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Yvette - Bookworlder

Just a middle-brow reader who loves a good story, recipe or how-to.

 

The California Gold Rush Collection (review)

The California Gold Rush Romance Collection: 9 Stories of Finding Treasures Worth More than Gold - Linda Farmer Harris, Jaime Jo Wright, Amanda Barratt, Pam Hillman, Jennifer Rogers Spinola, Anne-Marie Greene, Cynthia Hickey, Angela Bell, Dianne  Christner

It is no secret that I love these Bride Collections from Barbour. I pick which ones I want to read based on the theme and, usually, a single author that I already know and enjoy. In this case, it was solely an author that had me requesting an ebook through NetGalley. Having previously enjoyed Angela Bell's contribution to the Lassoed By Marriage Romance Collection, I was excited to see what she would do for the Gold Rush theme and how she would take it to England and add her signature twist with well-researched steam based technology. Her story, The Best Man in Brookside, was definitely a favorite as Irishman Donovan returns to England with his fortune in gold, determined to care for his sister and exact revenge on Sophia, the Englishwoman who blackened his name in the village of Brookside. I especially enjoyed how his accent bled into the third person narrative whenever it was focused on his point of view.

 

As with this story, my two other favorites also took us away from the actual mining. Jamie Joe Wright gives us a wounded soiled dove and a rich man on a mission to transform the ghost town she inhabits. Dianne Christner treats the reader to a rough and tumble Clementine whose father hires the Last Resort Traveling Etiquette School to refine her after a potential suitor’s rejection. The other stories continue to entertain with a variety of settings and characters. Amanda Barratt's story tells of two newspaper editors unwittingly in competition for the same promotion. Anne Greene sets her story of a marriage broker determined not to wed and a mortician in Eureka, California. Linda Farmer Harris features a banker and a fugitive, Cynthia Hickey a newspaperman/artist/preacher and a woman forced to masquerade as a boy, and Jennifer Rogers Spinola adds a bit of diversity with her story of Chinese immigrants. In the one story that actually had me saying “Awww,” Pam Hillman takes us into the wilds of California Territory with a surveyor and a cartographer.

 

Overall, another solid collection from Barbour that is entertaining and a satisfying romance read with nine Happily Ever Afters. Definitely would make my top 10, if not top 5 of the Bride Collections I’ve read so far.

 

This review refers to a review ebook copy I read for free, courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own. My original, unedited review can be read at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-1CK

The Loyal Heart by Shelley Shepard Gray

The Loyal Heart (A Lone Star Hero's Love Story) - Shelley Shepard Gray

A bit of mystery, peril, a widow in need and men of honor, along with an interesting secondary cast of characters.  This romance is lovely and heart-felt, and I loved every minute of this story, surprisingly even the POW camp flash-back scenes. What stood out most for me, though, was how well Miranda's depression was portrayed, along with the way the story highlighted the continued importance of reputation in the post-Civil War Reconstruction years.

 

I am so looking forward to An Uncommon Protector, the second Lone Star Hero's Love Story, in early 2017 and I highly recommend The Loyal Heart for those who enjoy a story of regained hope, faith, and love.

 

This review refers to a free review copy received from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan's Fiction Guild.  All opinions expressed are my own. My full, unedited review can be read at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-1AE

Kid Artists by David Stabler and Doogie Horner (illustr.)

Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends (Kid Legends) - David Stabler, Doogie Horner

Kid Artists does a fantastic job of introducing a variety of artists to young readers.  Divided into three sections, the artists included are from a variety of backgrounds and styles. I was particularly pleased with the inclusion of Canadian artist Emily Carr, whose home I toured on a visit to Victoria, B.C.

 

Each artist's mini-biography starts in childhood and continues on to show the effects of their early circumstances and experiences on their adult lives and artistic careers.  Written in a very accessible manner, the illustrations stand out as a compliment to the text and for the humor that they add.  

