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Yvette - Bookworlder

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

 

Annabel Lee: A Coffey & Lee Novel by Mike Nappa (review)

Annabel Lee (Coffey & Hill) - Mike Nappa

I never thought I would want to gush about a thriller, but this hit an unknown sweet spot for me. Action, suspense, a child in jeopardy, evil bad guys with many minions, heroes and a heroine that you want to root for.

 

As much as I want to gush, I don't want to be the one to spoil any of the suspense, so I will simply share a few of the things that are not too plot related.

 

The story is told from three points of view, with only Annabel's being in first person. Annabel lives on a farm in Peachtree, Alabama. She is months away from her twelfth birthday, and has been home schooled by her uncle. When she is left in the bunker with the guard dog, she does not understand why. We experience this through her eyes.

 

Trudi Coffey has a degree in English lit but now works as a private investigator. Her part of the narrative is told in third person, and it is in her sections that we get to know Samuel Lee, her ex-husband (a descriptor that she generally follows up mentally with "the pig.") and former business partner.

 

The third perspective is that of an Iraq veteran known as The Mute. Also told in third person, it is primarily in his sections that we learn more about Leonard Truckson's past. Having his perspective was a surprise to me, and I am so glad that the author chose to let us into his head.

 

If this had been an action movie rather than a book, I think that the portrayal of the villains might have gone over the top - as they often seem to do when the characters are of Middle Eastern or German origins. Here, while they are extreme characters, the author seems to have used enough restraint that they are not overblown.

 

The characters are interesting, the storyline compelling, and the action is riveting. I read this straight through with a few necessary breaks to eat and sleep. The resolution is satisfying and everything is wrapped up nicely, including a much appreciated epilogue.
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This is an edited version of the review originally published on bookworlder.wordpress.com at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-1iz

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.”

Storm Siren by Mary Weber (review)

Storm Siren - Mary Weber

Storm Siren is a story of a young woman with extraordinary and uncontrolled powers, enslaved, vilified and blamed for deaths that occur around her. When she is bought by Adora, a scheming and lecherous court advisor, she is thrown into a political world that she may not survive. Training as both a spy and a weapon, she manages to form tentative friendships with a blind servant with a curious accent that is singular to her in the story, Breck, and her brother, Colin. Nym and Colin, a cheerful, likeable big guy with Terrene powers, are trained by the more mysterious Eogan. Eogan is clearly a love interest nearly from his introduction, an aspect I found to be handled very well throughout the story.

 

Nym is nearly everything you look for in a YA heroine. She is smart, tough, and loyal. She is beautiful but not perfect, with a physical handicap courtesy of a former owner. I love how filled with wonder she is when she sees the Valley of Origin (which I'm hoping will be revisited in more detail in book 2 or 3 of the trilogy). What I don't like, though it makes sense in the context of the story, is that she practices self-harm in reaction to her feelings of guilt over deaths she feels she has caused. Having known some individauls who had past issues with cutting, it threw me out of the story each time as I wondered what their reactions would be to reading this.

 

I enjoyed all of the fantasy aspects to this story. Nym's talent as an Elemental, Colin's more earthbound Terrene abilities, Eogan's abilities, the lore of the Draewolf, even the flesh-eating warhorses. While there were a few instances where an unfortunate word choice would stop me in my reading tracks, I quickly forgave them as the language of a fantasy world often has quirks that take getting used to. And there are some fantastic words, among them 'bolcrane,' both the name of a beast and almost a swear word.

 

Thankfully the political machinations weren't too detailed or overdone and the world-building was more of a slow reveal, which works so much better for me than huge passages of info-dumping. I also appreciated that the font changed when a chapter started out with one of Nym's nightmares.

 

Though not all are unexpected, the twists and turns do keep you on your toes. The writing and plot keep you wanting to read on and the ending - oh, that ending! It may not be an original device, but it took my breath away. Well done, Mary Weber! I'm almost afraid to start book 2, Siren's Fury...almost.

 

Highly recommended for those who enjoy fantasy, somewhat impudent first person narration, political intrigue, traveller's carnivals, powers that are difficult to control, friendship and betrayal, triumphs and heartbreak, the question of good versus evil, and a powerful slave girl who begins in abject misery only to find herself fighting alongside kings.

