Wednesday, December 28, 2016

There, There

There, There
By Tim Beiser; Illustrated by Bill Slavin
When a rainy day forces him to stay inside, Hare is quite upset. His friend Bear tries to comfort him, but as Hare's whining continues, Bear decides to teach him a lesson instead.

The full color illustrations are engaging and the rhyming text is good (not the same old predictable sort of rhymes). This book wasn't quite my thing--but I can totally picture kids, particularly little boys, getting a big kick out of it, especially the ending.
3.5 stars.
I read a copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

I Want a Friend

I Want a Friend
By Anne Booth; Illustrations by Amy Proud

Arthur wants to make a friend, but he isn't entirely sure how to go about it--and his initial attempts don't work out so well. But maybe Lily can help him learn how to be a good friend.

 I love the illustrations; they're so cute. I also like the concept--navigating the waters of friendship isn't easy, and kids will relate to the Arthur's struggle. The rhyming text was pretty good; some of the passages were better than others, but overall, they worked okay. A fun book to share with kids and talk about how to be a good friend.
3.5 stars
I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman

Having been forced to leave the job he had for over thirty years, there is nothing keeping Ove from joining his wife Sonja, who passed away a few months before. And that is just what he intends to do, but before he can, his new neighbors, Patrick (how doesn't know how to do anything practical, it seems), Parveneh (Patrick's pregnant Iranian wife, who quickly comes to rely on Ove for anything practical that needs to be done, despite the fact that everyone seems to think Ove is bitter, mean, cranky, etc,.), and their two daughters rope Ove into all sorts of projects and jobs and turn up at the most inopportune times. When Ove assists them, due to his innate sense of needing to do what is right and to do things the proper way, he ends up being drawn into helping others as well.

I've thrown a book against the wall and time or two before because I disliked it so much, but I don't think I've ever actually hugged a book before--but I have now. More than once I had to stop reading this book and wrap my arms around it because I loved it so much and because I couldn't hug Ove (for which he would be grateful I'm sure) for his cranky but honorable self, Parveneh for seeing something in him, Sonja for loving him as much as he loved her, the kids for accepting Ove as he is, Adrian for daring to think Ove is just the one to help, or one of the other endearing characters. I love, love, love them. And I loved the plot, seeing all things from Ove's past that made him who he is, and seeing all the things happening in the present that shape who he becomes. There are so many funny aspects to the book, but there is also a tenderness that makes it just unforgettable. I absolutely adore this book!

Monday, December 19, 2016

For the Record

For the Record
By Regina Jennings

Deputy Joel Puckett has left behind his beloved Texas after being falsely accused of taking advantage of a woman and is looking for a fresh start in Pine Gap, Missouri. He soon finds his new job has plenty of challenges—old feuds, lawlessness, a sheriff who isn’t inclined to stop criminals, and a gang of hooded riders set on carrying out vigilante justice. No one seems to want him there, except maybe Betsy Huckabee, but since he wants nothing to do with women, she’s just another obstacle to him succeeding in his new position.
Betsy can’t help but notice the new deputy’s good looks, even if he doesn’t have the personality to match. While he always seems to want to be rid of her, she keeps tabs on him because in him she sees the way to gain independence from her family: she’ll embellish stories about the Dashing Deputy for a serial newsletter column. But as Betsy writes about the Dashing Deputy, she comes to see that the real Joel Puckett might be even better than the Dashing Deputy she has imagined—and he might be just what she and Pine Gap really need.

This is the third book in a series, but you don’t have to read the others first (I didn’t…but I will go back and read them now!). I wasn’t familiar with Pine Gap or the feuds and trouble with outlaws that presumably were covered in the previous books, and I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything that takes place in the Ozark Mountains (other than Where the Red Fern Grows), so it did take me a couple chapters to feel comfortable with the setting and context of the story. Once I felt a little more settled, though, I was intrigued by the setting.
The characters intrigued me from the beginning—Betsy is funny and refreshing and just determined to do what she wants to do, while I couldn’t help but feel bad for Joel, who had been falsely accused in his old town and is resented and unwanted in his new town. I really liked some of the secondary characters, too, particularly Clive Fowler, who is the leader of the vigilante group; he is really an interesting character because while he’s working against Joel because he takes the law into his own hands, he does so because he’s trying to keep people safe. He’s a great character for making you think about justice, morality, following the law, and what it means to do what’s right.
The plot was fresh—not the same old story that I’ve read a lot of times. The idea of Betsy romanticizing Joel for the purpose of her fictional article was funny, as were Joel’s determination to stay away from her and some of the things he said to her as he tried to accomplish that. The conflict between them, when it came to a head was different than a lot of stories, because instead of just assuming that everything wasn’t going to work out, they gave each other the benefit of the doubt pretty quickly and didn’t just write each other out. I liked that; there really was a problem and hurt feelings and confusion, but instead of just avoiding each other or something, they worked together and fixed it pretty quickly, without months and months of brooding or something.
 This is an enjoyable story from Regina Jennings. I can’t wait to read more of her books! I received a free copy of the book from the author and Bethany House. All opinions are my own.
4 stars.

Friday, December 16, 2016

I'll Hug You More

I'll Hug You More
By Laura Duksta and Melissa Iwai
There are lots of chances and reasons to give hugs throughout the day, and this beautiful picture book explores many of them--first from a parent's perspective, and then, when you flip the book over, from the child's. The illustrations--full color spreads--are so beautiful, with a variety of different animals, and kids will love looking at them. This is the perfect book for cuddling up at bedtime and is sure to inspire a few extra hugs. It's absolutely adorable!

5 stars!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Heartless

Heartless
By Marissa Meyer

Catherine Pinkerton may be the daughter of a marquess, but all she wants to do is open a bakery with her friend/maid Mary Ann. She certainly doesn't want to marry the silly King of Hearts--and that's before she meets his new joker, Jest, and is swept off her feet by him. Once she meets Jest, though, she is certain she can't marry the king, even though it seems nearly impossible that she'll be able to disagree with what her parents want and do what she wants instead. But Jest has a way of making the impossible possible, and Catherine comes to believe there might just be a way to make all her dreams come true.

So, I've never actually read Alice in Wonderland, and I've never seen the entire movie, so while I was vaguely aware of some of the details of the story, I didn't have very much background as I started reading this book. I did know enough to know it wasn't going to end well...but at the same time, I couldn't but hope there was a way that it COULD end well, which I suppose in some ways in similar to Catherine's experience in the book--hoping that the impossible will become possible. I didn't like this book nearly as much as I liked the Lunar Chronicles, but I think I knew going in that I wouldn't because of personal reading biases--like the fact that I like happy endings and I'm not a fan of the literary nonsense genre or talking animals. While those things worked against the book, I DID like both Catherine and Jest and I was intrigued by their relationship and the idea of the Queen of Hearts' backstory. I felt like the overall change in Catherine came too quickly--but that could be because the nonsense elements of the story detracted from the building of their relationship and I wasn't as drawn into as I think I would have been without those elements. I think other readers who are more comfortable with and more interested in the literary nonsense genre and with Alice in Wonderland in general would have been pulled in to the relationship more and the subsequent changes and reactions would seem more intense to them.

3.5 stars.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Spring in Hyde Park

Spring in Hyde Park


A Happy Accident
by Jennifer Moore
During a rainstorm, Jonathan stops in Hyde Park to assist a stuck carriage--and shortly thereafter, finds himself reluctantly married to Maryann Croft, whose father accuses him of improper behavior with his daughter. Although he initially thinks Maryann has contrived to land herself a noble husband, he soon finds himself having softer feelings for his wife...but she has a secret that threatens to come between them.

The Disdainful Duke
by G.G. Vandagriff
Although her sister Lavinia is engaged to his brother Gilbert, the Duke of Mayfield seems to have no use for Sophronia; she's rather plain and not getting any younger, so he seems to think she must want to somehow ensnare him. Sophronia, however, sees nothing desirable in the duke. With their continued acquaintance, however, each find there may be more to the other than initially thought.

