Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Love's Awakening review


Love's Awakening

The path to true love lies somewhere between two feuding families
In the spring of 1822, Ellie Ballantyne leaves finishing school and returns to the family home in Pittsburg only to find that her parents are away on a long journey and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. Determined to stand her ground and find her place in the world, Ellie fills her time by opening a day school for young ladies.
But when one of her students turns out to be an incorrigible young member of the Turlock family, Ellie knows she must walk a fine line. Slaveholders and whiskey magnates, the Turlocks are envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly entangled with the rival clan--particularly the handsome Jack Turlock--she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future. Will she betray her family and side with the enemy?
Masterful storyteller Laura Frantz continues to unfold the stirring saga of the Ballantyne family in this majestic tale of love and loyalty. This is the Ballantyne Legacy.

My Review: 9/10

I really enjoyed this book. As a native of Pittsburgh, I found the historical information very interesting. I can imagine it was just as beautiful as it is today.

I tend to avoid period stories that center so strongly on the issue of slavery, just because it's so overdone. While an important and interesting part of history, many novels that center on it seem to only show one opinion, one kind of protagonist and a flat and predictable storyline. To me, it's interesting to read a multitude of viewpoints and a main character can be be fascinating without being progressive.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with this book. The Ballantyne's involvement is a little extreme and it does appear to paint slave holders as being singularly evil people. But as I mentioned, these elements are typical, so I was able to look past it because the rest of the book was so good.

I enjoyed the imperfect portrayals of the various family members and relationships. The romance was predictable, but fairly well done. I didn't realize this was a sequel when I requested it, but it read just fine as a standalone novel. That being said, I will definitely be reading the first book, which I've since heard is even better, as well as looking for the 3rd book when it gets released next year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rebellious Heart book review

Rebellious Heart

Rebellious Heart

Because she's a woman, higher learning was always closed to Susanna Smith. But her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. And she's determined to marry well, so she'll be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Growing up with little to his name, poor country lawyer Benjamin Ross dreams of impacting the world for the better. When introduced to the Smiths he's taken by Susanna's intelligence and independent spirit, but her parents refuse to see him as a suitor for their daughter.

When the life of a runaway indentured servant is threatened, Susanna is forced to choose between justice and mercy, and Ben becomes her unlikely advisor. But drawing closer to this man of principle and intellect lands her in a dangerous, secret world of rebellion and revolution against everything she once held dear

My Review: 2/10

It was a little slow going at first, but then became a page turner, but not in a good way. I was a little confused about the set up of the romance in the first couple of chapters. I found the scene in the beginning... odd. There is a total lack of regard for propriety, which I found hard to believe. The atmosphere was way too sexually charged. I have a 5, almost 6 year old. I cannot believe that anyone would hold against her something offensive that she may have said, no matter how sensitive they may be. And it seemed way too far fetched that they would both remember the words and have any emotions connected to them 13 years later. But this was an accurate preview of the melodrama that would ensue throughout the rest of the book.

I regretted reading it afterward because it was way too violent and disturbing for my taste, which was unexpected with a romantic historical fiction novel. Luckily for me, with a trite romance for the baseline, it was soon forgotten.

A Talent for Trouble book review

A Talent for Trouble (Ladies of Distinction #3)

A Talent for Trouble 

Miss Felicia Murdock firmly believed her destiny was to become a minister's wife. When the minister on whom she had set her sights marries another lady, Felicia is forced to take a close look at her life and comes to a few uncomfortable conclusions. Determined that something needs to change--and soon--Felicia discovers she is finally ready to spread her wings and embrace life the way she's always wanted.

Grayson Sumner--or Lord Sefton, as he's officially known--has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a normal, respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some well-meaning friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter a young lady who seems to have become quite adventurous and quite determined to get herself into all sorts of troublesome situations.

Intent on remaining independent, Felicia is reluctant to accept Grayson's help, especially as she finds herself developing feelings for him. However, just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in her life has endangered Felicia. Will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble?