 

Recommended for intermediate to middle grade readers (or their parents & educators) who enjoy learning about other people’s lives, and especially for those who are aspiring artists.

 

This review refers to a free review copy received from the publisher.  All opinions expressed are my own. My full, original review may be read at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-1y1

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell

Into the Free - Julie Cantrell

Julie Cantrell has created a 9 year old narrator in Millie Reynolds that has me feeling for her now very nearly the same as I remember feeling for Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird when I first read it over 30 years ago.

 

Millie as a nine year old is charming, and a gateway into a childhood that is filled with the wonder of hearing trees sing and helping an older neighbor, Sloth (whose nickname slowly grew on me and greatly formed how I imagine him) care for his chickens.  

As the story moves forward, we leap to Millie as a sixteen year old experiencing her first romance as well as further tragedies.  

 

This is an intense story, filled with raw emotion.  The poverty, violence and utter desolation that Millie endures makes the conclusion all the sweeter.  Instead of pitying her for her circumstances, I found much to admire in her continued refusal to be a victim and ability to find her faith after all that occurs. 

 

 

Highly recommended for those who enjoy a strong heroine, first person narrative, and raw but wonderful stories set during the 1930's and early 1940's.  I'm looking forward to reading more of Millie's story in book 2, When Mountains Move.

 

(Full review published at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-1v6)

 

No Way Up (The Cimarron Legacy #1) by Mary Connealy

No Way Up (The Cimarron Legacy) - Mary Connealy

No Way Up starts with a bang (well, more of a rumble) as an avalanche sets up the circumstances that drive much of the plot for the story that follows.

 

Heath Kincaid is a very likable character, as he saves the Boden patriarch and investigates the cause of the avalanche. Sadie, a gratifyingly spunky heroine, is grateful to him for saving her father and is quick to join him in his attempts to reach Skull Mesa. As Heath calls on skills he learned growing up near caves in Colorado (reading Connealy’s Kincaid Brides trilogy is not necessary to read this novel, but you sure might want to after), he and Sadie both go through a time of personal and spiritual growth as they come to terms with the bossiness of older brothers and their attraction to each other.

 

It is in little moments that are part of the forming of Sadie and Heath's relationship that I found a majority of the humor in this particular novel. This was most notable in the utterly charming moments of Heath's embarrassment.

 

I enjoyed the return of characters from the prequel novella as well as new characters. In particular, I appreciated the way native characters were portrayed in a manner that seemed, to my limited knowledge, authentic and respectful.

 

I would easily classify the Mary Connealy books I've previously read as Christian Historical Fiction and, as the author herself describes them, "comedies with cowboys." In this novel, however, I saw less of the comedy. Instead, the thought that struck me quite quickly is that this is a Western. Not just historical fiction set in the Old West, but a Western with a capital W, so...

 

Recommended for those who enjoy Westerns set in the 1800's, with clean romance and a bit of humor included. I also recommend that you read the novella, The Boden Birthright, prior to reading this novel. It is currently available as a free ebook.

 

This (edited, full version at bookworlder.wordpress.com) review refers to a free review copy, courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Reading progress update: I've read 16 out of 240 pages.

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History - Sam Maggs

Oh, I was so hopeful but this is not getting off to a good start. 

Maybe it will improve? 

The Things We Knew by Catherine West (review)

The Things We Knew - Catherine West

Occasionally I read a book that I need to wait to review, to put some distance between the story and the emotions it evoked in me so that I can talk about it coherently (read: not tear up thinking about it).  I read mainly for enjoyment and partly as an escape.  I read books that amuse, touch or inspire, that make me cry or laugh out loud.  Rarely, though, do I read a book of fiction that breaks my heart into little pieces.  This is the only way I can think to describe what this book did.  As I read it, my heart was slowly breaking for Lynette, Nick and to a lesser extent for the whole Carlisle family.