An Invisible Heiress
by Nichole Van
Arabella Heartstone does the unthinkable: she proposes marriage to a gentleman. Colin refuses the proposal and in his rejection, suggest that she learn to fly, using her wealth and skills to succeed at more than just finding a husband. Belle, grateful for his advice, plans to repay his kindness anonymously by investing in one of his business ventures, never dreaming that her initial investment would lead to seven years' worth of correspondence between the two. With Colin thinking he's been writing to a gentleman mentor, however, his return to England creates all sorts of problems for Belle's heart.

Delightful! I loved all of these stories. Usually in a collection of stories, I can pick out a favorite and a least favorite, but I can't in this case; I thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. Each was well-written, with interesting plots and well-developed characters. This is one of my favorite collections of romantic stories.

5 stars. Clean read.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Never Follow a Dinosaur


Never Follow a Dinosaur
By Alex Latimer
Joe and Sally find dinosaur tracks and try to deduce what is going on--when the tracks are deep, they realize it must be a heavy dinosaur; when there is a pile of leaves on the tracks, they decide the dinosaur must have hit his head on an overhanging branch, etc. When the tracks just mysteriously end, they can't figure out how the dinosaur just disappeared--so they decide to set a trap. But will they catch their quarry...or will he catch them?

Really fun book. The illustrations are cute and engaging, and it's fun to see what Joe and Sally deduce about their dinosaur. The text is fun, as each deduction adds to the previous (a very hungry dinosaur, a very hungry, heavy dinosaur, etc.), and the twist ending will make kids laugh. Although there are tons of dinosaur picture books, this one stands out.

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

4 stars.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Henry Hodges Needs a Friend

Henry Hodges Needs a Friend
By Andy Andrews
Henry is lonely, so his parents tell him that they'll find him a special, one-of-a-kind friend. Henry imagines what sort of pet that might be--like a goldfish with antlers or a goat with 10 feet. What he ends up getting, though, is the perfect pet for him.
Kids will enjoy the cute illustrations, particularly the ones of the special pets Henry imagines, and the rhyming text is fun to read aloud.
I read a copy through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
4 stars.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pirates in the Library

Pirates in the Library
Nadia Ali

When one of the Dread Pirate Dewey's treasure maps makes it way to Captain Jake's pirate ship, he's determined to find the treasure at the library. But when he and his crew arrive, they find, with some help from Librarian Ms. Benitez, that while there IS treasure to be found, it's not what they expected.
What a cute idea! This is a fun way to discuss the treasure that books are without being heavy-handed or boring. The illustrations are fun, and while the book is geared toward children, even adults will get a kick out of the humor.

I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
4 stars.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Like a River Glorious


Like a River Glorious
By Rae Carson

Leah and her friends have arrived in California and are ready to stake their claims and make it rich. However, Leah's uncle Hiram is still desperate to use her "witchy" gold-finding talents to make it rich himself, and he sends an old enemy after her to help him get what he wants. Leah must find a way to defeat her uncle once and for all if she is ever to have peace and be free--and it will take all of her ingenuity and an improvement on her talents that she didn't know she had in order to best Hiram once and for all.

I love the historical fiction element of this series, showing the Gold Rush and settling California in a realistic light, combined with the slight twist of Leah's special power to find gold. Leah's a great character, and I love her friend Jackson's devotion to her, and I think the other supporting characters add so much to the book--without them, the story wouldn't be half as interesting. I love seeing the "family" they've cobbled together and how they look out for each other and care for each other. I'm excited to see what happens in the third book, with the new add-ins to their family. And I totally loved the ending!!

4.5 stars.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Agnes and Clarabelle

Agnes and Clarabelle
By Adele Griffin and Courtney Sheinmel; illustrated by Sara Palacios

This short chapter book follows best friends Agnes the pig and Clarabelle the chicken throughout the year. In the spring, the two of them plan a surprise birthday party for Clarabelle; in the summer, they confront Agnes's fear of the beach; in the fall, they survive a mishap at a store; and in the winter, it's time to make a special treat.
With cute characters, adorable illustrations, and funny stories, this is a great book for kids who are ready to move on from early readers. I received a copy through Net Gallery. All opinions are my own.

4 stars.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation

The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation
By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; illustrated by LeUyen Pham

After fighting fifteen monsters this week, the Princess in Black is exhausted, so when a new monster-fighter, the Goat Avenger, suggests that she take a vacation while he watches out for monsters, the princess heads for the beach to rest and relax. When a sea monster threatens the people at the beach, though, Princess Magnolioa must transform into the Princess in Black once more.

 The Princess in Black books are so much fun. The illustrations are awesome; they are cute and fun, and the fact that they are on nearly every page helps make the book extremely readable. The text is funny and simple but not baby-ish, making this a great choice for readers who ready to move beyond easy readers into short chapter books. Totally adorable and tons of fun!
*Although this is the fourth book in the series, the books don't really have to be read in order to be enjoyed.

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

4.5 stars

Sunday, November 20, 2016

That Burning Summer

That Burning Summer
By Lydia Syson

Sixteen-year-old Peggy, her mother, and her younger brother Ernest are living on their relatives’ farm near Romney Marsh. Ernest, who is awkward and fearful, is obsessed with the instructions they’ve been given about doing their part for the war effort and especially looking for spies. When Peggy finds a downed airman, Polish pilot Henryk, who can’t bear to return to flying and fighting after all that he was experienced, she knows she is supposed to report him, but she can’t bring herself to do it and helps him hide instead. As she continues to help him, their feelings for each other blossom and she can’t bear the thought of him leaving. But with Ernest’s curiosity as well as unwanted attention for others who are suspicious of their family, Peggy might not be able to keep him safe.

There were so many interesting facets to this book, including learning a little more about the Polish pilots who fought alongside the British RAF, the family dynamics (there’s a subplot involving Peggy’s father), persecution of those who don’t support the war efforts, and the emotional toll war takes on soldiers. I thought that the relationship between Peggy and Henryk would be my favorite part of the book, and while I did enjoy that part, I think what might have been most fascinating is seeing how Ernest tried to cope with all of the information and situations that he faced. I was a little disappointed in the ending—the final chapter didn’t have as much information as I would have liked, as it skips to the end of the war and doesn’t give much detail about what happened in the previous five years—but I think that’s my one quibble with the book. I received a copy from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

4 stars.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Scourge


The Scourge
By Jennifer A. Nielsen
Ani has long heard about the Scourge—a disease that first surfaced in the land 300 years ago but now has returned. When two wardens capture her, saying the governor wants to test five River People for the Scourge, Ani is shocked—the River People have never gotten the Scourge—but also determined to escape. When she tests positive for the disease—after a not-so-pleasant meeting with the governor—Ani is forced to move to Attic Island, where all victims of the Scourge are sent to live out the remainder of their lives. Joined by her best friend Weevil, who goes to the island to be with her even though he has no signs of the disease, Ani can’t help but question everything going on there. After all, as one of the River People, she is feisty and determined and not one to bow down to authority, and even though her very nature puts her at risk, Ani refuses to be broken, especially as she and Weevil start to put the pieces together and find out the Scourge and the island aren’t what the governor has told everyone they are.

What a great story! I loved all of it. Ani was awesome—I loved how she could only stay out of trouble for about two minutes. And Weevil was a great compliment to her; I loved how they were determined to take care of each other. The plot was interesting; I liked seeing the clues unfold and figuring out what was really going on. The story moves quickly, with plenty of action and adventure as well as humor even in the dark situation. Highly enjoyable story!

4.5 stars!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Finding Margo

 Finding Margo
By Jen Turano

Margo Hartman enjoys being a pop star, but she's ready for a break. So when her mother starts talking about an international tour, Margo dyes her hair, turns off her phone, and starts driving across the country to hide. Her plans hit a snag when she lands in a lake--literally--in an Amish village after being run off the road. And when someone shoots Margo, she winds up in the middle of a mystery she couldn't even begin to imagine. Margo finds the town creepily familiar and wonders if there's a reason she wound up there. Brock Moore, an FBI agent who accepted a temporary job policing the small town so he can also investigate his sister's death--which he refuses to believe was a suicide, as it was rule--quickly comes to Margo's aid, helping her hide from both her fans and her parents and trying to figure out who shot at Margo and why.

