Escape Reality Book Club: November 2014’s Nominations!

Escape reality book club

Hosted by The Obsessive Bookseller and Apathy and Rhetoric

The Escape Reality Book Club is monthly feature where members take turns nominating the Young Adult titles they most want to read…Or rather, it used to be. You see, the book club has been undergoing a bit of the reconstruction (hence the lateness). The general feedback has been, while we all love and appreciate YA, many of us are getting tired of reading them exclusively. Because of that, I’ve decided that going forward nominations from any fiction genre will be allowed. As I’m particularly partial to speculative fiction, this change makes me nervous, but luckily most of our members seem to have similar tastes. Anyway, back to what the book club is all about:

We started it because we love geeking out about books, and knew a lot of other people who liked to too. This is a very low-pressure book club where anybody is invited to join. All you have to do is click here to be directed to our official Facebook page and asked to join the group. We host meetings here in Southern Utah, but all of you out-of-towners are invited to participate in a facebook book club meeting (which consists of a Q&A and hopefully some discussion). Although, due to some very lonely meetings, these are now by request only… I talk to myself about books too much as it is. ;).

 Behold! The Nominations (Via Kierra):


Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

In a time and place not too far away, Mia Snow is an alien huntress for the New Chicago Police Department. Heading up her expert team of Alien Investigation and Removal agents, Mia’s unmatched at battling the elusive enemy among us, and she’s the perfect girl for the job. She’s seen her brother die at the hands of aliens. She’s earned each of her scars. And she’ll die before she cries. Now, a series of killings have Mia and her partner Dallas tracking alien suspects — but a sudden blast of violence leaves Dallas fighting for his life.

The chance to save Dallas appears in the form of a tall, erotic stranger. An alien. A murder suspect. Kyrin en Arr, of the deadly Arcadian species, holds the power to heal the injured agent but not without a price. For Mia Snow, that price is surrendering to Kyrin’s forbidden seduction…and embracing their electric attraction. She’s walking a knife’s edge, risking her badge and even her life. The closer she gets to Kyrin, the more Mia learns about her own heart, her human needs — and the shocking secret that will shatter everything she’s ever believed.

Hardwired by Meredith Wilde

Determined to overcome a difficult past, Erica Hathaway learns early on to make it on her own. Days after her college graduation, she finds herself face to face with a panel of investors who will make or break her fledgling startup. The only thing she didn’t prepare for was going weak in the knees over an arrogant and gorgeous investor who seems determined to derail her presentation.

Billionaire and rumored hacker Blake Landon has already made his fortune in software, and he’s used to getting what he wants. Captivated by Erica’s drive and unassuming beauty, he’s wanted nothing more than to possess her since she stepped into his boardroom. Determined to win her over, he breaks down her defenses and fights for her trust, even if it means sacrificing a level of control he’s grown accustomed to. But when Blake uncovers a dark secret from Erica’s past, he threatens not just her trust, but the life she’s fought so hard to create.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Delia Hopkins has led a charmed life. Raised in rural New Hampshire by her widowed father, Andrew, she now has a young daughter, a handsome fiance, and her own search-and-rescue bloodhound, which she uses to find missing persons. But as Delia plans her wedding, she is plagued by flashbacks of a life she can’t recall. And then a policeman knocks on her door, revealing a secret that changes the world as she knows it.” In shock and confusion, Delia must sift through the truth – even when it jeopardizes her life and the lives of those she loves. What happens when you learn you are not who you thought you were? When the people you’ve loved and trusted suddenly change before your eyes? When getting your deepest wish means giving up what you’ve always taken for granted? Vanishing Acts explores how life – as we know it – might not turn out the way we imagined; how doing the right thing could mean doing the wrong thing; how the memory we thought had vanished could return as a threat.

 Comfort of Lies by Randy Meyers

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption. / Five years ago, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she’s questioning whether she’s cut out for the role of wife and mother. / Five years ago, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a solid marriage, two beautiful young sons, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He promised he’d never stray again, and she trusted him. But when Juliette intercepts a letter to her husband from Tia that contains pictures of a child with a deep resemblance to her husband, her world crumbles once more. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he’s kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. / And before long, the three women and Nathan are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted. Riveting and arresting, The Comfort of Lies explores the collateral damage of infidelity and the dark, private struggles many of us experience but rarely reveal.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex, especially when she compares herself to her slim, brilliant, picture-perfect family. But that’s before a shocking phone call — and a horrifying allegation — about her rugby-star brother changes everything. With irreverent humor and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine who speaks to every teen who struggles with family expectations, and proves that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.

