, the actual investigator is an idiot. If left up to him, no crime would ever be solved! Thankfully, Cecily has a keen eye and knack for detection and puzzle solving. It also doesn’t hurt that her good friend is gifted with a six sense. Together, they’re sure to solve the mystery by Christmas Eve.

FLAWS: Although the characters background are well-developed, the actual motive for the murders is glazed. I believe this is the result of trying too hard to not give away the culprit, but in doing so, decreased the suspense and ‘ah-ha’ moment. Looking back, there are parts/scenes of the story that are irrelevant. I assume they were included to throw the reader off the trail. Normally, I do not mind, but I felt this wild goose chase was rather benign and left me wondering why some of it was written into the story. I had a few, ‘Why am I suppose to care about this?’ moments.

Overall, an entertaining seasonal read.  Good to curl up with and include on holiday reading challenge lists.  Recommend checking out from the library, swapping with a friend — or scoring at the half-price bookstore.  Rather light in mayhem, suspense and complexity.

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Haunting Miss Trentwood

Haunting Miss Trentwood

Author Belinda Kroll

“Father knows best, even after death…” Resigned to a lonely life in her quiet manor house in the English countryside, Mary Trentwood is horrified when she watches her father crawl from his grave the day of his funeral. Mary clings to her routine, finding it increasingly difficult to avoid her father’s ghost as she questions her sanity. Mistaking the newly-arrived Alexander Hartwell to be her father’s solicitor-for who else would interrupt her time of mourning?-Mary welcomes him into her home reluctantly, not realizing Hartwell is on the hunt for a blackmailer. Caught in a tangle of secrets, Mary fights a series of events, which threaten to bring Death to her door once more. Belinda Kroll weaves a tale of loyalty and betrayal set in the deceptively serene Victorian English countryside.

GEMS: The Haunting of Miss Trentwood is a gorgeously crafted Victorian novel through which Kroll creates a perfect gothic literary revival. Admittedly, the author suggests that upon completion she recognized the influence of Hamlet in the story. I also see other classical influences such as Bronte and Shirley Jackson. However, the most notable and flattering comparison I can draw is to The House of Seven Gables, by Nathanial Hawthorne because “The Haunting of Miss Trentwood” visits the archetypal theme of withdrawal and return. It explores isolation and redemption along with a person’s relationship to the past and determination to a future. It’s about escaping and embracing all that influences or paralyzes. This concept (theme) can be examined as it applies to each character, which is fascinating and would make for a lively literary analysis. Similarly, Kroll achieves the proper restraint evocative of the classical Victorian era while harmonizing it with just the right amount of shadowy eeriness necessary when portraying a haunting. The use of the dying house as a character as well as setting is specific and greatly important in this style of novel. Much like Jackson and other gothic authors, the home is often a breathing thing that isolates or separates characters. There is a definite elegance presented in the word choice and proves the painstaking effort the author took in committing to the voice of the story. The lead character, Mary, is vulnerable, but not overtly fragile. There is a feminist quality to her reactions and thoughts, which is evident in her finding a prince in need of rescuing.

Bitsy’s Rating:  5 Stars

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Young Adult & Teen | Leave a comment

Reader Appreciation Giveaway

I love my followers and hope to attract a few new ones to my awesome book review site.  Many of you might have noticed that I’ve increased my giveaways.  I want to keep this rolling, but I have to meet the minimum requirements for certain contests.  Bitsy Bling Books would love to enter the elite circle of 500.  However, I can’t do this without the reader/followers help.
*Contest is open to anyone who is interested in winning a gift card to either Amazon or Book Depository (winner’s choice).  Amount may vary due to follower total at deadline. Ends November 29.  Can we do it?  Yes, we can!

Here’s the Pitch:

I have a $10 Amazon OR Book Depository card (winner’s choice) ready to go.  BUT wait, it gets better!  For every ‘benchmark’ I will add $5 to the card.

Followers = Book bucks
200= $15
300= $20
400= $25
500= $30

Wouldn’t a $30 gift certificate really help out around the holidays?  Maybe you’d like to use it towards gifts or make a dent in that wish-list you’ve accumulated!

BUT wait!  What if you already follow?  I don’t want to exclude anyone from the fun.  After all, I appreciate my followers!  So, bonuses will go to those who spread the word through the social networking universe (ie. Twitter, Facebook, Blog).  Old and new lets join in and see if we can get this card maxed!

+1 for old followers
+2 for new followers
+2 for tweeting about giveaway (up to 3 tweets)
+2 for any social networking mention (up to 3 mentions)
+5 for posting about giveaway at blog

Click on FORM to enter. Comments are greatly appreciated, but will not count as entries. Remember to scroll all the way to the end of form to ‘submit.’ ENDS November 29 (midnight PST).

Click on GFC follower to join Bitsy’s entourage.  Google connect is in right-side bar at the expanded Bitsy Bling Book site.