The book has lots of character--it's quirky and humorous. Margo and Brock have some pretty funny conversations, and the meddling side characters are fun, too. There were times, though, that it felt like a little too much--like Margo's mother was a little too crazy and her father a little too evil--and it seemed a little over the top. Overall, I liked the book, the mystery was interesting and unique, and I'm interested in reading the other books in the series--but I have to say that I like Jen Turnano's historical fiction quite a bit better.

 I received an ARC through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

4 stars. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Wade's Wiggly Antlers

Wade's Wiggly Antlers
By Louise Bradford and Christine Battuz

Although Wade's mother has warned him that his antlers will fall off, he is still upset when they start to wiggle. Afraid they'll fall off if he's too active, he sits out while his friends play. Eventually, though, he comes to realize that he'd rather play, too, and he will be okay if his antlers fall off.

This is a cute book about growing up and the changes that come. The illustrations are terrific! I love the colors, which cover most pages, and the patterned backgrounds. This is a really cute book that could be used to talk to children about anxiety about growing up.

I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Their Fractured Light


Their Fractured Light
By Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
 Sofia will do anything to get her revenge on Roderick LaRoux; he’s responsible for her father’s death, so she intends to repay him in kind. So she has learned how to read people, how to play on their sympathies and emotions, and how to reinvent herself to be whoever she needs to be in order to get closer and closer to LaRoux.

Gideon is a master hacker who wants to do more than just destroy LaRoux; he wants to take down all of LaRoux’s empire—and he’ll hunt down whoever is closest to LaRoux in order to exact revenge of his own. Used to hiding their true identities, neither Sofia nor Gideon is ready to bare all when their paths collide. But even as they can’t allow themselves to truly trust anyone, including each other, combining forces may be the only way to take down LaRoux and to save their entire universe from being destroyed.

I loved this book! I loved trying to guess what secrets Gideon and Sofia had and seeing what their motivations were and how they changed throughout the book. The plot was intense; there was so much action (but it wasn’t TOO much action), and it the book moved quickly. I couldn’t wait to see how things played out. I was also glad for the chance to see the main characters of the previous two books as they were brought into the story. Really exciting book; I couldn’t put it down!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

As You Are

As You Are
By Sarah M. Eden


Corbin Jonquil has always been the quietest of the seven Jonquil brothers--which has been fine as he's been building up his business as a horse breeder. However, it doesn't work so well when it comes to interacting with women, and when widowed Clara Bentford moves to the neighborhood, Corbin finds himself wishing he knew the right things to say to get her to love him as he loves her. His brothers offer him advice, but each time he tries to put it into practice, it works out badly for him. Clara isn't used to kindness from men; in fact, she's used to anything but kindness. So her first impression of Corbin Jonquil is to think he's haughty or aloof. However, as she watches his kindness with her children, she comes to realize that maybe not all men will hurt her as she's been hurt in the past.

 I like Corbin so much--maybe because he reminds me of my own husband, who isn't much of a talker but is definitely a do-er and takes care of me :) I loved seeing how he tried to follow his brothers' advice only to fail, but ultimately found he could be true to himself and still be worthy of love. I also liked seeing how kind he was with Clara's kids. I actually loved seeing his family's interference, how they all meant well but didn't really know what they were talking about--that led to lots of humorous moments and comments.This was another great clean romance novel from Sarah Eden and it gives hints of what's to come in the fourth book in the series, as Corbin's twin Jason has his chance at love.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Drops of Gold


Drops of Gold
By Sarah M. Eden

When her father's death leaves her destitute and no one to turn to, Marion lies about her name, her class, and her qualifications in order to obtain a position as a governess. When she arrives at Farland Meadows, she finds that Caroline, although really too young for a governess, is a delightful child but both she and her handsome but troubled father, Layton need more joy brought into their lives. Layton Jonquil is pleased with the changes in his daughter brought about the new governess and finds himself falling for her, but after the tragedy of his first marriage, combined with the difference in their stations, he can't allow himself to act on those feelings.

Yet another delightful read for fans of Regency romances in general and Sarah Eden's works in particular. Both Marion and Layton are endearing characters, and Caroline is adorable. Guest appearances of Layton's large family (including Phillip, hero of Friends and Foes) add to the fun. There's a good mixture of deep issues and humor, and there's really nothing not to like. (On a small side note...the issue of why a governess is hired instead of a nursemaid and the discrepancy in the salary occurs wasn't ever really explained, so I wasn't sure what the point of that little plot point was...and I would have liked a little bit more of an explanation.)

*I've read the book and listened to the audiobook as well and enjoyed both.

5 stars.

The Lady of the Lakes

The Lady of the Lakes
By Josi S. Kilpack


Walter Scott falls in love with Mina Stuart the first time he sees her—and spends the next five years planning their future together. Mina is flattered by Walter’s attention and swept up in his romantic flattery, but she doesn’t know for sure if her heart truly belongs to him...and when her parents encourage her to consider the attentions of William Forbes, she finds herself more torn than ever. Charlotte Carpenter is a Catholic, French-born orphan, with the added disadvantage of being the daughter of an adulteress, so she doesn’t expect to ever marry. She has made peace with that and is determined to learn how to be an independent woman, managing her own household and life. When she meets Walter Scott, though, she finds maybe she wants more—but is Walter’s heart free to love or does it still belong to Mina? I wasn’t at all familiar with Sir Walter Scott’s background before reading this book, so it was interesting to find out a little bit about him. I like how Kilpack showed his personality, his romanticism and idealism, contrasted with Charlotte’s more practical nature, while Mina’s hesitancy and doubts were realistic of a young girl figuring out her own heart. I was captivated by the story; I couldn’t wait to find out who Walter would end up with and how it would all work out. I was really tempted to peak ahead to the end of the book or do some quick internet research to find some answers, which I think is indicative of how well the author pulled me into the story. This would make a great book for discussion—there are some interesting points about true love and whether there is such a thing as love at first sight and how love grows. 5 stars.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Two Ways Home

Two Ways Home
By Sondra Kraak
Mary is determined to save her family's dairy farm, which is her connection to her mother, who died giving birth to her. Her father, whose health prevents him from helping much on the farm anymore, is ready to sell, but Mary is set on finding a way to hold onto her mother's dream. Luke left home years ago to become a Texas Ranger, but now, both wounded and falsely accused of being in league with outlaws, reluctantly returns to the town he couldn't wait to leave. Back home, he is constantly crossing paths with Mary, and while they continue the banter that began in their childhood, this time, neither one can deny the attraction between them. But with Luke set on leaving again as soon as he can, and Mary squally set on staying, can they find a way to make things work?

I liked this book quite a bit more than the first book in the series. (I liked that one, just not as much). I loved Mary, who is sassy and strong a d tells it like it is. I loved Luke, who is haunted by his past and who might tease Mary but is also equally prone to run to help her. Seeing ? Luke come to terms with his past, seeing Mary's struggle to keep her farm, and seeing their relationship blossom were all satisfying and engaging plot lines. 5 stars.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Country Christmas (Timeless Regency Collection)

A Country Christmas (Timeless Regency Collection)

Saints and Sinners
by Josi S. Kilpack
Neville has never thought of Eloise as more than a friend--she's just Eloise. But when his friend Burke starts paying attention to her--and even goes so far as to suggest they try to see which of them can steal a kiss from her first--Neville starts to think of her differently. Eloise has long cared for her friend, and she can't help but hope that a Christmas ball will give them a chance to kindle a romance, but when instead of seeming to return her feelings, he chastises her for her choice of dress, it seems even maintaining their friendship might be too much to hope for...but Neville finds he'll do anything to see her happy. I loved seeing Neville come to terms with his feelings.