 

This could easily be brushed aside as just another story of a romance where a man and a woman who had secretly had crushes on each other meet again as adults, but there is so much more to it than that.  This is a story about responsibility, about family that is born and family that is made, it is about memories and how they can protect or harm, and about secrets and addictions.  It is also about coming home, healing, and the love and faith that helps see them through.

 

Catherine West has crafted a story and a strong cast of characters that grab hold of the reader and don't let go.  The relationships and individual struggles of the five siblings, and with Nick as an honorary sibling in childhood, were compelling and (having four siblings myself) quite believable.  The atmosphere/feel of the novel is a little bit Grey Gardens, a little bit Places in the Heart, and brings to mind the feel of the first few episodes of the TV show Parenthood... then again, it is nothing like them.

 

Easily one of my favorite books of the year, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  I often say, when I enjoy a book, that I am looking forward to reading more from the author.  Here I will say that I need to read more from Catherine West.  I need to know the stories of the other Carlisle siblings and Wyldwood, their Nantucket family home.

 

This review refers to an ebook copy received from BookLook Bloggers for review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  

Brian and Wendy Froud's The Pressed Fairy Journal of Madeline Cottington - Wendy Froud, Brian Froud

Like Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, a copy of which I owned in the early 1990's and am not sure where it has gone, this is a mix of photos, ephemera, and fabulous illustrations. The psychic imprints (pressings) of fairies are whimsical, ranging from the expected girl with wings and pointy ears to the nearly goblinesque, bringing to mind other work by Brian Froud (especially for those of us who might have an inordinate amount of affection for movies such as Labyrinth, just as an example). The illustrations and images are well suited to the text by Wendy Froud, consisting of her delightful forward, Madeline Cottington's journal entries( both 'handwritten' and typed) as she discovers fairies and her heritage, notes between early 20th century Cottington twins, and even a letter from THE Lady Cottington. In retrospect, the forward might even be my favorite part of the book's text.

 

This book holds great appeal for those who enjoy the eccentric and fantastic world of the Frouds and the aesthetics of fey and somewhat steampunk worlds. While I do enjoy the photographs that are included, and in particular their allusions to the original photographs of the "Cottingley fairies," the majority of those depicting the early 1900's feel too similar to those of the modern Maddi. This does not, however, detract from the amusement they provide.

 

Recommended. This is a quick, enjoyable read.  Reading the previous, related books is not a prerequisite, but you may very well find yourself wanting to read them all afterward.

 

The full review, including a few quotes, was previously posted at bookworlder.wordpress.com.  This review refers to a finished copy (available for pre-order prior to it's Sept 27, 2016 publication date) won in a First-Reads giveaway on GoodReads, from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.

Her One and Only by Becky Wade (Porter Family #4)

Her One and Only - Becky Wade

This is the fourth book in Becky Wade’s Porter Family series and there may be some spoilers if read first, including one particularly touching secondary storyline. But not reading the other books (and not being a football fan) did not stop me from thoroughly enjoying this story of a former bad girl turned Marine turned bodyguard and the football player (emphasis on player) she is assigned to protect.

 

If I had read the prior books, which seem to have taken place years before this one, I probably would have been a bit less confused in some of the scenes that included Dru’s family (though what’s not to love about a big fictional family that includes some overprotective, bossy older brothers who are all Cowboys fans and dislike Gray's team). I felt I was missing a lot of background and could not always keep the characters and their relationships to Dru straight.

 

One of the aspects that I really appreciated about this book was the faith journeys of the main characters. While the interplay between Gray and Dru (just thinking of the nicknames they give each other – especially “Big Football Hero” – makes me want to chuckle) is great fun to read, where their story really shines is in the ways they help each other face their pasts and heal. Dru’s conversion story and the message that “sin to a lesser degree is still sin” gave me a bit of a pause. Introspection is not something I expect to come from a contemporary romance, but it is a pleasant surprise when it does.