Which book would you like to read?

Voting is closed – check back in January for more fun!

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: Sea Witch by Virginia Kantra

Sea witchTitle: Sea Witch

Author: Virginia Kantra

Series: The Children of the Sea #1

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Margred is a Selkie – a legendary being of the sea, able to shapeshift into seductive human form. And she has found a human she desires… Burned out from the big city, Caleb Hunter becomes police chief on the peaceful Maine island of World’s End. Then he meets a woman who’s everything he’s ever dreamed of. Their passion is undeniable, irresistible …and it may change the fate of humankind.

Sea witch

The Review:

It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a good old paranormal romance, but after reading several rather depressing dystopians and post-apocalyptic novels, it was just what the doctor ordered: something lighthearted.

I don’t usually read romances for epic world building or complex plot lines, but rather for the mindless entertainment that I let take me where it will. I guess it’s safe to say I go in with low expectations. It sounds horrible, but when I try to hold romances to the same standard I hold most urban fantasies, they always seem to come up short. It’s not that they’re poorly written or anything, it’s just that their objectives and target audiences are just different. They are not supposed to make you think, they are supposed to make you feel while two characters struggle towards their happily ever after. And while urban fantasies and even high fantasies often have relationship development as an integral part of their plots, it is very rarely the overall arc of the story.

Anyway, down to specifics: despite my lower expectations, Sea Witch was actually a pretty entertaining read. There was a good mix of mystery, character development, and romance. It was also fairly steamy – with lots of sexual tension even though the relationship was, shall we say, fast-moving. It helped that I liked the characters (a must in any genre), but was pleasantly surprised by the presence of a decent villain. Although the world building wasn’t profound, it was interesting – having just enough magic to keep me enticed.

Overall, of the romances I’ve read, Sea Change was one of the better ones. Kantra impressed me with her writing, and presented all the typical romance elements in a way that was fun and engaging.

Recommended Reading: I always feel weird recommending romances to customers because you never know who wants the more “wholesome” novels or the more erotic ones… and I never feel like it’s my business to ask (nor do I really want to know). Sea Witch was on the tamer side, say 3/10 on the “steaminess” scale.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Your Pick for Nik! – September’s Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

psTitle: Poison Study

Author: Maria V. Snyder

Series: Study #1

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Rating: 4/5 stars!

The Overview: About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…


The Review:

From the the very first page, I was hooked. Not only did it begin at a pivotal time in the character’s life, but it also set the stage for a story with endless possibilities for character growth and story development.

Story: My favorite part of the book has to be the ideas behind the basic storyline. Throughout the book, I especially liked how the main character was either learning news skill or showcasing ones she already had. It gave off the same “learning environment” feel you’d get from books that take place in schools (and you all know how much I love school settings). What’s more, the character learned a trade you don’t encounter often in our world – poisons! It was fascinating, and I love feeling like I learned it along with her.

What’s great about this book is that it has multi-genre appeal. The company I work for categorizes it in romance, but it could easily find a home in either the teen section (15+) or fantasy. Because of this, I feel like I could recommend it to a wide range of customers, and that always makes me happy!

Another element of story I think a lot of readers would like is the slow-building relationships and love story. They all felt incredibly organic – again leaving lots of room for growth in the future.

Character: Yelena Is a “take no crap” protagonists who speaks her mind and follows her heart. She is the type of character that’s highly likable because she represents a lot of characteristics most of us wish we had. Not only is she brave enough to stand up for her convictions, she is also incredibly smart and loyal. I love her fire and I love her spirit!

I think it’s safe to say that Yelena stole the show – she was such a strong and dynamic chick that all other characters sort of faded into the background for most of the book. The good news is, that was really only an issue for the first half of the book, and Yelena’s story was more than compelling enough to carry the story until then. Considering it’s a full trilogy, I think there are plenty of side character exploration yet to come.

Writing: Snyder did a great job organizing – revealing just enough information to tell the story and strengthen character, while leaving enough mystery shrouding Yelena’s past (and everybody else’s, for that matter) to keep me turning the pages. She also used several “hooks” at the end of each section, which often had me saying “just one more chapter…”

She also used one of my all time favorite writing tools – when two characters are forced together into small quarters by an outside influence. It creates a great atmosphere where the characters are forced to interact with one another, and it especially works well in furthering a romantic spark. The way it was done here was so subtle that I am most missed it, but it immediately got me excited for where the story could go (not that I wasn’t already hooked).