Although the plot line of boy-not-realizing-his-feelings-for-his-female-friend is a familiar one, it was still a fun story and I enjoyed seeing how things worked out. There were numerous misunderstandings in the story that kept the plot moving along well, and Neville and Eloise were both likeable characters.


The Christmas Angle
by Carla Kelly

Able Six has nothing to recommend him to any woman; he's on half-pay from his position as a master in the navy due to the current peace and he's a foundling with uncertain parentage who grew up in an orphanage. A friend from the Navy finds him a temporary position tutoring two young boys for a month, and Able takes the position, soon finding that he, who has an extraordinary mind and can read books in a matter of minutes and remember everything he's ever seen, has an aptitude for teaching. He also finds that he has an instant connection with his pupils' aunt, Meridee. As a gentlewoman with no dowry, she's not really in a position to marry, and even if she could, she's above Able in station, so a romance between them seems doomed.

When I first started reading this story, I didn't think I would like it much; I was a little confused by Navy aspect of things (I'm still not entirely sure what a Master does!), but I ended up absolutely loving it. Able and Meridee are such endearing, unforgettable characters, and their struggles were portrayed so realistically. I loved seeing how they ended up fighting for their romance--and Meridee punching Able's superior officer when he's lax in lending his aid was awesome! Totally loved this novella.

The Perfect Christmas
 by Jennifer Moore

Archie is going to provide the perfect Christmas for his closest friends--Jonathan, who is overburdened by his responsibilities after the passing of his father; Maryann (Jonathan's wife), Mother Kathleen (Jonathan's mother), and Jane (Maryann's sister), who is only recently free from the home where her family sent her due to her periodic panic attacks. Archie is particularly hopeful that spending a simple Christmas at his country estate will be a peaceful, uplifting experience for this group--and that it will be the perfect opportunity for him to propose to Jane. However, when they arrive at his estate, they find that his letter with instructions for the servants to prepare the house never arrived, and they spend their Christmas in the gardener's cottage, roasting cheese and bread over the fire. Although it initially seems that all of Archie's plans are ruined, will this simple Christmas be exactly what they need?

It was touching to see how this group of characters cared for each other--not just Archie and Jane but the whole group. All of the characters were kind, and I liked seeing how they supported each other and enjoyed being together for their simple Christmas. This was a sweet story. I loved this collection. All of the stories were great! With clean romance, a Christmas theme, and great characters, there's nothing not to like about this collection. I truly enjoyed each story! I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 5 stars.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Shadow of the Storm

Shadow of the Storm
Connilyn Cossette

As she lives with the other Hebrews, as well as some non-Hebrews who joined them in their exodus from Egypt—at the base of Mt. Sinai, Shira has made herself content with following in her mother’s footsteps to become a weaver—even though she doesn’t particularly care for it or have an aptitude for it. However, when a chance comes for her to learn to be a midwife, she can’t get the idea out of her head, and when she helps her brother’s handsome friend Ayal deliver a newborn lamb, the idea that perhaps bringing new life into the world is what Yahweh created her for is enough to get her to defy her mother’s wishes and start training with Reva, the Levite midwife. She slowly starts to become more confident in her skills, despite the scorn she receives from Dvorah, the midwife trainee that Reva has paired her up with, and also starts to hope that, in spite of what she has long believed—that she will never marry or have a family—that she might have a future with Ayal. But then tragedy strikes and a heartbroken Shira retreats, going back to weaving and trying to avoid Ayal as much as she can. Meanwhile, Dvorah, who was widowed when the Levite men, following Mosheh’s orders, killed those who rebelled against Yahweh in a night of debauchery, needs to find a way to provide for her son, and she will do anything to escape her brother-in-law—and if it hurts Shira in the process, so much the better.
Wow. This is another incredible book from Connilyn Cossette. I loved it. There were times when it was painful to read—because I felt so connected to Shira that her pain was real to me. It was so hard to read about her past, about how her mother discouraged her from following her dream of becoming a midwife, of her pain, confusion, and guilt at a delivery gone terribly wrong and the fallout from it, etc. It was hard to read about her interactions with Dvorah; although the passages where she was the narrator allowed me to see WHY she did what she did—and how she’d come to be the bitter, cruel person she was—it was hard to see innocent, kind Shira take the brunt of Dvorah’s anger and pain. The fact that Shira and her feelings were so real to me is a testament to what a great writer Cossette is. As painful as Shira’s path was, I enjoyed being able to feel the beginnings of hope again, and then forgiveness, and love, along with her as she continued on her journey.
Although we didn’t get to see the story from Ayal’s point of view, I liked how he was a flawed character who made some pretty serious mistakes but also could experience forgiveness both from Shira and from Yahweh; the fact that he wasn’t the perfect man made him more believable and in some ways, more endearing, and of course I loved the message of forgiveness and becoming new through God’s grace and forgiveness. I also appreciated the way Cossette conveyed that message—it was fairly subtle but still powerful.
Besides the incredible character development, especially with Shira, Cossette does a terrific job of depicting the day-to-day life as the Hebrews camped at Mt. Sinai—from the preparations of the tabernacle, with required immense amounts of materials (like cloth that had to be dyed and woven), to the petty arguments and jealousies and larger disagreements between tribes and between the Hebrews and non-Hebrews and between family members—were also so well written. I’d never thought before about what daily life for these people would have been like, or about how the people might have struggled to get along with one another, so that was both eye-opening and totally believable. And the way Cossette wove those details into the story, without dragging down the plot, again shows her skills as a writer.
It’s hard to convey how well-written this book is. The plot is so absorbing and Shira’s journey is both painful and beautiful. The characters are so real, as is the setting, and the language also served to pull me into the story. Solid five-star book here.
Although this is the second book in a series, you don’t actually have to read the first one to be able to follow the story. (But you SHOULD read the first one because it’s a great book, too!)
I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.


5 stars.

From Cairo, With Love

From Cairo, With Love
By Nancy Campbell Allen

What a great standalone novella! Valentine is a great character; she was fresh and fun, and I enjoyed seeing her developing feelings for Max, as well as his for her. I also liked seeing their insecurities; although Max is a successful businessman, he thinks he's too rough around the edges for someone like Valentine, while she thinks a simple country girl would never be the sort of girl to interest someone as handsome and dashing as Max.

This is a clean romance and can be read quickly. With a great plot and engaging characters, there's really nothing not to like. 4.5 stars.

Move It, Miss MacIntosh!

Move It, Miss Macintosh!
By Peggy Janousky and Meghan Lands 

Miss Macintosh, the kindergarten teacher, does NOT want to go to school on the first day; she's just too nervous. But the principal and other teachers show up to give her the encouragement she needs...and when she finally makes it to school, she finds maybe her class will be fun after all.

This book was great! It's such a fun twist on the first-day-of-school-jitters to have the TEACHER be the nervous one. Kids will relate to how Miss Macintosh feels--but also get a kick out of the fact that it's the adult who is so worried.
Really cute illustrations, engaging text, and fantastic concept for a book.

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


Five stars. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hope for Christmas

Hope for Christmas
By Rachelle Christensen

Anika is trying desperately to make it through the Christmas season. She's got a seasonal job at Kenworth's department store, but even with the work, she's struggling to provide for herself and her four year old daughter Megan. With bills to pay, there isn't much money left for Christmas, but Anika is determined to find a way to make Christmas good for her daughter. When she bumps into Carlos Rodriguez, a handyman/carpenter doing some remodeling at Kenworth's, her first instinct is to avoid him. But Carlos is sweet and kind and persistent and seems to really care about her and her daughter, and soon Anika finds herself opening her heart a little.

Carlos is a terrific character; he's totally dreamy. I loved the fact that he's a blue-collar worker who finds practical ways to try to help Anika and Megan, not some rich guy who swoops in to save the day. That made the story both more realistic and more endearing for me than a story where the guy is loaded and it's easy for him to buy whatever the girl needs. I thought Anika and her fears and hesitations were well-developed. This is a great pick for a quick Christmas read. I received a free copy of the ebook from the author. All opinions are my own. 3.5 stars.