My Review: 3/10

This book was definitely an improvement over the last two. The first 5 chapters or so were really engaging- interesting, fairly well written and funny. But things quickly went downhill after that. It was so hard to slog through that it took me 3 months to get through 75% of it, before deciding that it had dragged on long enough and life is too short to waste time reading books that hold zero interest for me. I'm sure I could predict every major plot wrap-up anyway.

The writing style was almost constantly distracting. Each and every sentence was too wordy, stuffed to the brim with the same 10-15 adverbs, such as entirely, slightly, disturbingly, rather, quite etc. and phrases like "clearly evident."

The plot was transparent immediately, but it was more the way that it was stretched out that bothered me. Felicia's story would have kept my interest longer if it had started earlier, with more of her pursuit of the reverend being covered. The shenanigans she'd have gotten into and her obliviousness to her feelings being widely known could have been very entertaining. And it would have given time for Grayson to develop real feelings, being present, though not front and center until the middle/end.

I'd have liked to then see Grayson make a stand for her (it would have been so much better than the whole, "she'll never love me, I don't deserve her" self pity reminiscent of Twilight. So unattractive), and her learn to trust and love a man with a past over time. There could have a been a great Christian message there. While Ms. Turano does acknowledge these themes, they are only challenges for the blink of an eye, before the heroine senses from God that she is being judgemental and should forgive Grayson. The rapidity of tehe switch was nrealistic and unrelatable.

I thought she missed the point with Eliza and Grayson's talk. It started well, but went downhill when in response to Grayson's comment that God couldn't or wouldn't forgive his level of sin, Eliza was decides to talk Grayson out of taking as much responsibility as he did and feeling the levels of guilt that went along with it. What? I think the message should have been, God, the creator of the universe and every cell in your body is capable of forgiving any level of sin. And to harbor guilt after asking for forgiveness is to hold disbelief of His power in your heart. Ask Him for forgiveness, give your guilt over to Him and ask Him to help you start fresh. Because He can and He will if you will only come to Him.

I like Ms. Turano's humorous approach and I still think she has potential, but I think she misses opportunities for better stories when pursuing the cheap and tired storyline.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How we see ourselves

I've had so many things I've wanted to write about lately- an update on what happened with the house (definitely a story that I think needs to be told), what we've been up to lately, my experiences with our church, thoughts and feelings on different smaller and larger day to day things. But other things have taken priority. But I had to write about this, before I forget and it becomes lost in the recesses of errant thoughts in my mind. It's worth taking five minutes to reflect on, it's worth passing on:

Check out this 3 minute video:

I think the message is great. But that's a huge adjustment to make, seeing yourself differently. I thought to myself, how is it that we get in a trap of thinking so poorly of ourselves? I think it's because in an effort to be humble and grounded we voice our negative thoughts rather than ever complimenting ourselves- that would be shallow and vain right? Maybe not so much. But if it's too far of a stretch to say nice things about yourself, say them to someone else. We don't hear it enough, not from ourselves, not from anyone else. When you think someone's hair looks nice, say it. Even if it's a total stranger, even if they think you're weird. So what? You probably made their day. And if not, it was worth the risk, don't you think? If you witness kindness, compassion, patience, etc, speak on it. Lift them up. If nothing else, it's putting more positive out there in a world largely dominated by negativity.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Invention of Sarah Cummings Review


The Invention of Sarah Cummings 

Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew's Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don't have to pretend for dreams to come true?
Olivia Newport brings us back to Prairie Avenue to explore the place where class, social expectations, and romance come together. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid Sarah as she searches for true love in a world of illusions.

My Review: 8/10

I thought this book was by far the best of the 3, which is interesting since I really couldn't stand Sarah in the previous two books.

I thought Ms. Newport did a wonderful job showing a slow, often times painful transition from being self-absorbed and selfish to letting people in and learning to love them. Sarah's double life was a nail biter for sure, and I thought how she got tangled up in her web of lies (and even more so, her sickened feeling almost immediately afterward) was very believeable. When we court envy and discontentment, it is so easy to get swept up in a path and a life we never would have purposely set out to walk.

My biggest complaint was the fire. I thought it was too over the top and unnecessary. But thankfully, Ms. Newport has Sarah make her decision just beforehand.

