Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Grand Tour

A Grand Tour

A Lord's Chance by Anthea Lawson
Isabelle Strathmore, having been on the receiving end of heartbreak, will never fall in love again. Instead, she'll travel and see the world and keep her heart to herself. Gavin Reed, having been pursued by too many fortune hunters, is wary of women. Neither is expecting to fall for someone, and yet, as they spend time together on their Mediterranean cruise, they are drawn to each other.
This was an enjoyable story. I liked seeing Isabelle and Gavin overcome their reservations about the opposite sex. I also really liked seeing how Gavin went from disdainful to romantic.

Falling in Rome by Jennifer Moore
Eleanor Doyle is chaperoning two sisters on their grand tour; if she can successfully keep them out of trouble, their father will ensure a research position at a London university. In Rome, they meet Russell Kendrick, a professor, and his three students. While Eleanor enjoys Ken's company very much, one of her wards is overly interested in one of his students, and as much as Eleanor wants to help Ken as he uncovers Roman relics, she can't risk losing the position she has worked so hard for.
I loved seeing the romance in this book--especially since it had a lot to do with Eleanor's and Ken's intellectual compatibility. i also really liked the plot line of exploring and discovering Roman ruins.

A Secret Arrangement by Heather B. Moore
Henry Gaiman is engrossed in his archaeological work in Egypt and inheriting an estate when a distant uncle dies is a hindrance to his work, but he dutifully heads to England to make arrangements--including tracking down his uncle's widow to assure her that she will be able to keep her home. He's not prepared to meet his aunt's charge, Evelyn Tucker, freshly graduation from finishing school. Evelyn seems genuinely interested in Henry's work--and he finds himself interested in her. This was another great story. Again, I really enjoyed the archaeological aspect as well as the romance.

This was such a fun collection; I loved all three couples as well as the chance to see a bit of the Mediterranean, Rome, and Egypt. I've really enjoyed the Timeless Regency books and I'm excited that they've branched out into the Victorian era as well.

 I received a free copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Long Way Down

Long Way Down
By Jason Reynolds

When Will's older brother Shawn is shot and killed, Will knows the rules--no crying, no snitching, get revenge. And so, the next day, Will gets Shawn's gun and hops on the elevator in his apartment building, set on finding the guy he knows shot Shawn. However, over the course of the next 60 seconds, the elevator stops at each floor of the building, and each time, someone gets on--and in each case, it's someone Will cares about who has been shot to death, making him think about what he's on his way to do and how it has come about.

Dang. Wow. Holy cow.

This book is POWERFUL.

It's written in verse--I know some people don't care for novels in verse, but I like them and this one is amazing. Each word is perfect. I've never actually heard of Jason Reynolds before, and after reading this book, I realize I've totally been missing out because he is a phenomenally talented writer. There are so many beautiful crafted passages in this book. Here are a couple favorites:

"I felt like crying
which felt like
 another person
trapped behind my face

tiny fists punching
the backs of my eyes
feet kicking
my throat at the spot
where the swallow starts."

"Another thing about the rules
They weren't meant to be broken.
They were meant for the broken

to follow."

"How do you small-talk your father
when 'dad' is a language so foreign
that whenever you try to say it,
it feels like you got a third lip
 and a second tongue?"

"Spent my whole damn life
missing a misser.
That disappointed me."

The message of this book is so powerful. It captures an important theme and event that will resonate with a lot of readers but the idea of the ghosts from Will's past visit in the elevator is so unique and really packs a punch. This book easily makes my Best of 2017 list. 5 stars.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Sound of Rain

The Sound of Rain
By Sarah Loudin Thomas

After the mine he's working in collapses, injuring him and killing his younger brother Joe, Judd Markley can't bear to go back to mining. He leaves his home in West Virginia to go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he finds a job working for a timber company. When he first meets Larkin Heyward, his boss's daughter, he figures she's spoiled and shallow, but as he gets to know her better, he realizes there's more to her than a rich girl who likes dancing. Larkin has been volunteering at the local hospital, but she finds herself wanting to do more and decides to join her minister brother Ben in rural Kentucky to help the people there. As she comes to know Judd better, she's torn between her desire to help the people in Appalachia and her feelings for Judd, who doesn't want to leave his job working for Larkin's father. This book was delightful! I loved the setting; I was so drawn into the time period (it's set in 1954) and the locations. I've never been to West Virginia, South Carolina, or Kentucky, but Sarah Loudin Thomas made all of those places real for me with her descriptions. Beyond that, though, the characters just pulled me in. From the get go, I couldn't help but feel for Judd, who's a lost without his brother and has to figure out what the future has in store for him. I also liked seeing Larkin find her own strength. Secondary characters (like Granny Jane!) stole my heart as well. There were so many great themes, such as figuring out what actually matters in life, finding the path God wants for you, and living again after a loss, that most readers will be able to relate to.

I read a complimentary copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

4. 5 stars.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Holding the Fort

Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings (Holding the Fort #1)

Dance hall singer Louisa Bell finds herself out of a job, and, not knowing what else to do, sets out for Fort Reno, where her brother Bradley serves in the cavalry--and has recently gotten into trouble with his commanding officer. Hoping she can find a job there, when she's mistaken for the governess Major Daniel Adams has sent away for, she doesn't correct the error. Instead, she accepts the job tutoring his two daughters as she tries to take Major Adams' measure and help Bradley get back into his good graces without arousing the major's suspicions. Daniel knows something isn't right with his governess--her story doesn't quite add up and she doesn't have the makings of a real governess--but he also finds that she might be exactly what he and his daughters need.

I've read and enjoyed several of Regina Jennings' books, but this one is easily my favorite. This is a charming historical romance. The characters were terrific, including secondary characters whom I'm hoping to see again later in the series. The story moves forward quickly and was just a lot of fun to read. Can't wait for the next book in the series! 4 stars.


 I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

Out of the Ordinary

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano (Apart from the Crowd #2)

Gertrude Cadwalader is a companion to Mrs. Davenport, a society woman with a tendency to take things that don't belong to her--and then send Gertrude to return them. When Harrison Sinclair, a wealthy and handsome shipping tycoon, hosts an engagement party for his and Gertrude's mutual friends, Permilia Griswold and Asher Rutherford, Mrs. Davenport is up to her old tricks. When Gertrude has to return to Harrison's ship to set things to rights, his mother catches her and thinks that Gertrude is a thief. While Harrison is all too willing to believe in and even defend Gertrude, it soon becomes apparent that someone besides Mrs. Davenport is stealing things and that Mrs. Davenport's issues go deeper than Gertrude thought. As Gertrude and Harrison work together, Gertrude can't help falling for him, even though she knows that he's out of her league.

Jen Turano's books are always a hoot, guaranteed to make the reader laugh out loud, and this book was no exception. There were a few times when some of the behaviors of the characters seemed almost unbelievable, but the first book in the series helped set the tone for the absurdities of a colorful collection of eccentric characters. Harrison was a great romantic lead--handsome and kind and good--and willing to sneak a peak at his sisters' romance novels to try to understand women better. Gertrude's back story and how she ended a poor paid companion was so sad, and her determination to stand by her rather trying employer was admirable. The book is quirky and fun and another great read from Turano.
4 stars.

I read a copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Warcross

Warcross by Marie Lu 

Emika Chen is barely hanging on--orphaned years before, expelled from school, and with a criminal record, she doesn't have a whole lot of options. She's become a bounty hunter, finding those who gamble on Warcross, the virtual reality game that has exploded across the world. About to be evicted from her apartment, Emika does something crazy--she hacks into the opening game of the Warcross Championships and inadvertently shows her identity to the whole world. Afraid she's going to be arrested, instead, the develop of Warcross--Emika's idol--Hideo Tanaka flies her to Tokyo and gives her the chance to actually compete in the Warcross championship while helping Hideo to find someone else who has hacked into the game. As Emika looks for the hacker, Zero, she also has to keep him from figuring out she's looking for him, which proves tougher than she thought. 

Holy cow. This was...wow. I wasn't sure if this was going to hold my interest--I don't play video games at all, virtual reality just weird to me, and I'm not a big sci-fi fan--but I devoured it. I tend to care a lot more about the characters in a story than the setting (which might explain why I don't like sci-fi that much--there has to be a lot of world-building and those details aren't that interesting to me, typically), but Marie Lu's descriptions of the technology and the game kept my interest (really, that's a BIG deal). Even with all the details, the story moved forward really quickly. Emika is the sort of protagonist that you can't help but cheer for--the underprivileged underdog who is way smart and can totally hold her own. I also enjoyed seeing her developing romance. Although I did guess one of the twists in the plot, I totally didn't anticipate the other one--which, for me, was the perfect balance because I want some surprises but being right about others makes me feel connected to the story. This was a thrilling, exciting read and I can't wait for the sequel! 4.5 stars.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Far from the Tree

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

After giving up her baby for adoption, sixteen-year-old Grace finds herself interested in finding out more about her biological family. She discovers that she has an older brother, Joaquin, and a younger sister, Maya. She reaches out to them and finds that while they're willing to have a relationship with her, neither is interested in looking for their birth mother, something Grace feels driven to do. Maya, loud, strong-willed, and angry about her imploding home life, as her adoptive parents are separating and her adoptive mother's drinking is way out of control, is willing to let Grace and Joaquin in, but at the same time, she's pushing her adoptive family and her girlfriend away. Joaquin, unlike his sisters, wasn't adopted and has spent his life as a foster kid who knows how quickly he can be sent back. He doesn't blame anyone for that--he knows it's his fault--but as his current foster parents offer to adopt him, he can't let them do it, just like he couldn't let the girl he loved continue to be his girlfriend when she needed so much more than he has to offer.

I absolutely devoured this book! There's a LOT going on--teen pregnancy, tons of family issues, alcoholism, divorce, etc.--but it didn't get overwhelming or feel gratuitous. Also, with so much going on, there was the potential for it to be confusing or depressing, but it wasn't. Each character had a distinct voice and at the same time that there was a lot for them to work through and moments when it seemed like they were sabotaging themselves, there was also hope because of their relationships with each other and with secondary characters in the book. I was drawn to each of the characters--Grace, who is hurting and trying to figure out who she is and what to do after giving up her baby; Maya, who is pushing those she cares about away (She got annoying sometimes but in a totally realistic way!), and Joaquin who can't believe in his own worth (oh, he broke my heart. I loved him.) It was really beautiful to see the different family situations and to see the burgeoning relationship among the siblings, how they understand each other and connect with each other and even help each other heal. Loved it!

5 stars.