Animachines

Animachines
By Deborah Pearson

This picture book features animals alongside machines doing similar things--such as a cheetah and a car racing, a bird and a plane flying, etc. The illustrations are really cute. My favorite spread was the elephant at the end. My kids thought this was a cute book, too. I read a copy through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do
By Ashley Spires


Lou is brave and can do all sorts of things--but when her friends want to climb a tree to play, Lou isn't so sure about that and comes up with all sorts of excuses for not climbing the tree. Finally, though, she decides to give it a try. This was an awesome book! I loved the illustrations and the messages in it. I like how it breaks gender stereotypes (there are no princesses here--Lou plays pirates and might be a race car driver when she grows up, etc.) and shows Lou facing--but not conquering (yet)--her fear. This is a really, really cute book! I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

5 stars

Monday, October 3, 2016

Different? Same

Different? Same
By Heather Tekavec and Pippa Curnick

On each spread, the book talks about differences in four animals (such as their color, their habitat, they way they move), but then shows a similarity, such as all having whiskers. It would be fun to read with kids and see if they could guess the similarity before you read it to them. The illustrations are nice; this would be a fun book for young readers. I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells
By Sarah M. Eden

Cade O'Brien is the best lawman in the west--but he's sick of shooting people and the mess that comes with being sheriff in busy towns. So when Savage Wells, a tiny town with no real threats, advertises for a new sheriff, Cade sets out to get the job. He's not anticipating going up against Paisley Bell for the job, though. Paisley has been acting as sheriff for the past several months, and she knows she can do the job--and she needs the job in order to pay for the care her father, who is slipping into dementia, needs--but she has to convince the town that she's the best candidate. She and Cade initially butt heads, but then they slowly come to appreciate one another. However, as their feelings for each other grow, they both know that Savage Wells isn't big enough for two sheriffs.

I LOVED this book. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. I am a big Sarah Eden fan, and I like all of her books, but this one just might be my new favorite--which is saying something, because Friends & Foes has been my favorite for YEARS. Cade O'Brien gets to join the list (alongside Jack Elliott from These Is My Words) with my favorite male book characters. Love him. Paisley was awesome, too. I loved their banter back and forth, and I loved the quirky characters in Savage Wells. Ah! I can't say enough good things about this book; I seriously LOVED it. 5 stars.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Road Trip Collection

Road Trip Collection

What Falling Feels Like—Jolene Perry
Kendall is still hurting from her divorce when she agrees to let her best friend’s little brother Tyler hitch a ride with her to New Mexico. What her friend neglected to tell her is that Tyler is no longer the scrawny geek she remembers; he’s all grown up and is exactly the sort of guy she could find herself falling for, especially as they reconnect on their trip. But with Kendall’s past, is she willing to give Tyler a chance in her future? This was probably my least favorite story of the collection, but it’s still enjoyable. One thing I did really like is that even though the mutual interest comes through pretty quickly, they do some time apart for Kendall to sort through her emotions before they really start their relationship.

Antiques Road Trip—Sarah M. Eden
Kelsey is a Jane Austen expert, so when she gets a chance to compete on a TV show where she’ll be assigned a character from 19th-century England, she’s all in. As she and her fellow contestants travel by carriage and try to stay in character, Kelsey isn’t surprised by how much she loves the chance to reenact history—but she is pleasantly surprised by how much she likes Devon, a fellow competitor, and she can’t help but hope he’s as great in real life as he is on TV. I was thrilled to see that Saran Eden managed to incorporate Regency England into a modern story about a road trip. Best twist on a road trip ever! That was awesome. I also really liked both Kelsey and Devon; they were sweet and the sort of good people you want good things to happen to.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice—Ranee S. Clark
 Jacqueline has recently broken up with her long-time boyfriend Colin because his refusal to go on a road trip they’d planned with friends because it would interfere with his job convinces her that he’s never going to have time for their relationship. Jac quickly gets over her disappointment, though, when Hudson, a longtime friend, is added to the group—and when she finds out that he’s had feelings for her for pretty much forever, she starts to wonder how she could have missed someone so wonderful when he’s been right in front of her the whole time. Colin, however, hasn’t given up on the idea of him and Jac working things out, and Jac will have to decide once and for all what she really wants. I really enjoyed the bantering conversation between Jac and Hudson; the author did a great job showing their friendship and how they are really good for (and to) each other. This was another sweet story and it flowed really well.

Head over Heels—Annette Lyon
Tristian is on assignment for her online singles magazine when she briefly meets a guy who catches her eye—but is gone before she has a chance to do much more than find out his name is Mac. When another business opportunity pops up, she needs to find a way to get to Vegas fast, so when her friend Alyssa says she can arrange for Tristian to ride with a business acquaintance, Tristian accepts, thinking she’ll enjoy getting to know a friend of a friend—but not expecting that this friend is none other than Mac. With both Mac and Tristian having been misled by Alyssa as to the true identity of their road trip partner, they decide to get their revenge by making Alyssa thinking they’re falling for each other…but it turns out, maybe the joke’s on them, as they might be falling for real. Even though the whole relationship developed really fast, the author made it feel real, showing how Mac and Tristian really connected. This story was a lot of fun…even if several of the 1980s pop songs referenced were ones I’m not familiar with.

Two Dozen Roses—Heather B. Moore
Dayna is driving her mother from California to Oregon, making several stops along the way to fulfill her mother’s sight-seeing dreams. Roman is on a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway with his brother Garrett to fulfill their sister’s dying wish they the brothers try to mend their relationship. After a couple unintentional meetings at sightseeing venues along the way, the two groups start planning to meet up—and as they do, Garrett tries to use his charm to woo Dayna, not seeming to notice that Roman and Dayna seem to be hitting it off. But when Kenzie—the woman Roman once loved…at least until she married (and later divorced) his brother—comes calling, Dayna realizes she might have lost Roman before she ever truly had him. This was a cute story. It was an interesting little twist that Dayna and Roman weren’t actually in the same car for this road trip. I love stories when the “underdog” (in this case, Roman, the more reserved brother) gets the girl.

Try, Try Again—Aubrey Mace
When Justin told Sarah he thought she was the one, she should have been ecstatic; she’d liked him for months. But instead, she panicked, assuming he couldn’t really mean it and she was just the rebound girl. And when he didn’t follow up at all, she figured she’d been right. But six months have passed, and she can’t help but want another chance—so when she sees an obituary for his grandfather, she convinces a friend of hers to go on a road trip with her so she can attend the viewing. But when she shows up, even though Justin seems happy to see her, she isn’t sure she’ll be able to put herself on the line and tell him what she really wants. I think the author did a great job of developing Sarah’s fears and behaviors, how she really likes Justin and wants things to work but can’t quite believe she has a shot at getting what she really wants. I also liked how Justin was pretty patient with her—he’d be direct but then back off when she started to panic; that was an endearing characteristic.

This is another great anthology. I always have so much fun reading them. I enjoyed both the traditional road trip themes as well as the creative twists. There were lots of great characters to cheer for and some good character development, which can be hard to come by in novellas. Definitely recommend this one for anyone looking for great romances and a fun read.

I received a free copy of the ebook in exchange for my honest review.