Finally, I love the voice Snyder used to tell the story. It was incredibly understated (in a good way), letting the focus reside entirely on her main character. It was highly effective at drawing me in, and I imagine it would do the same for most readers.

World Building: The world building was definitely present, but a little low key. You could tell the author has a full magic system and world developed based on everything she alluded to, but she definitely didn’t bring it to its full potential in this first book. This is the only thing that I hope to see improvement on in book two – and I honestly don’t think she’ll let me down. She has a lot of groundwork set for something really amazing.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and I’m thrilled it was chosen for book club. It had been collecting dust on my shelf for over five years and I am seriously kicking myself for not having picked it up sooner! The best news: based on the direction this one took, I am expecting the second book to be just as good, if not better!

Recommended Reading: for anyone wanting great fantasy entertainment with a slow-developing love story!

by Niki Hawkes

Other books you might like:

Discussion Time!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Yelena, hands-down. She is just one of those strong female protagonists that you wish you could be, and I love how unabashed she is when fighting for something she believes in.

What was your favorite part of the book?

The opening! it was one of the best starts to a book that I’ve ever read, and set the tone for one killer story!

Which would you rather learn: poison study, acrobatics, dueling, magic, for self-defense?

I know it was unfair adding magic to the list because who wouldn’t want to learn Magic? Obviously that’s my number one, but my number two is acrobatics – I’ve always admired gymnasts!

The questions are meant to generate conversation, so feel free to answer any or all in the comments area. If you also wrote a review for Poison Study, let me know and I will add a personalized link in this review. 

For more information on this book club feature, click here.


Your Pick for Nik! – Book Club Selection: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

It’s one week into September, so I thought it would be a great time to remind everybody about this month’s awesome book club selection. I am really looking forward to reading this series, and am tickled that it got enough votes to win. Here’s a quick look at each book in the trilogy:

psBook 1: Poison Study

The Overview: About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…


Book 2: Magic Study

The Overview: With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can’t help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways—and her newfound friends and relatives don’t think it’s for the better….

Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training—especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince—and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies….


Book 3: Fire Study

The Overview: When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before….

Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

Need more convincing? Check out this awesome review by the blogger who convinced me to make this series of priority: Nemo @ The Moonlight Library


Book Review: Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire

A oneTitle: Walking Disaster

Author: Jamie McGuire

Series: Beautiful Disaster (Companion Novel)

Genre: Romance/Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

The Overview: Travis Maddox learned two things from his mother before she died: Love hard. Fight harder.

In Walking Disaster, the life of Travis is full of fast women, underground gambling, and violence. But just when he thinks he is invincible, Abby Abernathy brings him to his knees. Every story has two sides. In Beautiful Disaster, Abby had her say. Now it’s time to see the story through Travis’s eyes.

A one

The Review:

After reading this novel, I’m convinced Jamie McGuire is someone I’m eager to read more from in the future. Her writing style makes you want to stay up all night devouring and her characters make you feel like you’ve known them for years. Walking Disaster was grabbing, and that’s saying something considering I already knew what was going to happen (for those of you who don’t know, it is meant as a companion novel to Beautiful Disaster, following the exact same storyline but from the male lead’s perspective).

Both novels illustrated McGuire’s exceptional writing skills. Not only was the voice in this one a complete contrast, but the observations and emotions she chose to highlight gave it a totally different spin. Even though it was the same basic plot, each character went into situations with different sets of perspective and inner turmoils. All of the issues I had with Abby’s conflicts in the first book were practically nonexistent here because Travis was focused on different things. McGuire managed to make it just as fresh and exciting as the first one, if not more. It kind of blows my mind.

Character development was probably my favorite element of the book. She doesn’t hit you over the head with matter-of-fact statements of each character’s temperament but rather lets them develop organically through their actions. It was really subtle, and she achieved it through compelling dialogue mixed with superb body language and facial expressions. It sounds odd, but the little nuances of physical description really spiced up the characters and overall story.

This is probably the best companion novel I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read the first book, however, it would not be near as compelling. Readers got to know Abby intimately in book one and were able to understand her rationale behind her actions. Not much of that inner dialogue is represented in this book, however, which makes her come off as a self-centered brat. If I didn’t already know and love Abby from her story, I would’ve had a difficult time trying to figure out why Travis found her so appealing.

Recommendations: these books are a little more robust than your average romance novels but I would probably still recommend them to fans of that genre. I would also hand it to anybody looking for a fun, fast read. Fair warning: these books contain a great deal of language and sexual content.

by Niki Hawkes

Other books you might like: