Friday, October 13, 2017

For Love or Honor

For Love or Honor by Sarah M. Eden

Stanley fell for Marjie the first time he met her, and her sweetness helped him as he healed from an injury he received as a British soldier fighting Napoleon's army. When Napoleon escaped and Stanley had to lead his men in the horrifying battle of Waterloo, it was thoughts of Marjie and re-reading her letters that kept him going. However, having been severely wounded physically and even more so emotionally, Stanley knows he can't share with Marjie the darkness that is inside him. While he might have to face her sometimes, as she's staying with her sister (who is married to his brother), Stanley is determined to keep his distance as much as he can. Marjie doesn't know exactly what has changed Stanley, but she's determined to help him heal--and find a way that they can be together as they'd both hoped.


I loved this book so much. It was so well-written, not glossing over the horrors of war or how the soldiers were impacted. It hurt seeing Stanley hurt; I love ALL of the Jonquils but he is so honorable and so vulnerable that he just tugged at my heart so much. And sweet Marjie--I loved seeing how she cared for him. I loved seeing other favorites from the series and getting to see some new characters--Pluck alone made the book worth reading! He made me laugh so much.There are truly beautiful, touching moments in this book (like when Stanley's niece Caroline finds out he's wounded), and I can't wait to reread it.

5 stars! One of my favorites of the year for sure!

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Dollmaker of Krakow

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero

Karolina lived peacefully in the Land of Dolls until rats invaded and she had to flee. She is carried by a good wind to Krakow, Poland, where a former soldier turned dollmaker has created a perfect body for her. Just as the Dollmaker has brought Karolina to life in a sense, she too starts to bring him to life--bringing him out of the despair that surrounds him. The two of them become friends with Jozef and his daughter Rena, and life is happy for them--until the Germans invaded Poland. Jozef and Rena are Jews, and Karoline and the Dollmaker must find a way to help their friends.

This book is a blend of historical fiction and fantasy and alternates between Karolina's experiences in Poland and flashbacks to her experiences in the Land of Dolls. The premise of a living doll is fascinating, and I think there will be lots of readers who enjoy it. I thought the parts set in Poland were written and developed better than the parts set in the Land of Dolls; while the descriptions of the doll world were pretty, I also feel like in some ways, that whole element could have been reduced to a few paragraphs and it wouldn't have been missed much. The story of the Holocaust, however, was more powerful and poignant. This is a sad story--realistically so--but also has a hopeful note. Definitely one that would be a good discussion-starter, not only about the book but about hate and prejudice, choices and consequences, and so much more.

4 stars.

Love, Jane

Love, Jane by Ranee S. Clark

Sean O'Callaghan has fallen hard for Jane Reeves, but he's trying to take things slowly like she's asked him to. Still, he's not expecting it at all when Jane tells him she's planning to serve a mission--and as much he wants her to stay, she's determined to go. Sean agrees to wait for her, but 18 months is a long time, and while she's gone, he meets up with a girl he used to like and has to decide who he's going to be with--Victoria, who's actually there, or Jane, who is thousands of miles away.

This is the third of Ranee Clark's books that I've read, and I think it's my favorite. Sean was such a good guy--always wanting to the right thing and to help everyone. I liked Jane a lot, too, and I thought her difficulties in speaking up, especially when there might be confrontation, was well-developed. I like how Ranee Clark throws in some sports with her romances; that's a fun element. All in all, this is a fun book but also has some depth to it. I look forward to reading more from Ranee Clark.

I won a copy of this book in a giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Miss Leslie's Secret

Miss Leslie's Secret by Jennifer Moore

Conall Stewart and Aileen Leslie get off to a rough start--Conall catches Aileen's son Jamie stealing and Aileen doesn't believe him, until she finds evidence of it. Conall is certain Aileen's coddling is going to lead Jamie to become a true criminal, but what he doesn't know is that Aileen is extra protective of Jamie because of his true identity; his mother is Aileen's friend whose dying wish was that Aileen keep Jamie safe from his father. When Aileen realizes Jamie did indeed steal from Conall, she has him make restitution by spending a day working for Conall. That day turns into many days, as Jamie thrives under the direction of a good man. At first, Conall and Jamie's growing closeness upsets Aileen, but soon she finds herself growing closer to Conall as well.

I loved the setting for this romance--the Scottish highlands. It was so interesting to see the day-to-day life there. I loved Conall's goodness, and Aileen's fierce protectiveness of her son, and Jamie's blossoming under Conall's tutelage. Another excellent book by Jennifer Moore. 4 stars.

Havencross

Havencross by Julie Daines

When a scandal involving her father gets her family run out of London, they return home to Cornwall, somewhere Elaine had never wanted to return to, as it's where her brother disappeared--likely died--after going on an errand for Elaine. Not only does Elaine have to have those memories, but she also has to face Gareth Kemp and her memories of how she rejected him. Gareth, who has risen in status in the world, had tried to put thoughts of Elaine away from him, but when she returns, he can't deny he still loves her. Trying not to think of her, he instead tries to do something about the smugglers who killed his father and likely his best friend. However, he soon finds that Elaine has stumbled into a dangerous mess and it will take them working together and for each other to get out of the mess.

While I love a traditional Regency romance, I also appreciated that something new here, with the setting in Cornwall and the look at smuggling; those were very interesting. Julie Daines' descriptions transport you to Cornwall. I would've liked the romance to come through a little stronger, but the element of mystery and the look at smuggling kept the book moving forward quickly. This is a clean read and easy to recommend to those who like historical fiction, Regency romances, and a dash of mystery.

4 stars

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



Sunday, September 24, 2017

A List of Cages

A List of Cages
By Robin Roe

Julian is used to hiding out--whether at school or at home--but when Adam, a senior who was Julian's foster brother years ago is sent to escort Julian to the school counselor's office, Julian suddenly finds himself a lot more involved. Adam keeps inviting Julian to do things with him and his friends. For his part, Adam is excited to reconnect with the foster brother he didn't want to lose, but he quickly realizes that something isn't right about Julian's home life and has to figure out how he can help him. This book was totally engrossing; I read it in as close to one sitting as I could (breaking only when my kids forced me to pay attention them). I absolutely couldn't wait to find out how things played out. Told alternatively from Julian's and Adam's POV, it gives the reader a chance to care deeply about both boys--happy, friendly Adam, and shy, scared Julian, which I think is brilliant in keeping the balance just right. If it were just Julian, I think it'd be too heavy and dark; if it were just Adam, it wouldn't delve deeply enough into Julian's experiences (and, Julian definitely sounds younger than Adam--as he should since he's three years younger--and entire book in his voice would likely make it too young for the intended audience). It's not an easy read; what Julian goes through is scary and horrifying and hard to read, but it's also a story that needs to be told. There were some elements that frustrated me--I'd like to have known more about the motivations of certain characters and the ending wasn't quite enough for me--but it's one I won't be forgetting easily.

4 stars.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Thing with Feathers

The Thing with Feathers
By McCall Hoyle

Emilie has been homeschooled for most of her life--and that's the way she likes it, because it means she doesn't have to worry about having a seizure in front of other people. So when her mom decides it's time for her to go to high school, Emilie absolutely doesn't want to go. Even when she starts to make friends--and even attracts the interest of super cute, super nice Chatham York, Emilie still thinks it'd be better to be homeschooled than to have to explain her epilepsy to anyone.

 Emilie's voice was realistic--her thoughts seemed very true to what someone in her situation would feel. And Chatham was just adorable. I loved seeing their developing relationship, but I also appreciated seeing Emilie's struggles to get along with her mother and her mother's new boyfriend. I think there are a lot of issues that will resonate with teen readers.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Love Remains

Love Remains
By Sarah M. Eden

Since the accident that left his younger brother blind, Tavish O'Connor has been trying to hold his family together. Desperate to help Finnbarr, and to restore hope to all of his family, he sends for a teacher for the blind. Cecily Attwater, who starting losing her own sight as a child, knows that she can help Finnbarr--if he and his family, proud Irishmen who dislike her for her for being an Englishwoman will let her. While she and Tavish butts heads at first, their mutual goal of helping Finnbarr draws them together, but even as they become closer, they know the animosity between the Irish and the English will make a future impossible.

I have been waiting for this book for years! (Tavish was my favorite character in the first two books in the series, so I've been waiting for him to have a chance to find love.) I was a little worried about the book and if it'd be as satisfying as I hoped, and it totally was. I loved seeing Tavish and Cecily come to understand each other and help each other. It was hard seeing the O'Connors, who I love, treat Cecily the way they did, as well as seeing Finnbarr (who might be my second favorite character in the series) be so broken initially, but I thought it was realistically written. I loved the humor in it, in spite of darker themes and situations. I hope there will be many more books in this series, and I can't wait to reread this one!

5 stars.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Love and Other Consolation Prizes

Love and Other Consolation Prizes
By Jamie Ford
When the World's Fair comes to Seattle in 1962, Ernest Young's reporter daughter JuJu wants to know more about Ernest's connection to the first World's Fair (then called the Alaskan Yukon Pacific Expo) held in Seattle in 1909. As he faces his daughter's questions, as well as dealing with his wife's health issues, Ernest reflects on his early life--when he, a half-Chinese, half-white immigrant, was a raffle prize at the fair. When the winner--the owner of a brothel--claims him, Ernest finds himself with a family of sorts for the first time and in love with two girls--Maisie, the daughter of the brothel owner, and Fahn, a Japanese servant. This book was absolutely engrossing. In some ways it's not an easy read, seeing the heartache and hardship in Ernest's life, as well as the experiences of Fahn and Maisie. It's a sobering look at the way Americans essentially kidnapped Asian people and auctioned them to the highest bidder and at racism, hypocrisy, and more. However, it's also so much more than that, with a collection of unforgettable characters and relationships. It looks at human nature, and at survival, and at love, and it's so well-written, alternating between Ernest's early life and his life in 1962. I was a little nervous about how it was going to end--but I loved it. Ernest is one of those characters you just fall in love with, and his story is definitely worth reading.
5 stars.



 Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for allowing me to read an ARC. All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Dangerous Legacy

A Dangerous Legacy
By Elizabeth Camden

Lucy Drake, a telegraph operator for the Associated Press, and her brother Nick have been caught up in a family feud for years--their grandfather invented a plumbing valve that his brother ended up making a fortune off of. Lucy and Nick, following in their father's footsteps, want the valve to be used to help everyone, not have the price so high only the rich can afford it, and they're in a legal battle with their uncle, aunt, and cousin, over the family legacy. Although it means sacrificing just about everything, Lucy is determined to see the battle through to the end.

Sir Colin Beckwith, a British aristocrat who heads up a rival news agency, needs to find a wealthy wife in order to save his family's estate, Whitefriars--which means he has no business getting involved with Lucy, who doesn't have at the fortune necessary to save his crumbling home. But as he learns about Lucy's family battle--and the larger secrets her foes are hiding--he can't help but becoming involved.

 I've read all of Elizabeth Camden's books, and while I have enjoyed all of them, this one is my favorite. It was fascinating. The plot was so interesting, with twists and turns and historical tidbits that made me want to learn more (like the completion of the AP's Pacific Cable and the controversy over whether to build a canal through Panama or through Nicaragua); there was a fair bit of action and it kept me guessing about how things would play out. I loved the banter between Lucy and Colin; they made me laugh so many times. It's fast-paced and entirely gripping. I highly recommend this one. 5 stars.

 I received a free copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Heart on the Line

Heart on the Line
By Karen Witemeyer

When Grace Mallory's father uncovers evidence that a rich silver mine owner isn't actually his father's true heir, he is determined to give the evidence to the Pinkertons. Before he can, however, he's murdered and Grace has to find a way to hide herself--and figure out what evidence her father possessed. She finds safe harbor in Harper's Station, a women's colony, and sets up her life there working as a telegraph operator. Through her work, she becomes "friends" with a fellow operator, Mr. A. Although she has never met him in person, their after-hours telegraph conversations are dear to her. And when word comes down the line, Mr. A--Amos Bledsoe--shows up in Harper's Station to help the woman he's never met. Drawn to "Miss G" through their conversations, Amos has wanted to meet her--and when he realizes she's in danger, he heads out immediately to help her. Meeting her in person, he finds she's everything he hoped and more, and he'll do anything to keep her safe.

 I love all of Karen Witemeyer's books, and my favorite tends to be whichever one I just read, but this one might be hard to top. There are so many wonderful things about this book. I love the fact that Amos isn't the typical hero--he's not the strongest, handsomest guy around, but he just might be the sweetest. I love how he uses his strengths to help Grace. Grace is a terrific protagonist. I loved seeing their growing relationship and their friendship as they work to solve the mystery and try to keep Grace safe. The plot kept moving quickly and was very interesting, with twists and action and suspense; I love how the telegraph played such a big role. (Side note: one cool thing about the Harper's Station series is seeing women in their professions.) I also really, really, really loved the side-story with Helen. I can't say more without spoilers, but it was a great subplot. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Although this is the second book in a series, you don't have to read the first one for this to make sense...but you should read the first one because it's a great book, too.

Friday, July 7, 2017

All That Makes Life Bright

All That Makes Life Bright
By Josi S. Kilpack

When Harriet Beecher and Calvin Stowe wed, they find that their different personalities and styles make adjusting to married life more difficult than they anticipated. Although they love each other deeply, they have different expectations and styles; Calvin thrives on order and thriftiness and wants his wife to develop her homemaking skills, while Hattie wants time to work on projects, especially her writing, and doesn't particularly care for cooking, cleaning, or other household tasks. Is there a way for Hattie to be true to herself and still care for her family?

I enjoyed the romantic aspect of this book and thought it was realistic in portraying the struggle to make a marriage work. While a lot of romances focus on the relationship before marriage, it was interesting to see how to develop and nurture love after the wedding. While there was a more serious, darker tone, to this book than a lot of romances (due to the worry and heavy feelings of Hattie and Calvin as they struggle to make their marriage work), I found that to be refreshing and realistic--and ultimately, hopeful, because relationships aren't all sunshine and roses, and they do take work and effort and sometime they're just hard. I think Kilpack did a great job conveying the struggles and emotions, particularly Hattie's struggles with feeling like she's losing herself as she tries to care for her family. Very well done.
4.5 stars.
I read an ARC via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Romancing Daphne

Romancing Daphne
By Sarah M. Eden

Daphne Lancaster is used to being ignored and rejected, so she isn't anticipating Lord Tilburn's attention to her--even though she has admired her since a brief encounter with him, in which he was kind to her, when she was twelve. So when he seems interested in her, she's inwardly thrilled--but when she finds out that his father forced him into a courtship with her, she is heartbroken. For his part, James never intended to court Miss Lancaster; he agreed to be civil and pay a little attention to her; when his father threatened to cut off not only his funds but his brother's and mother's as well, James is torn, knowing it's not fair to a young lady to have someone forced into caring for her but also wanting to take care of his family. When he finds himself coming to know Daphne, he finds that she is delightful, but the truth of how his attentions began threatens to ruin everything. James must find a way to convince first Daphne's formidable brother-in-law, the Duke of Kielder, who will not allow anyone to hurt his family, and then Daphne herself that he can be trusted.

I was a little apprehensive as I started this book, because Adam (the Duke of Kielder) is such a forceful character, that he would take center stage and Daphne would be overshadowed--and indeed, at the outset, it almost felt like the book was more about Adam than Daphne (at least in the chapters from James' POV). However, as the book progressed, I got to see more and and more of Daphne and Adam was moved to the sides more--which was brilliant because it realistically depicted how James's perspective and emotions shifted. I loved having another glimpse of Adam--he's one of my favorite characters and I laugh out loud at some of the things he says--but I also liked seeing both Daphne and James find their voices. This is another excellent book from Sarah M. Eden! Can't wait for more!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart

Miss Whitaker Opens Her Heart
By Jennifer Moore

Daniel Burton is sent to New South Wales as a convict--but when he arrives, he's pardoned and given the chance to become a landowner instead.He is grateful for his fresh start and is determined to make the most of it. He is intrigued by his neighbor, Sarah Whitaker, who arrived in Australia as a child and has become a successful businesswoman on her own. She seems a constant contradiction. While she has a strong dislike for the native people and convicts, believing them incapable of truly changing, Daniel also sees more in her--but can their fledgling feelings survive the truth of Daniel's background?

I think what I like most about Jennifer Moore's books is that she takes a familiar time period (Regency era) and brings in a different location. It's so interesting to see what life was like in other parts of the world during that era. I also liked seeing how Sarah had become who she was--and also how she began to change. Another great book from Jennifer Moore.

4 stars.

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Wings of the Wind

Wings of the Wind
Connilyn Cossette

Alanah has no life left among the Canaanite people after the deaths of her father and brothers, all killed by the advancing Hebrews, so she disguises herself as a man and joins the Canaanite army as they fight the Hebrews once more--only this time, her people are decimated, and Alanah, who thought she would die in battle, survives. A Hebrew soldier, Tobiah, finds her among the wounded, and to honor Yahweh and to protect Alanah, he marries her. Alanah and Tobiah have thirty days to consider if they will stay married, and while Alanah initially is certain that she will leave, as she comes to know her husband, his people, and his God, she begins to wonder if she could truly, for the first time in her life, find a home.

 This book is Biblical fiction at its finest. Connilyn Cossette gives you everything--characters who you care about deeply, amazing descriptions, beautiful language, and a compelling plot, as well as an invitation to think about God and His presence and His ways.
I loved Tobiah, his quiet strength and his determination to do what is right, and I loved seeing Alanah's walls come down, as she learned that she didn't need to rely only on herself but that she could trust Tobiah and God. I loved the message of hope in her story (as well as certain other characters we meet later in the book), as she finds healing from deeply inflicted emotional wounds. 

The descriptions of the scenery, as well as of the people the Hebrews fought and their depravity, really made this period of history come to life. It made some (in my opinion), somewhat dry chapters from the Bible become much more interesting. The language had a similar effect, bringing to life a fascinating story.

There were so many things to love about the plot--seeing Tobiah and Alanah come to trust and care for each other, seeing Alanah's acceptance of Yahweh, and subsequent challenges (which I can't mention without giving spoilers!) were so gripping. This is one of those books you should try to clear out a large chunk of time for, because you don't want to put it down once you stop.

This was an excellent book, and I can't wait for more from Connilyn Cossette!

 I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author. All opinions are my own.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dreamland Burning

Dreamland Burning
By Jennifer Latham

As Rowan Chase's family starts a remodeling project on their property, workers find a human skeleton. Rowan is captivated by the discovery, and she and her best friend James set out to discover who the skeleton belongs to and how he came to be buried on her property. Because of this search, as well as her summer job/internship working at a clinic in the poor part of town, Rowan comes to think about race differently than ever before.

In 1921, William Tillman, who is half-white, half-Indian, gets caught up in the racial conflicts sweeping Tulsa. As he works in his father's Victorla shop, he comes to know a couple of Negroes, and when the racial tensions explode, he must decide whether to side with the whites who are determined to rid Tulsa of "bad" Negroes, do nothing except protect his own skin, or help those who are being attacked.

This book started off a little slow for my liking, but I'm so glad I stuck with it. Not only is this a well-written and captivating story, it's also an important one, as it introduces readers (most of whom, like me, likely aren't familiar with the rioting and killing of many African Americans in Tulsa in 1921) to a significant even in history. The way the story is presented made it fascinating, as readers wonder, along with Rowan, who was killed and why. William's story was even more interesting, as we see his growth. The culmination of the tensions in violence is so gripping--and even terrifying as the readers have to wait to find out who survives and who doesn't. This was really, really well-written and makes my best of 2017 list.

4.5 stars.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Newton & Polly

Newton & Polly
By Jody Hedlund
 
When John Newton meets Polly Catlett, it's love at first sight. He knows she's the girl for him--but unfortunately, there are things that make him not the right man for her. He's impulsive and undisciplined and doesn't stick with anything he starts. His father has gotten him several different jobs, only to have Newton mess up each one of them. He also gives into his desires to drink and gamble and doubts the existence of God. Polly cares for him in return and wants him to rise up an d become the man she thinks he can be...but instead, he seems intent on descending further and further.

Wow. Fantastic. Jody Hedlund does a great job developing Newton's and Polly's feelings and getting you to really want things to work for them. It was painful to watch Newton fail again and again--and to continually blame it on others instead of realizing it was his own fault, time and again. He got to a point where it was really hard to like him--which makes the novel all that more well-written because it truly shows how God can redeem even the vilest of sinners. I would have liked to see even more of his transformation from the entitled brat who indulged his lusts to the man redeemed through God's grace. Really captivating story.

The Secret of the India Orchid

The Secret of the India Orchid
By Nancy Campbell Allen
 
On the very day Anthony Blake plans to ask his best friend for permission to court his sister, Sophia Elliott, circumstances arise that make the relationship he has dreamed of impossible. Before coming into his inheritance, Anthony had served as a spy. Now, a valuable document with detailed information about British spies--including Anthony--and their families and associates. Anthony needs to retrieve the document in first his safety but also for the safety of those he loves. In order to resume his role as a spy, though, Anthony has to cut ties with Sophia and act the part of a playboy. 
Heartbroken, Sophia sets about to forget Anthony--and when staying in London doesn't do the trick, she embarks on a trip, only to run into Anthony, whose attempts to retrieve the stolen document have led him there. It's harder than ever to pretend he doesn't care for Sophia, especially as she becomes involved in circumstances that seem connected to the stolen document--including the murder of the man Anthony believes last possessed the document. More than ever, Anthony wants to be able to give his heart to Sophia--and she wants to know what is truly going on with him.

This was a fascinating read. It gave some really interesting insights into the British experience in India and relations between the British and the Indians. The mystery element of the book was also captivating; I was very interested in finding out who had the document and who committed murder to get it. And of course, the romance between Sophia and Anthony was superb. I loved both of them in My Fair Gentleman, and I was so excited to get to read their story in this book--and I love how their story played out. Fantastic read!

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

A Fine Gentleman


A Fine Gentleman
By Sarah M. Eden 

Jason Jonquil provides himself on his good character--he's dignified and refined, ever the gentleman...even if no one seems to fully appreciate him or think him quite equal to his brothers. When Mariposa Thornton arrives in his office, though, she tries his patience and flusters him in ways few people can. He can't wait to figure out Mariposa's matter of an inheritance and send her on her way.
Mariposa has escaped from Spain, having experience horrors in the war with Napoleon. She has come to England hoping that her mother and little brother have come to England as well and settled with her father's family. However, Mariposa doesn't know who her father's relatives are, so she doesn't know how to find them. She doesn't trust anyone, though, so she won't tell Jason what she really needs help with and hides even her true self from him.
While Jason doesn't care for how Mariposa treats him, he also can't abandon his principles--especially those that require him to help a lady--so he reluctantly aids her, and in so doing, she pushes him to reveal parts of himself that he had buried inside, as well as revealing who she truly is.

Sarah Eden rocks. I love her books, and this was no exception. I loved seeing Jason's interactions with Mariposa but also his interactions with his family and especially seeing why he acted the way he did. Mariposa was a bit frustrating in her initial treatment of Jason, but it was also realistic given her past. I loved seeing how they bantered later on, and I loved getting to see other Jonquils (especially Philip and Sorrel) in this book. Can't wait for more books by Sarah Eden!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Condemn Me Not

Condemn Me Not
By Heather B. Moore

In this compelling piece of historical fiction, we read the story of Susannah North Martin as she awaits her trial--and ultimately her death--after being accused of witchcraft. We see the present day (Salem, 1692), interspersed with chapters that show how Susannah falling in love with George Martin and their beginning their life together. Both story lines were fascinating to me; it was very interesting to see how Susannah and the other women being held in jail were "tried" (the trials were a joke) and how they interacted with one another, as well as how each had come to be accused and all the pettiness and politics behind their accusations and convictions. That aspect of the story provided a discussion-worthy look at history. Even more than those parts of the book, though, I loved seeing Susannah and George's meeting and subsequent interactions--and how he had to persuade her to give him a chance. I just loved seeing their love story. It was sweet and funny and I was just totally drawn in by it.
I haven't read ALL of Heather Moore's books, but I've read quite a few (full length and novellas) and this just might be my favorite of all of them. I was just especially eager to see how things played out for Susannah, both in her developing relationship with George and with her trial; even knowing what was ultimately going to happen, I couldn't help but want to know HOW it happened and what would lead up to it.
Really riveting novel. 5 stars.

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

The Vicar's Daughter

The Vicar's Daughter
By Josi S. Kilpack

Cassie, the youngest of the vicar, can't be out in society until her older sister Lenora, makes a match. Frustrated with her sister, who is in her third season and shows no signs of being able to talk to a man, let alone make a match with one, Cassie fears she'll never be able to make a match of her own. So when Lenora expresses interest in Evan Glenside, who has recently risen to the role of heir of a nearby estate, Cassie does something drastic: she begins writing to Evan for Lenora. As they pen letter back and forth, Cassie is drawn to Evan--and when she actually meets him, she realizes it's going to be much harder to help her sister make a match with him when she herself has come to care for him. For his part, Evan enjoys the letters he exchanges with Lenora and he hopes that she will overcome her shyness and display the same personality in person as she has in her letters, but when that doesn't come to pass, he doesn't know what to think.

I was really worried about how this book was going to play out, and if the author went a certain direction, I was sure it was going to ruin the whole book for me. (See spoilers below if you want to know what the plot line that would have ruined it for me was.) Luckily, she didn't, and I liked how things played out. (I might have to go reread it now that I know how it ends so I don't have to be nervous the whole time!) There were times when Cassie was (realistically) frustrating and self-absorbed, but at the same time, I could understand that, since I'd have been totally frustrated in her situation, too. Evan was a terrific male lead; I liked seeing how he'd been raised in a lower class and needed to learn the rules of polite society and how not knowing all the rules compounded the problem he found himself in. I also liked how there's a message of forgiveness and trying to fix things one has done wrong. All in all, a great historical romance.
4.5 stars.

I read an ARC via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.


SPOILERS!!! I would have hated this book if the resolution to the problem had come by having Lenora die. That just would have been really frustrating to me, so I'm happy to report that Lenora is alive and well as the end of the book...and I'm hoping we could actually see her as the protagonist of another book.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Carve the Mark

Carve the Mark
By Veronica Roth

So, I love reading books in series because it means I get to spend more time with characters I love...but I don't always remember what happened in earlier books when the next book in the series is published. So, this post is going to totally have SPOILERS--tons and tons of SPOILERS. I'm going to pretty much summarize the entire plot and tell who's who, so that when the next book comes out, I can look at this post to remind myself of what happened and important details. So, here's my synopsis of Carve the Mark.

The are nine planets orbiting within the currentstream barrier, each with certain things that make it unique. Thuvhe has two groups of people--the Thuvhites and the Shotets. The Shotets, led by the Noavek family, are scavengers who visit other planets and scavenge there and bring back what they find to renew it and make it good again. They are pretty bloodthirsty and they mark their arms with "kills". They are also determined to rule their planet--but the Oracles have proclaimed that Ryzek Noavek is fated to fall to the family Benesit. Like his parents before him, Ryzek is determined to find a way to avoid his fate--although the whole point of a fate is that it is destined, seen in whatever future the Oracles envision, no matter what different scenarios play out.

Each person is given a different gift through the currentstream--and Ryzek, who has been twisted and warped by his tyrannical father, will use whatever means he can to change his fate, including his own currentgift of taking people's memories and replacing them with his, and his sister Cyra's currentgift of hurting--torturing--people by merely touching them. Normally fates aren't publicly known, but when the fates of several people are announced, Ryzek sends soldiers to Thuvhe to capture those who will interfere with his mission.

The Kesreseth family is one Thuvhite family that is attacked. Akos is captured, as is his brother, Eijeh, who is fated to be the next Oracle. Their sister Cisi is spared, but their father is killed, and their mother Sifa (the current oracle) does nothing to stop any of this. Akos and Eijeh are taken to Ryzek, who demands that Eijeh prophesy for him, but Eijeh doesn't know how to use his gift. Akos has been trained as a soldier but then he is given to Cyra as a servant--because his currentgift is interrupts others' gifts, which means if he touches her, she is no longer in constant pain. He is determined to escape and to take Eijeh with him--but once he tries, Ryzek starts taking pieces of Eijeh's memory, replacing them with his own (horrible) memories, until Eijeh is barely recognizable as himself. Cyra has always done what her brother demanded, hurting people, so that he wouldn't tell anyone that she had (accidentally) killed their mother, but as she spends time with Akos, who has a goodness about him and also seems to believe there is something good in her, she refuses to help Ryzek--until he hurts Akos to punish her. From that point on, Cyra is ready to work with rebels and exiles to get Akos away from her brother--even if it means making him go without Eijeh. Cyra tries to lead an assassination attempt, but it fails--and then Ryzek makes her touch Akos (who, in a severely weakend state can't use his currentgift to interrupt her) to torture him. In so doing, though, Cyra, who has never been able to control her gift, resists. She loves Akos and refuses to hurt him, pulling the pain back into herself. When she does so, Akos is rescued by her allies; they take him to Thuvhe, where he meets up with his sister, Cisi, and her friend Isae (who is destined to be the Chancellor that Ryzek falls to) and her twin sister Ori (who keeps her sister safe as very few people know which of them is fated to be the Chancellor--and killing them in the wrong order can change things that people don't want changed). Ori is kidnapped by Shotets, so Cisi, Isae, and Akos go meet up with Jorek, a Shotet rebel (and Cyra's cousin).
Meanwhile, Cyra has been skinned on her face by Vas, her brother's soldier who can't feel pain, and has been challenged to fight him. However, Akos and his allies (including Teka, Jorek, and more) get her out of the arena. Akos has realized he cares for her, too. Sifa joins their group--and Akos has mixed feelings about her, since she didn't protect them and manipulates people sometimes through her visions. Based on Sifa's latest visions, the group decides that Akos and Isae will rescue Ori before Ryzek can assassinate her and that Cyra will publicly challenge Ryzek to a fight that he can't back down from without losing face. Akos, hoping to force Ryzek to restore Eijeh's memories, wants her to keep Ryzke alive, but she says she can't. When Akos and Isae go rescue Ori, she isn't in the prison that Sifa said she was in (Akos kills Vas on the way to get there). Cyra has gotten a reluctant ally, Yma, to poison Ryzek; she makes it look like she stabs him but really he is only unconscious; however, as that happens, Eijeh kills Ori, his former friend and then sort of goes into a trance--possibly affected by Ori's gift (but Akos doesn't know what her gift is). They get Ryzek and Eijeh back to the ship, where Ryzek tells Cyra she's not really his sister and that HIS father (not her father) is still alive.
Isae directs their ship to go to the Assembly, to show them she is alive. Akos, with his mother and sister, and now Cyra, sees that maybe you can get some things back...at least for now.


So, this was a fascinating world to enter. Akos is a likable character; he's good and loyal and he hates hurting people. Cyra is complicated--which is good. She's an excellent character for discussion--is she good? Is she bad? Is she to blame for how she is? etc. (Ryzek and Sifa also make for interesting discussion points.)

This reminds me of Graceling by Kristin Cashore--with special gifts that a wicked ruler uses to maintain power and exploit others. I'm really interested to see where things go in the next book.

4.5 stars.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Valentine's Day Collection

Valentine's Day Collection
 This collection of six Valentine's Day novellas was a lot of fun. Great choice for a light-hearted V-day read.

A Brush with the Law by Janette Rallision
Bethany Daniels thinks that the worst thing that will happen on Valentine's Day is her blind date...and while that could be bad enough, after being pulled over for running a red light and then arrested for a crime she didn't commit (while dressed only in her unmentionables), this Valentine's Day has the potential to go down as the worst in history.
This was a great start to the collection; it totally made me laugh out loud. It was funny but also not so far-fetched as to be unbelievable. As soon as I finished reading this story, I wanted to go back and reread it!

Every Occasion by Heather B. Moore
Maurie Ledbetter has moved back to her hometown--to the home she lived in with her mother before she was removed and placed in foster care. When she calls a local handyman to get some repairs done,she isn't expecting Grant Shelton--her crush from her teenage years. She's happy to see him, and while attraction soon flares up between them, Grant has something to tell Maurie that could derail their relationship before it really gets going.
More serious than the first story in the collection, this was well-written and hopeful, showing how Maurie put a painful past behind her. Grant is a cutie--sweet and serious and an all-around good guy. I liked seeing how things came together for them.

Hold Your Breath by Jenny Proctor
Kayla isn't going to let anything get in the way of her dreams of making the Olympics, so even when she's home for vacation, she's swimming and training every chance she can. But when she runs into her former crush and high school swim teammate, Nate Hanson, she can't deny she's still attracted to him. But getting involved is a risk she just can't take if she wants to achieve her dreams, right?

Another fun read. Pretty light-hearted but also realistic as it shows the dilemma of trying to balance even the good things that life brings.

The Ultimate Bachelor Challenge by Annette Lyon
Sam is just trying to do some laundry in preparation for Valentine's Day--and hopefully, her boyfriend's proposal--but instead, she finds herself crossing paths with Connor Wynn. Connor has reluctantly accepted a challenge for the sake of charity, in which he has to compete with another YouTuber to see who is the ultimate bachelor...which leads him to a laundromat where he meets Sam and gets her involved in completing a couple tasks for the challenge.
This one was a little less appealing to me; there were some elements that seemed a little less believable to me (like, really, her boyfriend did what he does on Valentine's Day? He couldn't have picked any other day to do it?), but Connor was a totally sweetie and Sam is fun and spunky.

Deal Breakers by Heather Tullis When weather strands her in the Denver airport, Colette runs into Drew, a former college friend who she burned bridges with when she dated another guy instead of him. In the day and a half that they're stuck in the airport, they reconnect and find that there's still a spark there--but is it enough to build on?
This one was the weakest story in the collection for me; I felt like the author TOLD about their connection more than actually showing it. And while it's realistic that they'd have a lot of baggage to sort out and talk about, it wasn't super interesting to read about. However, having been stranded in a few airports myself, I can say I wish I'd run into a handsome guy when that happened.

Hey, Helen by Sarah M. Eden
Helen, an advice column writer, is working on her Valentine's Day themed columns, and as usual, her neighbor and best friend Neil, is her sounding board for her ideas. As they talk about Valentine's Day, Neil tries to figure out if there's a good way to tell Helen his feelings for her are more than just friendly.
True to form, Sarah Eden provides great dialogue and humor in this story. She's awesome at including lovable and laughable banter, and this story didn't disappoint.I also loved the low-key approach to V-day in this story.

Another enjoyable collection the Timeless Romance series. I received a free copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 4.5 stars. Clean read.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Season in London (Timeless Regency Romance)


This is a great collection of clean Regency romances.

Poor Relations by Elizabeth Johns
Emma Standrich is having a season in London before becoming a governess, as her family is impoverished and needs her income, especially since the death of her brother, who was a soldier. However, when Colonel Colin Shelton, her brother's superior officer, dances with her a ball, her prospects change. While Emma's main goal for her season was to try to find out what really happened with her brother's death, she soon finds herself with an offer of marriage. This was the weakest novella of the three; I just felt like it wasn't as smooth or developed as the other two. While I liked the mystery aspect as Emma tried to figure out the truth behind her brother's death and who she could trust, the romance was good have been developed better; I felt like it didn't really show developing feelings very well and wish there had been more to show how they came to care for each other.

Edward & Emily by Heather B. Moore
Edward is recently returned home, as his brother has died and he is now the heir to the family estate. His neighbor Emily, whom he knew but pretty much ignored in favor of his books as a child, has recently experienced the death of her father. While Edward returned home reluctantly, and he participates in the social events his mother has planned even more reluctantly, when he becomes reacquainted with Emily, he finds that perhaps London has more to offer than he expected.
This was a delightful story. I liked the letters that Emily and Edward exchanged and the humor in them, as well as the growing friendship, trust, and affection they showed.

A Sporting Season by Rebecca Connelly
Daphne Hutchins absolutely does not want a season in London. Forced by her parents anyway, she is determined to do all that she can--short of completely ruining herself--to make sure she receives no offers. So she wears dresses completely out of style, refuses to dance, and makes impolite conversation, which should ensure an unsuccessful season. But instead, Jamie Woodbridge is completely entranced by her and courts her (without her consent but to her parents' complete delight), even though Daphne tries to push him away. As determined as she is to achieve her goal, Daphne can't help but be drawn to him.
This was my favorite of the three novellas. There were laugh-out-loud moments, great banter between Daphne and Jamie, and totally sweet moments as well. Daphne was spunky and determined and well-developed, and Jamie was dreamy. I really, really liked this story.

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

4.5 stars. Clean Read.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Moonbow Night

A Moonbow Night
Laura Frantz

Temperance (Tempe) Tucker and her family built and run an inn on the Shawnee River. Tempe does what she can to help her mother, brother, and father (who frequently goes into hiding since he's wanted in Virginia for a crime), but she can't help but long for death, to join her beloved fiancé James, who was killed in an Indian attack a few years before. Sion Morgan is a surveyor, charged with charting out Kentucke, but with Indians on the warpath (encouraged by the British), he has to change course. Determined to still do some surveying, he needs a guide. Tempe has no desire to be his guide, but, forced to do so by her family, she guides Sion and his group, and as she does so, she and Sion--who has known tragedy of his own--come to find hope and peace in one another.

I haven't read many books from this time period, so it was a little bit hard for me to get into the book at first--I wasn't used to the language, wasn't familiar with the geography, and didn't really know anything about surveying or early settlers in the Kentucke region. Some genres, settings, and time periods, I can just slip comfortably into, but that wasn't the case here. But that's okay! If you're not familiar with it either, and are tempted to give up reading it, don't! It's totally worth sticking it out. It was a really interesting time to learn more about. It's very richly detailed and really helps the reader envision what the time was like, showing day-to-day life and the very real dangers and struggles, alongside the hopes and dreams, of the characters. Tempe is smart, resourceful, and so competent, all things I really liked about her, and Sion, the strong, silent, determined type, which made me love him. Really fascinating book.

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

4 stars. Clean read.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

An Ocean Away

An Ocean Away
Heather B. Moore 

Gina Graydon loves romance novels, and she can't help but wish for a romantic hero to sweep her off her feet. But as the daughter of a wealthy and ruthless businessman, anyone who might possibly have wanted to court her has been scared off by her father. While vacationing in France, though, she meets Edmund Donaldson, who has all the makings of a romantic hero...and who, unfortunately, is being sued by her father and is the last man her father would allow near her.

Gina just made me laugh, with sneaking out of her hotel via her balcony and the things that she would blurt out. This was a fun read, although I wish it were longer so we could see more of the developing feelings between the characters!
4 stars. Clean read.


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

Monday, January 16, 2017

Rescue Me

Rescue Me
Susan May Warren

Deputy Sam Brooks, a member of the PEAK rescue squad, can't forgive himself for not saving his father from freezing to death--or his brother Pete for his role in their father's death. He's determined not to lose anyone else. He's dependable, solid--not at all like Pete. Sam's just the right sort of guy for Sierra Rose, who is just as responsible as he is. Willow Rose, Sierra's free-spirited, tenderhearted younger sister, knows that Sam and Sierra are perfect for each other, so she's determined not to let her feelings for Sam show or grow. But when Sam and Willow, along with the new youth pastor and a few members of the youth group, are in an accident that leaves them wounded and lost in stormy weather, Sam has to reevaluate who he can depend on and who he really needs in his life.

There's a lot action and adventure in this story. The search and rescue work is really interesting. Willow is totally sweet and good-hearted, the sort of character I just can't help pulling for. Sam is broken and hurting, in ways he doesn't even realize, and I liked seeing his journey toward healing. There is an almost dizzying number of characters, and early on in the book it was a little hard to keep track of who was who and what all the back story was (probably especially because I haven't read the first book in the series), and that slowed the book down for me initially, but things picked up before too long. One thing that bothered me is that we see quite a bit of Pete and Jess, the girl he's falling for, but there isn't any resolution for them in the book--and since the next book in the series doesn't have them as the main characters, I'm a little worried if we're really going to see that resolution in a future book or not!

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

Sunday, January 8, 2017

P.S. I Like You

P.S. I Like You
By Kasie West


Lily dreads chemistry--until she ends up exchanging notes with someone who totally seems to get her. They have the same taste in music and they can both banter back and forth and open up their hearts to each other. Lily both wants to know who he is--maybe he's even her crush, Lucas--and doesn't want to know, in case it ruins everything.
This book was just delightful. I felt like Lily was well-developed and realistic, and I enjoyed her quirkiness and sense of humor. I liked the other characters, too, and the letters back and forth were so fun to read--sweet and funny and special. I've really enjoyed all of Kasie West's books and can't wait for more.
4.5 stars.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Miles McHale, Tattletale

Miles McHale, Tattletale
By Christianne C. Jones and Elina Ellis

Miles McHale is excellent at tattling--he does it ALL the time. When his teacher decides to have a contest to see which team can tattle the least, Miles is NOT an asset to his team. He has a difficult time figuring out when it's okay to tattle and when it's not. But as he keeps practicing, then it starts to click.

This is an adorable way to address a problem that lots of kids have. The illustrations are super cute; I love them. The text is fun, and it's realistic to see how Miles struggles to understand when it's tattling and when it's helpful. The little rhymes to help know when to tell and when not to tattle are helpful. This is a book I'm sure I'll read over and over with my kids!

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

4.5 stars.

Daddy Long Legs

Daddy Long Legs
By Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aurelie Guillerey
Matthew's dad's green car has a little trouble starting in the morning, so Mathew is worried about how he'll get home from school. His dad quickly reassures him that he'll use whatever means available--the neighbor's red tractor, two bunnies to hop under his feet, a green dragon, etc.--to pick him up from school. And if all else fails, he provides an answer that lets Matthew know Daddy won't leave him at school.

I loved the message of this book, how his dad will find a way to take care of him. It's sweet and reassuring and will make kids laugh while at the same time, provide the reassurance they need that they won't be left behind. The illustrations aren't my personal favorite (I prefer a more realistic style), but I think kids will enjoy them as well.
4 stars.
I read a copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Squiggly Story

A Squiggly Story
By Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery

A little boy sees his sister writing stories and wants to be able to do the same--but he doesn't know how to write words yet. His sister encourages him to start with a single letter, so he does, and from there, he finds that he CAN write a story, just using what he does know.

I loved this book; it totally reminded me of my three-year-old twins, who like to "write" even though don't really know how; but they will scribble down a bunch of letters, lines, squiggles, etc. and then proceed to tell me all about what it says. So, this book really struck home with me; it was realistic and also sweet to see how the sister encouraged her little brother and how he was able to find his voice, so to speak.
5 stars.
I read a copy through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.