Blind Date Collection (A Timeless Romance)

Blind Date Collection (A Timeless Romance)

The Promise That Katy Did
by Annette Lyon
Katy promises a dying friend that she'll listen to Mr. Balmer when he asks something of her--that something being going to a dance with his grandson, Barrett. Barrett, who has been somewhat hesitant his whole life, finds himself taken with Katy, but as she's planning to move to accept a job elsewhere, he doesn't know what to do. This is a fun historical fiction story. Katy and Barrett were both sweet characters; I liked that they were just normal sorts of people, not incredibly good-looking or anything like that. Seeing their insecurities as they got to know each other made it a really interesting story.
A Lady of Sense
by Sarah M. Eden
Eleanor's parents are determined to see her married--and soon. As she tries to convince them not to make her marry the hideous Mr. Broadstead, her father offers her one choice: marry Mr. Broadstead or get Peter Haversham , with whom she spends a delightful evening at the theater, to marry her instead. Although Peter is infinitely preferable to Mr. Broadstead, and Eleanor suspects his honor would lead him to marry her if he knew of her plight, she can't bring herself to manipulate him into marriage. Peter doesn't want to be roped into a marriage--but he does find himself wanting to get to know Eleanor better...if he can only find a way to get Mr. Broadstead out of the picture long enough to give him and Eleanor a chance. I loved the idea of a Regency blind date; that was a fun twist and I love Regency romances. I also thought the whole plot was original and interesting and liked both Eleanor and Peter.

A Second Chance
by Heather B. Moore
After her divorce, Virginia's main concern is being able to care for her young son. She certainly isn't looking for a new husband. But her best friend Milly, who is gracious enough to let Virginia live with her and her husband, asks her to accompany a friend to a dinner, Virginia reluctantly agrees. Max isn't what she expected--and she finds herself drawn to him, but Julie Peterson, heiress to her fathers road construction business, has her eyes on him, too. This was another fun historical fiction story. I liked seeing Virginia's resilience and Max was just totally fun and lovable.
Braelynn's Blind Date
by Victorine E. Lieske
Braelynn isn't looking forward to her blind date--but when Tyler shows up, they have an instant connection and she has a great time with him. The only problem is, her date wasn't who she thought he was. Nathan knows he should come clean and tell her he wasn't her blind date, but he can't bring himself to do it; he just figures he'll never see her again. But it turns out Braelynn is the assistant head of marketing for his father's department--where he has just accepted a position as the head of marketing. Working so closely together, Nathan finds himself falling for Braelynn, but having dated a liar in the past, Braelynn can't forgive him for his betrayal. Loved it. I thought Braelynn's feelings were realistically portrayed, as she was drawn to Nathan but also didn't know how to trust him. I loved seeing their reconciliation at the end.

Bianca's Hope
by Rachel Branton
Bianca is a potter whose trademark and designs are being stolen by another artist; when she approaches a law intern about the possibility of a legal case against him, Stephen advises her to change her trademark, telling her it would be cheaper than trying to sue. Bianca is furious with his answer--so when her sister sets her up with none other than Stephen on a blind date, she's not exactly happy to see him. Stephen, drawn to Bianca, does some investigating on her case, and as he and Bianca work on stopping the imposter artist, they find they might get along better than they thought. Out of all of the stories in the collection, this one was probably the one I liked least; I liked Stephen and Bianca, but I felt like I was missing pieces of the story a little bit (perhaps because this novella ties into other works by the author). But it's still a fun contemporary romance, and maybe with a second reading it will flow better for me.

Blind Spot
by Sariah Wilson
Ria wants to marry a prince--so much so that she moves across the world to Monterra, where royals are supposed to be in plentiful supply. Using a dating app, she goes on 12 blind dates with potential princes who turn out to be complete duds. After her latest disaster, she decides to give up on finding her prince, much to the delight of her roommate, Tessa, who has been waiting to set Ria up with someone else. But when Ria finds out who she's being set up with--playboy Paolo, who has been flirting with her for awhile now--she isn't so impressed with her roommate's plans. Paolo was a little bit too good to be true, but hey, it worked for a fun contemporary romance.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that half of the stories in the collection were historical fiction; that's not what I expected from a collection of blind date stories, but I thought it was cool. I really liked this collection and can't wait for the next Timeless Romance Anthology.

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Refuge at Highland Hall

A Refuge at Highland Hall
By Carrie Turansky

While in London helping her sister Kate and brother-in-law Jon with their children's home, Penny Ramsey meets Alex Goodwin, a pilot training to fight against the Germans in WWI. Once he returns to his base, he and Penny exchange letters, and it seems that--should Alex make it through the war--they might have a future together. But when the realities of war hit home for Alex, he distances himself from Penny, who can only hope that God will be able to heal him.

While I of course enjoyed the romance angle of the book (as well as the side story with another romance), I think I enjoyed the history and the look at the British efforts against the German Zepplins; Alex's experiences were so fascinating to me.
The third book in a series, I think it could probably be read as a stand-alone, but the first two books in the series are equally enjoyable, so I'd recommend reading them, too.

4 stars

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hearthfire Romance Collection--Box Set

Hearthfire Romance Collection--Box Set
By Michele Paige Holmes

I loved these books! I was really captivated by the characters and plot lines. There were so many interesting elements. In Saving Grace, I thought it was cool that there was a slight element of a "Beauty and the Beast" plot line; I also found Grace's willingness to ruin her reputation in order to prevent herself and Helen from having to marry was an interesting departure from the typical story set in this time period. In Loving Helen, I liked seeing Helen come out of her shell and blossom. If I had to pick a favorite story, I would go with Marrying Christopher; I thought both Christopher and Marsali were such interesting, good characters, and the plot line of Marsali's impending indenture servitude was really fascinating to me. Twelve Days in December was a fun addition to the series, and it was nice to see two people who had been previously been hurt find their happily ever after.
I really, really liked these books!

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


5 stars!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

All Hallows' Eve

All Hallows' Eve (A Timeless Romance Anthology)

Of Ghosts and Gardens
by Sarah M. Eden
Burke Kennard stumbles across Enid Pryce when he visits her Welsh garden, trying to find out more about the ghost who is rumored to haunt the garden. A scholar of Welsh folklore, Burke is delighted to accept an invitation from Enid's family to stay until the ghost makes an appearance...but as he gets to know Enid, he finds himself wishing that the ghost will stay away so he has an excuse to be around Enid. Enid is hoping for the same thing, but neither gives voice to their feelings, instead focusing on figuring out the true identity of the ghost. Loved it. Enid was fun and delightful, and I loved seeing her interactions with Burke. There were some comical moments with the ghost, too. Five stars for this one.


It's You
by Annette Lyon
 Anna Brierley gets off to a rough start when she moves in with relatives: she sees a ghost who seems to know who she is, although she has no idea who the ghost is. When she starts to clean out a storage closet at the local church, she finds out the identity of the ghost--and the ghost appears to Charlie Beck as he's walking home, drawing him into the church where he meets Anna. Although initially frightened, Anna and Charlie determine to find out what they can about the ghost--and to make the most of their meeting each other. This story had a fun twist on what the ghost needed in order to find peace. I liked both Anna and Charlie, too. 5 stars.

Sophia's Curse
by Heather B. Moore
Every five years, a member of the Rousseau or Belrose families dies--and will continue to do so, according to Sophia's curse, until the families are united by marriage. Simon Rousseau has no intention of marrying and bringing a woman into his strange family curse, although he admits to being intrigued by the orphan Joan raised by nuns. When Joan encounters Monsieur Rousseau, she finds everything she knew about herself is wrong. This was an interesting mix of mystery and romance. Intriguing without being super creepy. 4.5 stars.

The Sirens' Song
by Lisa Mangum
Oliver, recently widow, is working as a doctor aboard a cruise ship and mourning his wife Cate's death. When a passenger goes overboard, Oliver jumps into save her--and then is captured by a siren and taken to an island where the sirens want to take his memories. His only chance at freedom would require him to give up his memories of Cate...and if he gives his best memory, he may just have a chance to see her one last time. Okay, after the other three stories--pretty straightforward historical fiction--I wasn't really prepared for this story. It just seemed weirder to me than the others (although, if I had read it first, it might not have stood out so much). I didn't enjoy it as much as the other stories; it just didn't pull me in the same way, although I did enjoy seeing Oliver's memories of Cate. 3.5 stars.

The Man of Her Dreams
by Jordan McCollum
Homicide detective Alex Steen dreams of the murders she goes on to solve, which is creepy enough, but when she has a dream where the murderer doesn't follow through, the change in the pattern is stranger still. And when she finds that the person who wasn't killed is none other than her ex's sister--and that her ex, Nick, was likely the intended target--she can't help but wonder what is going on. I wish this one had had a little more romance to go along with the mystery aspect; we didn't really get to see much of that, just pieces of Alex and Nick's broken past and a tiny hint at the future. 3.5 stars.

The Ghost of Millhouse Mansion
 by Elana Johnson
When Naomi goes to Millhouse mansion with its owner, Colt, she's just expecting to see the rocking horse his aunt wants restored--and if she's lucky, maybe she'll get to check out the house and somehow convince Colt to let her restore the house itself. She definitely isn't expecting to see ghosts--but she does...and Colt admits that he has seen them since he was a child. This was probably the creepiest of the stories, since the ghosts aren't exactly friendly. The romance between Naomi and Colt seemed rushed, and the twist before the ending was a little strange. Didn't completely work for me. 3.5 stars.

Overall, I loved the first three stories; I liked the final three but not nearly as much as the first three. All in all, it was a fun collection--and probably readers who like creepy stories and Halloween more than I do will appreciate the whole collection more than I did.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Seeking Persephone

Seeking Persephone
Sarah M. Eden


Adam Boyce, the Duke of Kielder, has no intention of marrying, nor does he seem a likely candidate for marriage. Despite his title and his fortune, his sour disposition, not to mention his disfigured face, make him less than the ideal potential suitor, or so he believes. However, his immensely dislikes the man set to inherit if he doesn't produce an heir, so Adam extends an offer of marriage to Persephone Lancaster, even though he's never seen her and doesn't even know her last name. What he does know is that she is impoverished and that if he's willing to support her younger siblings, she just might be willing to marry him. She does consent, and Adam, expecting a dour old maid, is astonished to find himself attached to a pretty young woman. Neither quite knows what to expect from their marriage, but as Persephone tries to be a good woman, Adam comes to realize that perhaps his pretty young wife is exactly what he needed.

I quite enjoyed this romance. I loved seeing the reasons for why people did the things they did--why Adam shut himself off from others, why his mother fled from home when he was a child, etc. I also liked seeing how Persephone affected Adam and got him to open up and soften up a little.


5 stars.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One Plus One Equals Trouble

One Plus One Equals Trouble
By Sondra Kraak

Having been jilted by her fiancĂ©, who wed her twin sister instead, Claire left San Francisco for a fresh start as a teacher. While she was supposed to be assigned to a school in Seattle, she instead is sent to teach in remote Pine Creek—and she quickly falls in love with the town. Determined to be a success at something, after feeling like she’s failed in love and at ever measuring up to her sister, Claire is shocked when she finds out her job isn’t as secure as she believed—the school board has hired TWO teachers and she has to battle against Barrett Clarke (who is the nephew of one of the school board members and a former college professor) to see who will ultimately be offered the position. Claire refuses to fail—but so does Barrett, who lost his position teaching at a university after false accusations and came home to teach for a year, after which his uncle will give him land so he can be a rancher—which is what he truly wants to do. Equally determined to win the job, Claire and Barrett each set out to prove their merits—but as they work together, attraction flares, complicating things even further.

I liked the premise of the book. I thought Claire was particularly well-developed, with her straight-laced personality and need for control reflecting her attempts to be perfect and not to fail. Barrett is more light-hearted, but I did sometimes get frustrated with him for constantly teasing Claire; while he was trying to break through her reserve, sometimes I thought he’d be better served by just saying something nice to her. There was a lot of banter between the two, as well as a lot of one-step-forward-two-steps-back type behavior from Claire, who retreated whenever she felt vulnerable. Sometimes that made the plot move a little slowly—it was kinda the same banter over and over. Toward the end, though, things picked up a little. Overall, I enjoyed the book. 3.5 stars

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Mail Order Bride

Mail Order Bride (A Timeless Romance Anthology)

This collection has 6 novellas about mail order brides. All are well-written and lots of fun. I highly recommend these novellas for those who like historical romances.

Written in Her Heart by Stacy Henrie
From the time Clayton Riley interviewed to be her father's financial advisor and personal secretary, Georgeanna (Georgie) Fitzgerald had more-than-just-friendly feelings for him. However, he never seemed to return her interest, and with the years passing and her father dying, Georgie has decided to take a husband--by placing an advertisement in the paper. She gets Clay to (reluctantly) agree to help sort through the responses and choose the most suitable men for her. As he begins his new task, however, Clay realizes he does have feelings for Georgie and writes to her as well, under a false name, hoping to show her his heart and convince her that his feelings are sincere.
This was such a fun twist on the mail-order-bride theme--since technically, it's a mail order husband. I also liked how instead of having two strangers come together, it brought two friends together.

Wanted: Midwife Bride
Dr. Naomi Thornton is planning to divorce her husband, a fellow physician who has a very pregnant mistress. However, he beats her to the punch; he and his associates falsely blame her of incompetence leading to the death of the popular NYC major. Knowing that the word of a female won't hold up against the hospital board and her husband, Naomi does the only thing she can think of: responds to a mail order bride request for a midwife bride. She doesn't plan on telling Dr. Joe Chandler that she's a full-fledged doctor; having been rejected by her former husband and colleagues for daring to enter the male world of medicine, she won't make the same mistake again. However, in Joe, she finds someone who not only appreciates but delights in her medical knowledge and skill, as well as in her feminine qualities. She also finds a man whom she could care for deeply and who cares deeply for her--but when the opportunity to take back all that she lost in New York City comes, will she choose life as simple country doctor, married to another simple country doctor or will she return home?
I loved the fact that Naomi is a doctor and how realistically her struggle to succeed in a "male" profession was portrayed. I also loved Joe; he's such a great contrast to Naomi's jerky, slimy ex-husband.

The Sound of Home by Annette Lyon
Victor Hallows wants to marry Marilyn--or at least, have her as a mistress--and he's willing to frame her for murder if she doesn't agree. Marilyn knows it's risky to become a mail order bride, knowing nothing about the man she's agreeing to marry, but she decides it unlikely that her new husband will be worse than Victor, and she heads off to Wyoming to meet and marry Harry Yardley. However, arriving in Wyoming, she's met by his brother, Thomas Yardley, who explains that his brother Harry can't take a bride; having suffered a head injury, he's the mental equivalent of a child and is looking for a mother figure to replace his deceased mother. Unable and unwilling to return to New York, Marilyn stays with Yardley brothers, taking care of Harry and working alongside Thomas--and capturing his heart.
The idea of framing a girl for murder to force her to be your mistress was a bit far-fetched, but it worked. Again, I liked having a little twist, with Marilyn not marrying the man whose mail order bride she thought she was going to be.

For Better or Worse by Sarah Eden
Gerald Smith somewhat reluctantly decides to send for a mail order bride--but when his mail order bride departs the train and he sees that the Miss Hill he is supposed to marry is the same Miss Hill--Mary Hill--who used to follow him everywhere and irritate him beyond measure when they lived next door to one another back in Ohio--he's more than somewhat reluctant. In fact, he tries to figure out someone else in town who might be able to offer her a home and a job; however, when the preacher convinces him that no one else can take her, Gerald and Mary wed--and Gerald comes to find that Mary isn't the pest he remembered and that being married to her is much better than anticipated.
Before I started this book, I thought this would be my favorite of the stories; Sarah Eden is one of my favorite authors. However, I actually think I liked it least--I wasn't completely sold on Gerald as a romantic hero or why Mary might actually like him; as neighbors in Ohio, he called a pest, a pebble in his shoe, and the plague, and yet she says he wasn't ever really cruel to her. While he wasn't physically abuse, I'm not sure I fully agree that he wasn't cruel. While he does come to regret how he treated her, it just made me a little sad to think of this woman caring--for years--about a man who couldn't see her value even at all. (I don't think he needed to love her for years; I just would've liked him more if he had been kind to her even if he didn't have feelings for her.) I did like the ending of Gerald and Mary's story quite a bit, and Sarah Eden is a great writer, with funny dialogue and tight descriptions.

An Inconvenient Bride by Heather B. Moore
When Carmela Callemi, an Italian immigrant who lived briefly in Boston until her brother remarried, arrives in Leadville, Colorado, to marry Gideon Butler, his brother, local blacksmith Samuel Butler, thinks this is just one more mess of his brother's that he'll have to fix. Gideon, having lived a shady life, has died before Carmela arrives--and, as it turns out, wasn't literate enough to write the lovely letters that convinced Carmela to marry him and had to have someone else write them for him. When she finds out what kind of man Gideon Butler really was, Carmela is intent on leaving Colorado and never looking back--but as she waits for a train to take her out of town, she gets to know Samuel, and their budding attraction might be enough to change her mind.
I liked the combination of outspoken Italian Carmela and slightly grumpy blacksmith Samuel. They were a really fun couple, and I liked seeing Samuel try to figure out how to convince her to stay.

The Price of Silver by Sian Ann Bessey When Jake Walker's mail order bride arrives in Idaho, Jake is hundreds of miles away, seizing an opportunity to mine silver. Although he tried to notify Katie not to come yet, his letter didn't get to her, so it's up to his older brother Caleb and their mother Eliza to welcome Katie Spencer to Idaho. At first Caleb is annoyed to find that he has to be responsible for what he considers to be foolish decisions made by his brother, but as Katie settles in on their ranch and they wait for word from Jake on what he wants to do with her, Caleb tries to ignore the fact that he might be falling for his brother's future wife.
This one was just delightful. I loved Caleb and Katie; they were just so cute together. I liked how they worked together on the ranch and thought the author did a great job showing the suspense as they try to fight their attraction as they wait to hear from Jake. Just really fun and well-written, this one might have been my favorite of the six novellas (although it's hard to pick a favorite).

Again, highly enjoyable. I liked the different characters and the different twists in each story. Really fun collection that I highly recommend.

(I received a free copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.)

Monday, July 25, 2016

California Dreamin' Collection


California Dreamin' Collection

Too Good to Be True--Heather B. Moore
Gwen's work as a photographer is satisfying and helps her forget about her ex. Jack's business keeps him too busy to have much of a relationship with anyone, but when he runs into Gwen on the beach after a photo shoot, he realizes that maybe it's time to make time for romance. Although Gwen and Jack hit it off, the closer they get, the more Gwen can't help but think something's going to come along to ruin this relationship.
The actual conflict came kinda late in the novella, and the resolution came pretty easily, but this was a fun story and you can't help but cheer for the girl who has been down on her luck to find her happily ever after.

Gone Fishing--Kaylee Baldwin
Claire runs away from a marriage proposal from a business associate (who has been convinced by Claire's mother, who is also their boss, that he wants to marry Claire); she goes to California to find her father, whom she hasn't seen in four years since he decided to head west and start a tourist fishing business. Claire's plan is to convince her father to come home and help her fend off her mother, but her dad--and the business partner she didn't know her father had--might not be so easy to convince. And when that business partner, Miguel, starts showing Claire around a little, she's not so sure her plan is actually what she needs.
I don't think I've read anything of Kaylee Baldwin's before, but I liked this introduction to her work. I liked the banter between Claire and Miguel, as well as seeing Claire learn to stand up for herself.

The Pier Changes Everything--Annette Lyon
Alex is in California to scatter her husband's ashes on what would have been their fifth wedding anniversary; while there, she runs into Michael, who is on the beach seeing catharsis while his ex-fiancee marries someone else. Alex and Michael connect immediately--and when they realize that they'd met years ago at fat camp, their old attraction comes back full swing.
I would've liked to see a little more back story on this one (like why didn't Michael email Alex after camp, not just Alex try to email Michael? and there were a couple places where it called her husband James but the rest of the time he was Jason), so it wasn't quite as polished as it could have been, but I liked seeing both characters find some needed healing.

A Hero's Song--Jennifer Moore
AnneMarie, a romance writer, runs into her ex--the only guy she's actually loved--on the set of a TV show of all places. While she thinks it's just a bad coincidence, Lance, a rock star,actually set it up, because now that he's completed rehab and started to get his life back on track, he wants to reconnect with the one person who really knew him--but AnneMarie's not so sure she's willing to take a chance on him. I'm kind of a sucker for the whole reformed bad boy plot line, especially when said bad boy has a thing for a sweet, shy sort of girl, so this novella was right up my alley. I thought it was tons of fun.

Stay with Me--Shannon Guymon
Jolie has taken a job as a nanny, and while she loves the kids she cares for, there are complications with their parents; the dad is fun and easygoing, but the mother--and her younger brother, who lives with them and doesn't like Jolie--isn't so easy to please. Jolie finds some solace with Fitz, the family's driver, but she isn't sure how long her job will actually last. I wish we'd actually seen more of the developing romance between Jo and Fitz; there was a lot of time spent with other characters so the focus wasn't on their relationship as much as I wished. The story still came together well, and I actually liked it more than I've liked any of Shannon Guymon's full length books.

A Place to Call Home--Sarah M. Eden
When Craig hires Ada to be his realtor, he's not looking for a relationship. He just wants to find a nice place for him and his son. However, they instantly hit it off--conversation flows, they get each others' jokes, etc. Even though he's interested, Craig isn't sure about getting involved with someone when he's got his son to take care of, which leaves Ada unsure of what he actually feels for her.
I love Sarah Eden's writing. It just makes me happy. I always appreciate great dialogue, sweet romance, and laughter, and she didn't disappoint.

I love the fact that these are clean romances, just sweet and fun. With these collections, it's so fun to see how each author approaches their common theme and they wind up with such different stories--there's a good variety in each collection; it never feels like it's the same story told multiple times.4.5 stars.

Monday, July 4, 2016

For Elise

For Elise
By Sarah M. Eden

Miles Linwood and Elise Furlong were the best of friends during their childhood. However, shortly after the both of their fathers were murdered, when Elise was fifteen, Elise disappeared. For four years, Miles wondered and worried and searched for his friend but found no trace of her. When a chance encounter leads him to find her, Miles can scarcely believe the changes in his friend. Once light-hearted and carefree, Elise now guards her emotions tightly and doesn't trust easily. A widow and young mother at age nineteen, Elise has obviously suffered, but Miles soon finds that there is much more to Elise's story--including a very good reason not to trust him. But having found his old friend and becoming more enchanted with her and her baby each day, Miles must find a way to regain Elise's trust...and her heart.

No surprise, Sarah Eden has written another awesome book. I pretty much love every character she's ever written (okay, except for the villains who we aren't supposed to love anyway). I liked the element of mystery in this novel (and was pleased that I figured out who-dunn-it early on into the novel). I also liked the fact that there was a good reason for the disconnect between Miles and Elise; I feel like a lot of romance novels just have the whole "I don't know if he/she likes me" misunderstanding as the central conflict, and this one had more than that.

 The only bad thing about finishing one of Sarah Eden's books is that then I have to wait for her to publish another one. :(

I read the book once and did the audio book once, and I enjoyed both.

5 stars.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Friends & Foes

Friends & Foes
By Sarah M. Eden
Covenant Communications, 2012. 269 pgs. Adult fiction

Philip Jonquil, Earl of Lampton, has sent five years pretending to be the dandiest of dandies as a cover for his role tracking spies for the Foreign Office, in hopes of bringing an end to the war with France. Although he actually hates being a dandy, he plays his part magnificently. When he offends a young lady at an inn, she makes her opinion of him and his over-the-top fashion and manners abundantly clear. Later, the two find that they are both spending the holiday season in the home of mutual friends, and Philip manages to insult her yet again. War ensues between the two, but soon, each comes to find that the other might not be quite as he or she seems.

I really enjoy Sarah Eden's Regency romances, and this one is no exception. There were times when both characters were frustrating, and yet, it fit with their personalities and backgrounds, so it never reached the point where I didn't enjoy the book. The bantering is funny and the characters likeable. Another fine piece of work from Eden.

5 stars. Clean read.