If you liked the two previous books, or even if you didn't, this book is worth giving a try. It's reminiscent of a cinderella story, with a much more realistic lead, who is flawed and downright ugly in her humanity at times, just like we all are. But Sarah's story reminds us that He creates beauty out of ashes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Companions Review

The Companions by RA Salvatore
(review by Jon Armstrong)

This book was typical of RA Salvatore’s work:  a widespread epic story with intricate webs, dazzlingly powerful characters, and a plot that is always moving.  Coming off of his wonderful Neverwinter series, this book doesn’t disappoint (mostly). Spoilers abound, but here we go.

Plot synopsis:

The Companions of the Hall (minus Drizzt) are stopped by Mielekki (the goddess Drizzt worships) from going to their eternal homes after death.  Instead, they are given the chance to be reborn in order to help Drizzt. They are each reborn to parents of the same heritage (though with a twist for Regis).  Catti-Brie becomes a powerful wizard/sorceress, Regis is a thief/swordsman, and Bruenor is a dwarf of a different nearby clan.

The time covered in this book matches the time covered in books 2, 3, and 4 of the Neverwinter series, after Bruenor dies in book 1.

The good:

Pretty much everything except what’s listed under the bad.  This was a treat for those of us who have read all of the books about the Companions of the Hall, and who experienced the same sense of bewildering loss and confusion as Drizzt did while we read about his exploits without the rest of the gang.  It’s always nice to see Bruenor return, but to see Catti-Brie and Regis after their long disappearance…that was great.  I would’ve liked to see Wulfgar too, but perhaps because of length issues, we don’t see him return, instead thinking he refused rebirth until he surprises us at Kelvin’s Cairn at the end.  I do hope that we will get to see what Wulfgar did for all of that time in some book in the future.

Bruenor decided at great personal cost to forego his eternal honor in Moradin’s halls to be reborn for the aid of his friends. It was a decision he had a hard time making, and once he did he felt he had betrayed what he had lived for his whole previous life. Then, as if he needed a kick in the crotch, he finds that the good and peace he tried to accomplish—the signing of Garumn’s Gorge that allowed the orc kingdom of Many-Arrows to exist peacefully beside the good races of the region—was quickly unraveling, leading him to find it useless. In a shortening of a complex situation, Bruenor ended up feeling abandoned by his dwarven gods. Bruenor’s story about faith in a god that seems quiet was a wonderful comparison to how it can be when living with the true God of reality.  Sometimes it is confusing and sometimes it is disappointing, but if we know the character of God, then we must remember to trust Him (and we must remember ultimately that it is we who follow Him, and not vice versa!  He is the reward of our heart, in the very end).  When we don’t trust Him and we are seeking to control everything ourselves, then we will get just as angry, rebellious, and temperamental as Bruenor did with the dwarf gods! Special mention of Bruenor trying to master his infant instincts—that part was well done and hilarious. Five gold stars for this part of the book.

Regis’ tale was the best of the bunch.  Determined to not be the weakling he’s always been, he goes out of his way to practice courage and also increase his skill in combat.  Born with a bit of genasi blood that allows him to hold his breath for incredible amounts of time, he becomes a master pearl diver at a young age despite his poverty, eventually leading to his adoption into a halfling assassin’s guild that has its run of things in the city. The relationship he had with his drunkard dad, and the wooing of the beautiful granddaughter of the Grandfather Pericolo (master of the assassins) gave his story a wonderful touch of growth. It was well-rounded, giving him greater depth as a character than we had ever seen before (he was always the least well-defined of the original Companions). We saw him master skills and become capable, but also seize many of the relational opportunities he failed to have in his previous life.  Not to mention, he ended up with some awesome items! Five gold stars for this part of the book.

Catti-Brie had some touching moments with her original family, and it was cool seeing her journey to become a powerful wizard/sorceress, particularly with her druidic spellscar and the three different tutelages she received. However, of the three stories, hers drew me in the least.  It was fun and a page-turner as you went through it, but nothing that really sticks out to me after the fact.  In this way, it was unlike Regis and Bruenor.  Four gold stars for this part of the book.