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The Raising: A Novel

The Raising: A Novel

Author Laura Kasischke
(ARC – Release date March 2011)

The accident was tragic, yes. Bloody and horrific and claiming the life of a beautiful young sorority girl. Nicole was a straight A student from a small town. Sweet-tempered, all-American, a former Girl Scout, and a virgin. But it was an accident. And that was last year. It’s fall again, a new semester, a fresh start. Craig, who has not been charged with murder, is focusing on his classes, and also on avoiding Nicole’s sorority sisters, who seem to blame him for her death even though the police did not. Perry, Craig’s roommate, is working through his own grief (he grew up with Nicole, after all, and had known her since kindergarten) by auditing Professor Polson’s sociology class: Death, Dying, and the Undead. Mira has been so busy with her babies—two of them, twins, the most perfect boys you could imagine, but still a nearly impossible amount of work even with Clark’s help—that she can barely keep herself together to teach (Death, Dying and the Undead), let alone write the book she’ll need to publish for tenure. Shelly, who was the first person at the scene of the accident, has given up calling the newspapers to tell them that, despite the “lake of blood” in which they keep reporting the victim was found, the girl Shelly saw that night was not bloody, and not dead.

Review: The book is just over 400 pages long, but that didn’t stop me from blazing through the pages. I simply didn’t want to put it down! This provocative little number is full of mystery that lurks just out of sight around a dark corner. Kasischke had me guessing the entire time. I longed for certain outcomes, but knew deep down I might not get what I predicted and this was part of the thrill. The exploration of death seen through the eyes of youth was exquisitely written. The love was aching and honest. The betrayal heartbreaking, and the rumors believable. The story is much more than a glimpse into campus life. It explores the tragedy of death and our cultural need for ritual and sacrifice. The perspective of different views and the moving from past to present (shifting) provides a unique picture of the scene of the crime. By doing so, Kasischke shows there is more than one crime committed with multiple victims. Each character’s life is cheated by death. Not all questions are answered and this had me gasping. It was horrifying not getting what I longed for, but beautifully eloquent in the same breath and absolutely fitting. The story did not end after the last page, it lives on in my imagination because I am still pondering all the possible outcomes, reasons, and explanations. This is what humans tend to do because we never have all the answers. Our minds want to make sense out of life and death, but it is never easy. I predict The Raising will shoot to the top of the MUST read pile in 2011. Contains explicit language and sexuality.

*ARC submitted for review courtesy of HarperCollins via Net Galley

Bitsy’s Rating: 5 Stars

Posted in GLBT, Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers | Leave a comment

The Red Church

The Red Church
Author Scott Nicholson

The church was constructed in the 1860s under the guidance of Reverend Wendell McFall. His sermons declared the existence of God s Second Son- whose mission is to undo all of Jesus work on Earth. McFall had the church painted red to summon the First Son to defeat the Second. But when he sacrificed a child to support his rantings, his congregation hung him from the rafters of his own sanctuary. For twenty years, the red church has stood empty. Crumbling to ruin, it has become a site for Halloween pranks and the setting for ghost stories- including one about the thing that lives in the bell tower, a creature being blamed for a brutal murder that occurred in the church s graveyard. Now, Archer McFall has purchased the church to house his Temple of the Two Sons, whose zealous worshippers will stop at nothing to see the Second Son return to his rightful glory.

Review: The Red Church is everything a scary story should be! The characters believe with conviction what they see is real and never waver despite the implausibility. Their trust is contagious and because of this, the reader can rely on the accounts. The ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’ element is at the forefront, but what makes this theme unique is how it is presented. Is Jesus really the bad guy? Seems ridiculous to consider given America’s deeply rooted Christian culture, but Nicholson is able to craft a story that inspires doubt. This in turn illuminates the frailness of belief, or does it?

This is more than just good vs. evil, but also ventures into the psychology behind influencing groups of people. Most people when they learn of a cult or occult group wonder how people become followers. It seems illogical and for the most part, crazy. The Red Church presents just how confusing recognizing right from wrong and good from bad really can be. When doubt creeps in, alternative answers are sought and honestly, an idea that might seem ridiculous suddenly becomes convincing. There were points in the story where I thought, “Huh, what if that guy is really right?” The nonsensical made sense and I realized how a person could choose an alternative.

Coincidentally, I happened to watch the ID special on the American Occult and came across an episode that featured Jeffrey Don Lundgren, a man who claimed to be a prophet. Eerily, The Red Church cast are similar to the real life happenings that occurred in Ohio.

To read more about Jeffrey Don Lundgren click here: A Prophet Born

Recommend to those who are interested in psychological horror and the American occult.

Bitsy’s Rating: 4 Stars

Posted in Horror, Literature & Fiction, Paranormal | Tagged | Leave a comment


Authors Wilson, Kilborn, Strand and Crouch

DYING MAN’S GREATEST TREASURE…Mortimer Moorecook, retired Wall Street raider, avid collector, is losing his fight against cancer. With weeks to live, a package arrives at the door of his hillside mansion—an artifact he paid millions for…a hominoid skull with elongated teeth, discovered in a farmer’s field in the Romanian countryside. With Shanna, his beautiful research assistant looking on, he sinks the skull’s razor sharp fangs into his neck, and immediately goes into convulsions.
OPENS THE DOOR TO AN ANCIENT EVIL…A rural hospital. A slow night in the ER. Until Moorecook arrives strapped to a gurney, where he promptly codes and dies. WHERE DEATH IS JUST THE BEGINNING.