 

This review was originally posted with a few brief quotes from the book on my blog, bookworlder. wordpress.com

The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter

The Convenient Groom  - Denise Hunter

If you enjoy a marriage of convenience story and are looking for a quick, light, beach worthy read - this is it!  Kate is a neat-freak, overly organized, type A personality made sympathetic through circumstances and a sad childhood backstory.  Lucas is, well, he's just downright charming and has his own bit of sad backstory to boot.

 

Lucas is a bit of a knight in shining armor, rescuing a suddenly vulnerable Kate from the public humiliation and professional devastation of being a jilted bride.  What Kate doesn't know is that he's been in love with her for three years - and that he is a "messy" (her moment of realization is pretty amusing).  Some of the fun of this particular story is how opposite they are, and how opposed to this sort of match Dr. Kate is in her counseling practice and in her book - also fun is having a quote from her book at the start of each chapter.

 

Along with the fun aspects, there are also the parts meant to be touching.  And those parts are treated with a light touch, but do serve to make the characters more sympathetic and add dimension to the main and some secondary characters.  I must admit that I did tear up at one point - I mention this because if a book is meant to be touching and I don't tear up at all, then it has pretty much failed in that regard.

 

A marriage of convenience story in the romance genre generally has some foregone conclusions, and the enjoyment for the reader comes in the journey to that happy ending. In the case of Christian fiction, it is also their faith journey, which is nicely done here.

 

This is a sweetly satisfying read.  I often think of these sorts of books as brain candy, and cotton candy is what comes to mind for The Convenient Groom. Spun sugar at the beach.  4/5 stars

 

This review was originally posted on my blog, bookworlder.wordpress.com

 

 

Review: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

My Best Friend's Exorcism: A Novel - Grady Hendrix

For the nostalgia factor, this is a really fun read.  The author takes us through the friendship between Gretchen and Abby, beginning at a fifth grade roller skating party through to the present day, all framing the pivotal events (see the title) in their high school years.  And he gets it right.  He gets adolescent girl friendships right.  

 

Hendrix nails the 1980's nostalgia, up to and including some of the absurdity.  And I could love this book for that, but then there is the horror factor.  That, for me, is where it gets squidgy.  It wasn't over the top, but there was still enough that (even though I could see some of the humor in it) I was not comfortable with those aspects.  Even more so than his prior novel, Horrorstor.  And perhaps that is part of what the horror genre is supposed to do.  Make you uncomfortable and mess with your mind a little bit.

 

So, fun and nostalgia for the win, drugs and demonic possession for the - uh, no!  not going there.  But then there is the use of 1980's song titles as perfectly matched chapter titles, and I'm back to nostalgia.  I guess, in reviewing this book, I have to go with the slightly generic feeling summary of "I enjoyed the writing, but not all of the subject matter."  I don't see myself rereading this one, demons just aren't my thing. 3/5 stars 

 

 

This review was previously posted on my WordPress blog at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-19Q and refers to an Advance Readers Copy from Uncorrected Proofs received for free from the publisher.  I received this book through a SnapChat post, with no stated requirements for reviewing.  Here it is, however, with only my honest opinion. And honestly, I sometimes think that the things I don't like about a book in this genre are exactly what people who like horror probably enjoy about it.

Review: Playing the Part by Jen Turano

Playing the Part - Jen Turano

This was my first Jen Turano and, oh my word, it will not be my last!  Featuring some of my favorite things about historical christian romance, including the trifecta of faith/romance/humor, with unexpected twists on the hero and heroine.  Two people wary of being pursued for the wrong reasons, Lucetta Plum is a popular stage actress trying to avoid an overzealous fan and Bram Haverstein is the son of a wealthy family (with a few secrets hidden away on his gothic estate, Ravenswood) trying to avoid overzealous mamas.

 

I did not expect to like Lucetta, but she quickly won me over by being quite up front with two things: first, she has no interest in being fawned over and second, she is not the weepy, delicate creature that those fawning fans expect her to be.  Bram, in contrast, has a tendency to play the knight in shining armor, wanting to rush to the rescue.  This partly expresses itself in his employment of a group of riffraff, former petty thieves, and assorted lower class people.

 

Along with this rag-tag group of questionably reformed individuals, we are treated to another group of secondary characters led by Lucetta's bodyguard and Bram's grandmother, Abigail, who has a diabolical need to match-make and to outfit Lucetta (and the heroine's from the two previous books) in Worth gowns.  Rounding out this cast of secondary characters is a plethora of rescued animals, and one skirt-chasing, irascible goat.