Wulfgar!  Just glad he came back, that’s all.

The bad:

A little bit of stiltedness from the characters we haven’t seen in awhile. Regis avoided this, though perhaps this is because Salvatore had him purposefully set out on a life full of growth, one that made up for a lot of missed opportunities in his first life.  He could re-envision Regis, making it almost like he was writing about him for the first time.  Bruenor was Bruenor, but he wasn’t gone for that long, all things considered.  It was mostly Wulfgar and Catti-Brie that seemed stilted.  Catti-Brie was pure, wise, otherworldly, and essentially completely unrelatable before her rebirth. It was like she was supposed to be some angel from above that fits all of Drizzt’s nostalgia for her. She got better once she hit the flow of her new life.  Wulfgar was some rampaging buffoon warrior, strictly holding to honor of his clans over any honor of his friends. Actually, pretty much acting like they were never his friends. Just weird. We didn’t get the chance of seeing him the rest of the book, so this impression sort of just stuck out like a sore thumb. And then he reverses course in the end?  Well that seems odd too. He was so adamantly and angrily set in one way in the beginning, and we last see him walking to his eternal home even, and then he shows up in the end?  We clearly missed something. I’d accept that, except that like I said, it was a stilted caricature in the beginning.

Drizzt.  Plain and simple.  Drizzt had basically no appearance in this book, except for one thing:  the journal entries.  That’s right, even though Drizzt wasn’t in this book (you know, except for when his friends find him dying at the end and heal him), he was still writing journal entries somewhere along the way so that RA could publish his philosophical ramblings. Honestly, these entries have been pages I’d like to skip for the last several books, but it seemed glaringly so when the character wasn’t even around!  When I first started reading these books and enjoyed these journal entries, I was young and philosophical and viewed the world romantically like Drizzt. Now I find them sort of inadequate. I mean, really?  All that matters is that we have friends who agree with our values and who remember us fondly for living them out in life?  I’m sorry, but isn’t that incredibly hollow?  I just watched a documentary on the most dangerous gang in the world. These are gangsters who deal the most dangerous drugs, kill for territory, and are involved in human trafficking. They agree on what they are fighting for. They love their brothers in arms and will graffiti huge memorials telling the lives of the ones that fall. So is that it? Is that the ultimate profoundness that we’ve been waiting years to read?  Oy shalloy. You might think Drizzt would find something more advanced for all his century and a half of pondering. It’s almost as bad as Drizzt in the last book of the Neverwinter series. In that one, Salvatore is pretty much championing a mind to the exclusion of emotion lifeview in order to maintain a highly moralistic lifestyle. That’s not even healthy. A whole person is not controlled by just their mind or their heart, but the influence of both. It’s not too hard to think of damaging examples of both extremes. RA made Drizzt an emotionally unreachable character by the end…it’s no wonder his former lover (who had serious emotional issues, of course) tried to kill him. So remember that people…those who are mind over emotion = moralistic and good; those who are emotion over mind = uncontrollable rage-aholics who will kill you over scorned love. Maybe Drizzt can be reborn without his pensiveness. Here’s to hoping.


Don’t let my rants in the bad section stop you. This book was excellent, and probably the most fun to read since Gauntlgrym (which I also rate very highly). Great stuff, and I’ll keep reading in the future.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Bride For Keeps Review

A Bride for Keeps

A Bride for Keeps (A Bride for Keeps #1)

A Tender Tale of Love on the Prairie Perfect for CBA Readers
Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won't humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again--not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She's the prettiest woman he's ever seen, and it's just not possible she's there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she's determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

Review: 1/10

Ugh I cannot believe I waited so long for this book. It seemed so promising- a pretty cover and a different spin on a mail order plot line. But the characters really lack depth. Just like the story line.

Julia, the supermodel from 1876, struggles with being so drop dead gorgeous; her beauty is so intense that no one can think about anything else, including herself. She pretty much goes cycles through feelings of shame (crimes committed against her because of her beauty), guilt (because apart from her beauty she's useless), resentment ("i'm more than just a pretty face!"), hopelessness ("I'm nothing but a pretty face!"), and suspicion ("are you thinking about my looks?"). Sound a bit repetitive? Oh you have no idea.