Review: It’s true, four authors seamlessly collaborate on a horror story. I could guess who wrote what, but it wasn’t obvious. At first glance, this book should have everything I love and that’s why I bought it. However, it really wasn’t my taste at all. It’s so disappointing when that happens. BUT, it might be up someone else’s alley.

The book starts out with a disclaimer, which I thought clever. I’m a fan of horror and not easily scared. I say bring it on, I dare you to frighten me! Sadly, Draculas was more gore than horror. The first half of the story is page after page of blood, brains and slaughter. I felt like I was stuck in a bad B horror movie. Perhaps, because this reads like a screenplay rather than a book. It begins with a cast of characters, most of which are disposable and are only introduced (cameo) to add to the carnage later. Of course, I really don’t care if they get ripped to shreds. In fact, I know they are going to die. The amount of gore has the similar effect as Tarantino’s “Natural Born Killers.” It’s desensitizing and becomes almost funny instead of scary. More brains, blood and well, blood. The character development is cardboard. Insert: Bruce Willis from Die hard (one-liners included), David Arquette from Eight-Legged Freaks, John Goodman, any stereotypical dumb hick cop (I choose the Dukes of Hazard cast) and Mr. Burns from The Simpsons and you have the players in Draculas. In between the flying blood and guts there is a weak attempt at plot. Regret, attraction, love and redemption? Not really. Emotionally, I could have cared less because the ‘thinking’ was scribed, predictable and stereotypical.

I realize these writers have a cult following who enjoy the stories. Their style just didn’t appeal to me. If you like slaughter house horror flicks, then you’ll be a fan. Comic relief is strung between the body parts and one-liner references are abundant. It even comes with a scary clown. Yes, I think Hollywood would buy this in a minute.

Bitsy’s Rating: 2 Stars

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The Spurned Viscountess

The Spurned Viscountess
Author Shelley Munro

Cursed with the sight and rumors of witchcraft, Rosalind’s only chance at an ordinary life is marriage to Lucien, Viscount Hastings. She doesn’t expect love, only security and children of her own. Determined to go through with the wedding, she allows nothing she encounters at the gloomy Castle St. Clare to dissuade her. Recently returned from the Continent, Lucien has no time for the English mouse his family has arranged for him to marry—not when he’s plotting to avenge the murder of his beloved Francesca. He has no intention of bedding Rosalind, not even to sire an heir. Though spurned by her bridegroom, Rosalind turns to him for protection when she is plagued by a series of mysterious accidents and haunted by terrifying visions. Forced to keep Rosalind close—and tempted into passionate kisses—Lucien soon finds himself in grave danger of falling in love with his own wife…

Gems: A classic regency romance with a strong female character and a stunningly likable male counterpart. Shelley creates a world where beauty masks ugliness and initial prejudices are pridefully wrong. The tale is packed with intrigue, scandal, plots and romance. The excitement builds through events and erupts in a heated confrontation that digresses beautifully as promised. Readers who enjoy Lauren Willig’s Carnation series will certainly enjoy Shelley Munro’s style and writing.

Flaws: Rosiland’s defiance is a touch redundant, but she is a young, strong-willed bride so it fits with her character traits. A couple phrasings were modern and I wondered if the references were factual to the time period. Lastly, the reference or word choice used for the male member was crude in comparison to the other sweet and elegant sensitivity used to describe romantic coupling.

* eBook courtesy of Carina Press via Net Galley

Bitsy’s Rating: 4 Stars

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Romance | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?

Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?

Author Marie Simas

What happens when you grow up in an insane Catholic family? Surprisingly funny, this candid memoir shows readers the endurance it takes to survive in a stifling, abusive childhood. It’s an emotional roller coaster from start to finish, fiercely honest and sincere. From the very beginning, the author grapples with hilarious, uncomfortable situations, punctuated by episodes of childhood brutality. These stories will make you laugh out loud, and some will make you cry. This book shouldn’t be missed!

Gems: Simas attacks this memoir with unapologetic strength. The humor, pain and personality comes through in the written word. I felt I got to know and connect with Marie. Sure, sympathizing is common with memoirs, but getting a reader to laugh while at the worst, well, that takes a special creative talent. Don’t get me wrong, nothing is funny about the serious issues presented, but humor brings relief. The message is about surviving, overcoming, talking and ultimately, in the end to change. Yes, things happen to people, but what are we going to do with these experiences. It might be cliche to say, ‘Turn the bad into good,’ but taking control is the best revenge. Marie takes control of her past, which also allows her to control her future.

Flaws: I wish it was longer. Some of the entries seemed too short or cut off. I tend to do this when I’m writing a particularly disturbing scene. At times, it is abrupt, like a slap in the face. However, it is consistent and the more I think about, it works with the overall voice of the book. Still, a little more vulnerability by slowing down at certain places would benefit the passages.

* mature content: marital rape, abuse and language.

Bitsy’s Rating: 4 Stars

Posted in Biographies & Memoirs | 2 Comments