 

I was a bit hesitant to give Jen Turano's books a try, but I was sucked in when the opening page made me think of one of the episodes of The Walton's that had the most impact on me as a child.  The first line of the book instantly brought to mind the scene where Mary Ellen and Erin, sharing a room in a boarding house, are told that their father has come to visit. When they open the door, it is actually Erin's boss paying a visit with lecherous intentions, unaware that she shares the room with her sister.

While some of Bram's secrets are no secret to the reader, it was great fun waiting for them to be revealed - and picturing the efforts to keep them concealed.  Two sweet romances add amusing secondary story-lines and the "ghosts" of Bram's castle help with the dramatic tension of the main story.

 

A light, fun read.  I would recommend it for those who enjoy historical and/or inspirational romance with a dash of danger, a dash of humor, and a lively cast of characters.  3.5/5 stars with potential for the author to become a favorite.

 

This review was originally published on my blog, with a few quotes, at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-15F  and is based on a review copy received for free from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Farwalker's Quest by Joni Sensel

The Farwalker's Quest - Joni Sensel

This is a Middle Grade fantasy set in a world that has changed since the "Blind War," though it is unclear if this is our world or another.  At twelve, there is a NamingTest that each child takes to see if they will apprentice in their chosen vocation and take a new last name such as Healtouch or Treesinger, or spend a year as a Fool.  When Ariel fails her Healtouch test, and is kidnapped by two Finders, the harrowing journey to discover her true vocation begins.

 

I like to keep my eye out for interesting Middle Grade fiction, especially those that feature a strong female heroine and/or a good model of friendship.  On those accounts, this is a pretty good choice.  I also look for good writing, and while I did pause a bit over an awkward sentence or two, this is a pretty good choice in that aspect as well.  

 

One of my main issues with this book is with how the relationship between the main character, Ariel, and one of the strangers who kidnaps her develops.  Having a seemingly bad character become not so bad after all is fine, having a kidnapper become a sort of father figure is not so fine in my opinion.  However, I can appreciate how the story is constructed and the plot is moved forward with this as an integral part.  

 

As an adult reading a Middle Grade book, I enjoyed the story once I got past the almost literally tree-hugging magic that is first introduced.  The magic seems to be based on a kind of animism and has references to "the Essence" and Beltane.  I appreciated that the book description of Zeke being his friend Ariel's rescuer was not the focus of the story, nor is it completely accurate.  I also appreciated that the story included more nuanced characters than other Middle Grade fantasy I've read, and that the typical storyline of a right of passage test was used but did not devolve in the way many recent YA treatments of this have.

 

For an adult reader, this is a quick, fun read with only minor issues.  I am unsure, at this point, if I will continue reading the trilogy.  Though I did end up enjoying the story, it is not a book I will be recommending to my middle grade niece.

This (lightly edited) review was previously posted on my WordPress blog at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-18N

Stuff Every Bride Should Know by Michelle Park Lazette

Stuff Every Bride Should Know - Michelle Park Lazette

Starting with "what to do now that you are engaged," this handy little guide goes through different aspects of every stage from engagement through the honeymoon.

 

Some of the advice is common sense, and some covers things that might be overlooked with all of the bigger decisions that a modern wedding demands.  From the practical and mundane to the more romantic aspects, and even the potentially stressful (i.e. How to Write Your Vows - Or Not), all are treated with equal importance.  Not much, I'm guessing, is not touched on - including how to reschedule or cancel a wedding.  My one quibble is with an early section of Six Questions to Ask Your Intended.  Unless your acquaintance with your intended is very short (and perhaps that should be a concern?), it would be better to have some of these questions answered before the proposal.

 

The final section of the book is "The Checklist."  It is more than a checklist. It is also advice, summary and an index, with many bullet pointed items including a page reference that will make looking back for more detail extremely easy.  

 

Overall, this is a handy reference guide full of advice from engagement to the wedding and beyond.  The size (3 1/2" x 5 3/4"), as with all of these "should know" books from Quirk, is perfect for a pocket or purse, though you might prefer the option of an e-book on your smartphone.

 

This is an edited version of the review originally posted on my WordPress blog at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-16I and refers to a copy I won from the publisher in a BookLikes giveaway. It includes only my honest opinion.  While reviews are encouraged, they are not required.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge: A Novel - Paul Krueger

I had no interest in reading this book (horror just isn't my thing) until one of Quirk's publicists put an image of a page of "The Devil's Water Dictionary" up on Snapchat, and suddenly I couldn't resist. Pages of an old mixology book being integrated into (see how I avoided saying "mixed in" there?) the story instantly peaked my curiosity. Mixology magic? Suddenly, this became a type of magic/magic-wielder that I wanted to read about.

 

One of the things this book has going for it (granted, for me this is in hindsight) is a great premise. I didn't really expect to like it, though it being from Quirk gave me hope (I had felt the same way about Grady Hendrix's Horrorstor, after all). It took me a bit to get past the idea of there being "demons," and a little time to warm up to the story, but once I did it was pure enjoyment as critical reading and prior reservations flew out the window. The prologue gave me a taste of how the author was handling the paranormal aspects, so once the main storyline began and Bailey was introduced, I was just along for the ride.

 

One of the things I like about this book is having the main protagonist be a young woman of Asian descent. I like the lack of disrespect towards her parents. I like the relationships between her and other characters and how they are portrayed, whether positive, negative, or somewhere in between. I like the mixology magic and how it is slowly explained, though not to an exhaustive extent. I like the overall lack of info-dumping that sometimes happens in fantasy - though I suppose this being basically our world with the addition of the mixology magic and the Tremens (weird beasts that feed off inebriated humans) makes that sort of thing less likely and extensive "world-building" much less vital.

 

The Tremens are described, but not with much detail, and I am fine with that. Have I mentioned the "not a fan of horror" thing? What I didn't like in particular, and never do, was the excessive amount of foul language. This is definitely not a good choice if you object to swearing in books.

 

One of the things Paul Krueger does particularly well in this novel is the final confrontation. The climactic battle scene is what left me wanting to see this made into a movie (even though most movies don't live up to their book). I also really enjoyed, for the very first time, the author's acknowledgements. Never before have I wanted to read every word of an acknowledgement page. Actually, it was two pages, and it was just fun - and so was the overall experience of this book.

 

So, overall, a bit lacking in details (but that is a positive here, for me) but a pleasant (that's my lame attempt not to say 'fun' again so quickly) reading experience if you just go with it. It is a quick, light (for horror/paranormal) read that introduces what might just be my favorite magic system ever.

 

This review refers to an advance readers copy I received, for free, from the publisher through Snapchat. There was no expectation of anything other that that I would read it, as far as I am aware. Nevertheless, the above is my honest (but sleep-deprived) and hopefully spoiler-free review (should I not have described the Tremens at all?).  This review has been slightly edited - the original version is posted on my blog at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-128

The Boden Birthright, a Cimarron Legacy Novella by Mary Connealy

The Boden Birthright (The Cimarron Legacy): A Cimarron Legacy Novella - Mary Connealy

Establishing the entire foundation of a new series in a novella is a daunting task and Mary Connealy has done a more than credible job.  

 

In this brief story, we see what drives Chance Boden to leave Boston for the wilds of the New Mexico Territory on a mission to reconnect with his four year old son, Cole, and with God.  We meet the woman he marries to hold the land her father gave his blood to protect.  We learn the roots and see new seeds planted for future threats and conflicts, while the characters of the three Boden children (Cole, Justin and Sadie) are established. But what I feel is the main take-away is the strong sense of the devotion to family that leads Chance to build a legacy for his children - both the ranch and a love of God.

He leaned close and his lips touched her temple as he whispered, "I will take care of you.  You're safe.  You're not alone."

Somehow it seemed as if those were his true wedding vows. (45%)

Though this at times suffers from the rushed feel that many novellas have, a too common side effect due to the brevity of the form, it is well worth reading.  While more somber and serious in tone than I expected from Connealy, it does have moments of humor that are simply precious.  Having a four year old interrupt a tender moment and later question certain aspects of married life is the perfect touch of humor from an author who says she writes "romantic comedies with cowboys."  

 

If you are a fan of clean historical romances set in the American Old West, western stories and/or romances in general, or just an enjoyable and uplifting story, then this is well worth checking out (or downloading - currently free on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.com).  Especially recommended for fans of Mary Connealy, of which I count myself one having adored her Wild at Heart trilogy. 

 

I'm looking forward to the novels of this series with great anticipation.  Sadie will be the Boden featured in the first novel, No Way Up, scheduled to be published in July 2016.  An excerpt is included at the end of the novella, though I won't be reading it.  I might like it too much, and then waiting is so much harder.

 

 

This review was originally published on bookworlder.wordpress.com  Please do not reblog without permission.

A Fool & His Monet by Sandra Orchard

A Fool and His Monet (Serena Jones Mysteries) - Sandra Orchard

Serena Jones is the youngest member of the FBI Art Crime Unit. She is on her first undercover assignment as the novel begins, and what could be a serious and seriously boring story is anything but. Serena is smart, a bit sassy, claustrophobic, and a great choice for narrator. She's a knowledgeable and capable agent, who is surprising bad at keeping the details of her life, and work, from her friends and family. And that is part of what makes this mystery so much fun.

 

The central mystery begins when a friend asks Serena to take on the investigation of two paintings missing from a local St. Louis museum. A case "colder than Buffalo" (p.27), that has her interviewing the museum staff and participating in the funniest chase scene I've ever read.

 

A secondary mystery is one that I am sure will be a thread through the series, the murder of Serena's grandfather and theft of his painting. Another thread will undoubtedly be Serena's romantic prospects, her family's meddling in them, and possibly her slow descent into being a bit of a cat-lady.  I liked the touch of having her parents be British and I adored her Aunt Martha, a feisty old lady who just can't keep out of the case.

 

This is a fast paced story, with just enough danger (she will keep going into unsavory places) and a nice dose of humor. This can easily be read as a romance, since there are plenty of attractive and willing male characters swarming around, but it is definitely a mystery. As a reader who used to read a lot of mysteries, I was mostly kept guessing, but once solved, everything made sense. All good things, and all a lot of fun.

 

Recommended if you enjoy light mystery, romance, and a fun narrator. I was a little apprehensive about picking a straight mystery to read, but I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I raced through it, wanting to know what would happen next and wanting to learn more about her building superintendent and a certain senior FBI agent... I stopped reading a couple of popular mystery series quite a few years ago, partly because they were dragging on so long and partly because of some of the "romantic" content. No worries here, if you like a fun, clean mystery story. I'm looking forward to the second book, Another Day, Another Dali due out from Revell in October. Such fun titles!

 

Can I say it one more time? Fun!

 

This review refers to a copy I received for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. This review was previously published on my WordPress blog, with the addition of two small quotes, at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-YJ

The Goodbye Bride, A Summer Harbor Novel by Denise Hunter

The Goodbye Bride (A Summer Harbor Novel) - Denise Hunter

From the first scene, where Lucy Lovett comes to in a diner's restroom and realizes that she's lost time, I was hooked.  I do like a good memory loss storyline, as long as it is handled believably and consistently, and this one is.

 

While Lucy is emotionally back to the time when she is engaged to and deeply in love with Zac Callahan, he has been spending the last seven months trying to move on from the heartbreak of her leaving without a word just weeks before their wedding.  Rescuing her from a diner, in a wedding dress, is not how he planned to do this.  But she doesn't remember moving to Portland, Maine or becoming engaged to another man.

 

Back in Summer Harbor, it is a slow journey for Lucy as she struggles to make sense of everything, while she dodges paparazzi wanting to interview the "runaway bride."  It is also a slow journey to regain Zac's trust and the regard of the townspeople.  Small towns can be quite protective of their own.

 

Here are a few things I really liked about this story:

  • The writing.  It moves a long at a fairly brisk pace, keeping the reader interested.
  • Except for the occasional Bostonian "Ayup" and Georgian "y'all," the author mostly lets us know what accents are in play, but doesn't make us read them.  While Lucy and Zac love each other's accents, having to read them would have slowed the pace and impacted my enjoyment.
  • The loyalty and family involvement.  Zac has scheduled skype calls with his younger brother while he is deployed overseas (safe bet that his story will be next).
  • The Callahans are church-goers.  I like having characters who simply live out their faith, and having that faith be included organically within the story.
  • Lucy slowly discovers why she has abandonment issues, and why Zac has issues with her abandoning him.  Even when some of their issues are addressed or their fears allayed, some of them pretty quickly following each other, I didn't sense that there was a big "hey, all better, we're cured" moment.
  • The romantic bits, of course.  These are likable characters, and I couldn't help but want them to get back together.  I love how their initial love story replayed in flashbacks and I really appreciate that, though they had been instantly attracted to each other when they first met, they didn't just fall back into each other's arms. That would have made for a very short story.

The Goodbye Bride is the second of the "Summer Harbor" novels.  While it is not necessary to read the first, Falling Like Snowflakes, if you do want to read them both then it would be best to do so in order.  Otherwise, when Eden and Beau's backstory is given it will be a huge spoiler.

 

I listened to Falling Like Snowflakes, as a library/Overdrive audiobook and, while I enjoyed it, I thought it was a bit light and fluffy of a read for including such a serious topic.  I also thought it was unfair of me to rate or review it since I was never able to give it my full attention, as I was listening to it at work.  Based on this second book, it is likely that reading a physical copy and giving it my full attention would not have changed my impressions of it.  However, where Falling Like Snowflakes wasn't completely my kind of book, The Goodbye Bride definitely is.

 

I was trying to think of a way to describe this book, and books like it, and came up with candy - in this case, I'm thinking specifically of those minty little pastel nonpareils that used to be almost as ubiquitous at weddings as the little pillow shaped after-dinner mints.  This kind of book is a tasty little treat, one you might not want every day, but you occasionally crave them and when you have them in all their sweet, minty freshness, you just can't stop.  Oh, yeah.

 

Love a light, clean, contemporary romance with a memory loss storyline where the hero is a charmer who can cook?  This just might fit the bill.  The Goodbye Bride is a feel good contemporary - a breezy read perfect for a spring evening or an afternoon by the pool, listening to the playlist on Spotify (http://bit.ly/1UqZOry) - but be prepared to want to read it in one go.  It kept me up way past my bedtime.  I just had to know how this love story had gone wrong and how it would right itself.

 

This review, with quotes, was originally posted on my Wordpress blog at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-WY

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Thomas Nelson and Zondervan's Fiction Guild. 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.” 

 

Mothering Sunday, A Romance by Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday: A Romance - Graham Swift

Strip everything away and this is just the story of a day in which a maid has her last tryst with the youngest, soon to be married son of an upper class Berkshire family.  Oh, but it is the everything that makes this little book.

 

Within the story of that day and that tryst (so, adults only on this one, with a tolerance or taste for a bit of the naughty and a few crass terms) we are given a whole history, a picture of a time and a way of life.  A bit of a transitional upstairs/downstairs between world wars, when traditions were held onto as the world was irrevocably changed and changing. British traditions like "Mothering Sunday," one that I had no knowledge of, but it slowly came together for me in the first 30 or so pages.

 

When I found out that I had won a copy of this novella, I reread the synopsis and had winner's remorse.  Stories of affairs are not usually my cup of tea.  But while some of the subject matter and content is not to my taste, it was redeemed and elevated by the writing, which I cannot adequately describe (or quote here, as I read an uncorrected proof).

 

This story, to me, was written with a bit of a cinematic hand.  It had a feeling of the nostalgic glance backward, the thoughtfulness, the stillness, the brightness even in the most tragic moments, of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, A Handful of Dust, or of a Merchant & Ivory film.  Indeed, the author leaves me wanting to rewatch those films and the Brideshead series and to delve into the novels that inspired them, to see where this feeling comes from and how it is evoked (and his main character, Jane Fairchild, left me wanting to read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness).

 

While the story is firmly set on one unseasonably warm day in May 1924, the narrative glides back in time and forward to when Jane is an 80 year old author, encompassing her present, future and past all with a sense of nostalgic melancholy.  Again, I am thinking how interesting it would be to study, to discover the mechanics of how Swift did this - both the mood and the slippage of time.

 

I think I'll be looking to see what Graham Swift's back catalog might have in store for me (though I'll be looking a bit closer at each synopsis before choosing my second Swift read).

 


 

This review refers to an uncorrected proof of Mothering Sunday that I won in a GoodReads First Reads Giveaway, courtesy of the publisher.  While not required, the First Reads program does encourage winners to post honest reviews. This review was originally posted on bookworlder.wordpress.com at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-VU  Please do not reblog without permission.

The Cowboy's Bride Collection, 9 Historical Romances Form on Old West Ranches

The Cowboy's Bride Collection: 9 Historical Romances Form on Old West Ranches - Jaime Jo Wright, Becca Whitham, Davalynn Spencer, Darlene Franklin, Miralee Ferrell, Nancy J. Farrier, Susanne von Dietze, Susan Page Davis, Vickie McDonough

This is now officially one of my favorite novella collections (so far) from Barbour Publishing.  When choosing whether or not to read each collection, there is generally one author's name that draws me in.  For this collection that name is Susan Page Davis, and her story did not disappoint.  Bat Wilson, ranch hand, is inspired by the boss's daughter, Rilla Lane, to write poetry - much to the amusement of the other ranch hands.  A sweet, fun story that sets the tone for the collection.

 

In the second story, Jackson Bridge asks his Aunt Martha to send two songbirds for his "saloon."  While Lily Kimball and her sister Delia delight his daughter Georgie, they were not quite what he had in mind. 

Cait Sullivan excels at working with horses.  Much to her chagrin, her father hires Jonas Hall to train them.  Having her sister's ex-fiance working on the ranch is difficult for her pride, and her heart.  Addie Patrick, raised like a son, is an orphan with no place to go. After a few letters, she leaves Iowa to be the bride of a Colorado store owner.  Being trapped in a line shack with an injured rancher during a snow storm was not in her plans. For Grant Hollister, however, it is a good thing that he felt God nudging him to keep going until he could be. 

 

Millie Cain has co-founded the Ladies Society for the Betterment of Culture, intent on bringing Boston manners to the cowboys of Wichita, Kansas.  Little does she know that Wes, the man she has been corresponding with for a year, has joined her Learn To Be A Gentleman class to see if she can accept him as a cowboy.  Everything they hope for hinges on a song.

 

When Trey Carpenter's ma comes to visit his ranch, he is unprepared for the surprise she brings with her.  He is even less prepared for how he feels when neighbors come courting Sadie Hunter, the penniless young widow with two daughters.

 

With the threat his deceased wife's sister coming to take his daughter, Josiah Hanacker hires a spinster, Corra Jameson, to turn her into a lady.  Petunia (Nia) Lindley learned not to trust her judgement about men, but there is something about Toby Lane, one of the men competing to become foreman of her family ranch.  Jonah Spark has come a long way from being a titled Englishman to a New Mexico rancher, but he is still a bit too proper to accept a woman as his foreman.  CJ Matheson is ready to fight to win this power struggle.  It isn't her fault the ranch's owner thought she would be a man.

 

In a collection like this, there are often stories that you wish would be developed into full length novels.  Miralee Ferrell provided a prime example with her story.  It felt a bit of a jumble, which might have been partly due to the length, but it was so very sweet that I would gladly read a longer version.

 

I try to take time between each story so that my reaction to one doesn't affect my thoughts and feelings about the next.  Sometimes, however, the stories are strong and distinct enough that this isn't necessary.  For example, Becca Whitham's story was a little touch and go for me at first, but had such an "awwww" ending that I was won over. Jaime Jo Wright, on the other hand, had me from the first page with her descriptions and humor.

 

Darlene Franklin and Vickie McDonough are two authors I have been wanting to try, as they wrote a series with Susan Page Davis.  I was quite pleased to see that they had contributed the fifth and sixth stories in the collection, and I've lost any trepidation I may have felt about reading the rest of that series.

 

If you enjoy, as I do, Historical Romance set in the Old West with faith integrated into the story, engaging main characters, and touches of humor then this is a great choice.  I plan on adding a physical copy to my bookshelves in the near future.  French flaps, deckled edges, and nine enjoyable romances that are just the right length to read one (or two, if you start early) in an evening.   Whether you prefer ebooks or physical books, I recommend it.  

 

This review refers to a review ebook read for free courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.  This review, with a few short quotes added, was originally published on my WordPress blog: http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-Uo

Reclaiming His past (Smoky Mountain Matches) by Karen Kirst

Reclaiming His Past (Smoky Mountain Matches) - Karen K. Kirst-Ashman

It is 1885 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, when Jessica O'Malley finds a man on her farm, beaten and with no memory.  As he recuperates, choosing the name of Grant Parker, she finds herself caring for him but unable to trust due to a past betrayal.  Grant, in turn, finds himself caring for Jessica but, not knowing his past, unwilling to pursue a relationship.

 

The idea of amnesia has long fascinated me and since reading a nonfiction memoir of amnesia, fiction that incorporates it in the storyline really appeals to me.  Combine it with historical fiction, and I am halfway to being hooked before the story even starts.  That said, I had some issues with the believability of Grant's amnesia.  His amnesia seemed to play out a bit too coincidentally or conveniently at times, though I did appreciate when it was not.  Having an event occur that a Grant hopes will spark memories, but does not, was a great choice.

 

While Grant's situation and Julia's slowly unfurling history of a past relationship that turned bad and clouded her life are interesting, it was when, on more than one occasion, Jessica and Grant volley theories back and forth over who he might be that I really fell for this story and these characters.  The exchanges are humorous and I found them to be endearing.  I also appreciated the little moments, like a one on one conversation when she finds him strumming a guitar on the porch, and how they both seek God almost from the very beginning of the story.

 

Events like the chestnut picking trip are wonderful details that incorporate aspects of life in the appalachians during that era, but these aspect were a bit hard to picture.  It is likely that the length of the book, though it is part of the appeal these Harlequin Love Inspired Historicals have for me, hampered the author's ability to include more detailed descriptions.  

 

An honorable hero, a traumatized heroine, her protective family, and a suspicious sheriff all come together for a pleasant, quick read.  Though not without issues, the faith of the main characters and the slow building of trust and relationship are part of what makes this an enjoyable story.

 

This review refers to a review ebook copy read for free courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.  This is a slightly shortened version of the review on my Wordpress blog: http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-OV

Kissed By A Cowboy by Debra Clopton

Kissed by a Cowboy (A Four of Hearts Ranch Romance) - Debra Clopton

Reeling from divorcing her philandering husband, Cassidy Starr arrives late at night to begin moving in to the Texas farmhouse she inherited from her beloved great aunt Roxie. Jarrod Monahan, the cowboy-next-door, is quick to check on the lights over at the neighboring farmhouse that had been empty for five years.  While his arrival is timely, it is not an ideal way for Cassidy to encounter the man who had broken her young heart.  But it is fun for the reader...

 

 

Between rattlesnakes, wild hogs and other critters, rustlers and roundups, festivals with fireworks, women matchmaking and men gathering at the local feed store, this contemporary romance has much in common with the historical western romances that are my more usual reading fare.  There is the humor I enjoy, the integrated faith that I appreciate, and the engaging hero and heroine as well as the wonderful secondary characters that I love.  

 

Cassidy is endearing in her emotionally wounded, slightly accident prone way, and Jarrod is a stoic cowboy to crush on (if you crush on fictional characters) who finds himself nearly waxing poetic to the woman who he let get away.

"Have you ever seen anything so perfect?"

"Nope," he said honestly. "Nothing.  And the lambs are cute too."  Her eyes widened and he realized he'd actually said that out loud.  "I'm just telling it like I see it." (p138)

 

As this is the third book in a series, I was a little apprehensive about reading it first.  While there are some obviously recurring characters, including the main couples from the prior two stories, it did not suffer from my not having read them.  The secondary characters are a delight.  Jarrod's brothers and their wives are charming, the people of the town are amusing, and the secondary romance of two of the older townspeople added so much to the story.

 

Debra Clopton's writing is deceptively easy-going and quite approachable.  One of the things she does so well is giving the reader a consistently strong feel of the setting.  This was both helped and hindered, for me, by some of the word choices.  I could have done with a few less uses of "y'all" in the dialogue, while I was absolutely charmed by some fun turns of phrase in the narrative.

Holy smokin' pine cones!  Cowboyin' kept a body in shape. (p268)

This story was a delight to read.  Sprinkled with nice touches of humor, just the right amount of drama and action, integrated faith that is lived - not preached - by the characters, and a great blend of the daily life of a ranch and farm, secondary storylines, and the development of the primary relationship.  Definitely one I would recommend and I hope to read more from Debra Clopton.

 

The original, full (well, slightly longer) review is on my blog at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-RO

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Thomas Nelson and Zondervan's Fiction Guild. 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.”

PePr, Inc. (Perfect Partners, Incorporated Book 1) - Ann Christy

No formal review, because it would be too spoiler-ific.  But this is, in my opinion, a 5 star short story.  It is an engaging and accessible take on human/robot relations.  No prior sci-fi experience required.

I keep avoiding saying it surprised me, I'm afraid that that might be a spoiler in itself.  If so, I'm sorry.  I tried not to say it (and at least I didn't say that other word that really would have been a spoiler for me).