 

Recommended. Becky Wade infused this story with a mix of action, romance, humor and heartache that has me wanting to read the rest of the Porter Family series.

 


This review refers to a review copy provided by the publisher, Bethany House.  It is a slightly edited version of the original from my blog, where it includes some fun little quotes.

For Such A Time As This by Ginny Aiken

— feeling sad
For Such a Time as This - Ginny Aiken

If you like the idea of an Esther retelling set in 1870's Oregon, this might be an enjoyable read for you. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the writing style and found the story and characters to have less depth than I was hoping for. Saddest of all, it just wasn't memorable.

 

I always hesitate to give negative reviews. If the premise appeals to you, and you enjoy the writing style, then give it a go!

Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd (review)

Dawn at Emberwilde (A Treasures of Surrey Novel) - Sarah E. Ladd

What a joy this book was to read! I had no expectations going into it, and was hooked from the outset. We are quickly introduced to Isabel Creston, 20 years old, living at a school whose rules she cannot quite seem to follow and immediately bringing to mind Jane Eyre and Lowood School. But Isabel is the guardian of her 8 year old half-sister Lizzie and does not get to go off to a governess position. Instead, she is taken in by relatives and some of the more Regency/Jane Austen aspects of the story (could the Aunt start off being any more Austen mother-ish?) begin to appear.

 

One would think this would brighten the story, and it does to some extent, but the gothic elements abound as Isabel discovers on her journey to and life at her Aunt and Uncle's home of Emberwilde Hall. The forest in particular is a place no young lady should venture, but venture there she does and, again reminiscent of Jane Eyre and other gothic tales, meets with mischief while, in the more Austen-esque feeling portions of the novel, considering the advantages and desirability (or lack thereof) of more than one eligible male.

 

The villains are a bit dastardly, not everyone is quite who they appear to be, the heroine is likable and the hero is a man she can admire.

 

Highly recommended for those who like slightly rebellious Regency heroines, Gothic story elements, and thoroughly enjoyable Historical Christian Romance.

 

Review copy provided by The Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson, publisher.

The Progeny by Tosca Lee (review)

The Progeny: A Novel (Descendants of the House of Bathory) - Tosca Lee

The Progeny is a thriller with some paranormal aspects (progeny have a particular ability and the Scion who hunt them are resistant to it), a bit of humor (“Vampires aren’t real” cracked me up), and a few nifty twists that kept me guessing. The story is told in first person. The reader learns about the three orders as Emily does, lending more immediacy to the action and the things she discovers. Racing around a European countryside and journeying through the royal “courts” of the Progeny, we are along for quite a ride as Emily must decide who to trust.

 

I would class this novel as New Adult, it has a YA vibe with primarily adult characters and adult themes. The cos-play rave nature of the “courts” was an interesting element, but definitely added to the new adult/YA feel. Other parts of the story were decidedly more adult, and one particular element would give me pause if I wanted to quibble about a morally questionable choice. However, none of this detracts from the fact that this is a thoroughly readable and enjoyable suspense thriller.

Miriam by Mesu Andrews (review)

Miriam: A Treasures of the Nile Novel - Mesu Andrews

Using Miriam as the main character and including others who were barely mentioned, this is a very interesting new take on the story of the Israelites and their Exodus from Egypt.

 

I did have an issue with language use seeming too modern and complex at times. The characterization of Miriam as a prophetess with almost a running conversation with "her" El-Shaddai (God) who becomes resentful, jealous, and petty when she feels supplanted by her returning younger brother, was believable but difficult to reconcile. A lesser issue was the one-dimensional nature of some secondary and tertiary characters.

 

When Moses returns he is a veritable stranger to her, and brings some revelations that seem a bit radical to Miriam (such as a new name for her El-Shaddai), but to the reader he seems very real and very human. This aspect of the story was handled so well by the author, that Moses does not take over the story. It remains firmly Miriam's.

 

The sub-plot of Miriam's nephew Eleazar, a royal guard, and Taliah, a young woman who comes under his protection, added interest and another perspective to the story. It is through Eleazar that the reader sees the engrained, callous cruelty of the Egyptian court along with some of the reactions and repercussions of Moses' audiences and the ten plagues.

 

As a fleshed-out imagining of the Exodus, this is an interesting read. As a story of an older woman struggling to come to terms with changes that are beyond her control, and the loss of a presence she took for granted in her life, it is possibly even more interesting. Recommended for those who enjoy biblical retellings, especially those that focus on the less well-known participants in the story.


This review refers to an Advance Reading Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

River Rest by Susan Page Davis (review)

River Rest - Susan Page Davis

This isn't the typical plucky heroine storyline often found in the romance genre. Rather, it is a story of a reserved young woman dealing with grief and the responsibilities of keeping her family and family farm together as, with her father giving in to his grief and her brother drafted into the army, they fall more and more on her shoulders. More on the plucky side is her 18 year old sister. As much as Judith tries to guide her with the moral teachings of their mother, this is 1918 and great change is sweeping over the world as the end of World War I approaches - and this is shown through the younger sister's attitudes and disregard for the more traditional societal expectations that Judith feels bound by.

 

Part of what gives this such an authentic feel is the descriptions of early 1900's farm life, as the Chadbourne's harvest apples and complete various other chores. Another aspect is the pacing and plot development, both of which help this story feel a bit like a non-fiction narrative at times. In particular, this is felt in the evolution of Ben Thayer from an older friend of Judith's brother and a neighbor that she is both curious about and frightened by to a possible love interest.

 

An interesting, ultimately heart-warming and satisfying story. A quick read for those who enjoy historical fiction based on real people and true events.

 

My thanks to the author, who provided an ebook copy of River Rest for my honest review.

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer

No Other Will Do - Karen Witemeyer

Karen Witemeyer never disappoints and this latest novel is her at top form - I could feel the confidence and skill of the writer. One of the things that stood out to me are the fantastic chapter endings that kept me wanting to read more. I adored this book - the plot, the pacing, the characters. The heroine is relatable, the hero is crush-worthy, the mystery is well paced and had me guessing a bit.

 

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and is a new favorite. A wonderful blend of action, romance and faith. I only hate that I have to wait to read the next Ladies of Harper's Station book.

 

This review refers to a copy given to me by the publisher, in return for an honest review.

Sea Rose Lane : A Hope Harbor Novel by Irene Hannon (review)

Sea Rose Lane: A Hope Harbor Novel - Irene Hannon

There are certain things I expect from Christian Fiction.  Good writing, an interesting premise and plot, a touching story (not always heartwarming, but definitely touching), and characters at different places in their faith or lack thereof.  I had heard praise being heaped on Irene Hannon's novel that preceded this one, so I had high hopes that all of these expectations would be met.  They were.

 

While we are still given the usual for romance - beautiful heroine and hunky hero fighting their attraction, for a while and then unsuccessfully, because of their past/circumstances -  what I really enjoyed was seeing them helping others.  This is a romance novel, but it is also wrapped around stories of hope lost and restored.  For me, the lasting impression will be of people whose lives take unexpected turns, forcing them to reassess their values, their thinking, and the direction that they thought their lives should go.

While a few of the secondary characters (including a local seal with bad timing) feel like they are/will be reoccurring in the Hope Harbor novels, Eleanor and especially Luis are much of what gives this story much of its depth.  While the resolution of their story-lines may not be unexpected, having them roll out at a realistic pace is gratifying.  

 

Also gratifying is seeing a portrayal of people of different races and denominations, and at different places in their faith, interact in primarily positive ways.  Self reflection and realization, of faith and of prejudices, are handled in a way that feels straightforward and genuine.  

 

Recommended for those who enjoy clean romances that feel a bit authentic and subtly go a little deeper.  

 

This review was originally posted on bookworlder.wordpress.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”