Let's add in a second POV from her intended who spends 80% of his time obsessing about her beauty/pretty face (of the "I have nothing to offer her; she's too beautiful" & "I must have her now" variety.) and 20% of his time obsessing about his previous mail order (+ 1) failures.

The two characters go back and forth so much that I have whiplash.

And the conflicts were as extreme as you can get: *spoilers* being jilted no less than 5 times for pretty weak reasons, rape, attempted rape, 12 miscarriages/still births, and a fall off the roof leading to a mangled leg, fever, and brush with both amputation and death. Just to name a few.

If you secretly harbor a wish that your beauty was so all consuming that it was a constant source of conflict with everyone around you, and you'd like to experience it vicariously through a shallow, vain fictional character, then this is the book for you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Trouble In Store Review

Trouble in Store

Trouble in Store

Fired from her most recent governess position, Melanie Ross must embrace her last resort: the Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he's not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas mess up all he's worked for. He's determined to get Melanie married off as soon as possible, and luckily there are plenty of single men in town quite interested in taking her off his hands.
The problem is, Caleb soon realizes he doesn't want her to marry up with any of them. He's drawn to Melanie more every day, and he has to admit some of her ideas for the store unexpectedly offer positive results.

But someone doesn't want the store to succeed, and what used to be just threatening words has escalated into deliberate destruction and lurkers in the night. When a body shows up on the mercantile steps--and the man obviously didn't die from natural causes--things really get dangerous. Can Melanie and Caleb's business--and romance--survive the trouble that's about to come their way?

My Review: 5/10
A month or so after finishing the book, I couldn't remember much about it. I remembered the murder mystery subplot and some outlines of the story, but the characters, romance etc was pretty dim. I think that sums this book up. If you enjoy reading a clean romance with faint Christian themes set a couple of hundred years ago, and you're not particular about originality, then you will enjoy this story as much as every other of its kind.

After refreshing my memory, the only thing I feel is worth commenting on is Melanie's character. I found her a little abrasive and obnoxious. I realize that she was desperate and kept up a front of confidence and strength in order to protect herself, but I think she could have done so while also employing humility and a willingness to compromise. Perhaps it was just that she rubbed me the wrong way, but this affected how I viewed the romance, which was rather abrupt and not very convincing.

*I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow Review

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow (Avenue of Dreams, #2)

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow 

Charlotte Farrow, maid in the wealthy Banning household on Chicago's opulent Prairie Avenue, has kept her baby boy a secret from her employers for nearly a year. But when the woman who has been caring for her son abruptly returns him, Charlotte must decide whether to come clean and face dismissal or keep her secret while the Bannings decide the child's fate. Can she face the truth of her own past and open her heart to a future of her own? Or will life's tragedies determine the future for her?
This compelling story set against the glittering backdrop of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition captures the tension between the wealthy class and the hardworking servants who made their lives comfortable. Author Olivia Newport expertly portays social classes while creating a story of courage, strength, and tender romance.

My rating: 6/10
I was pleasantly surprised to find Charlotte give her own story as I found her infinitely more interesting than Lucy.

I can't really say that I enjoyed the story itself but that was due to the subject matter.  Ms. Newport did an excellent job with the suspense; I really had no idea who or what Charlotte would choose for most of the book. But it was just too agonizing for me. It wasn't even bittersweet; I remember Charlotte remarking that at least Henry was in the same house now. But I disagreed. I'll bet she got a lot more time (and much better quality) with her son just getting to see him once or twice a week than she did with him living in the Banning house and being exclusively taken care of by someone else. Sarah's actions were appropriately nerve racking. I could barely stand it. I kept waiting for that situation to be rectified, and felt cheated by adjustments being made for such a short time.

I could appreciate and sympathize with Charlotte's situation. And I enjoyed the gentle weaving of the love story in the background. Though I felt the themes of faith could have made the book so much stronger if they had appeared as more than bookends, I liked the parallels to Moses' story, and I loved that Archie questioned her judgment and challenged her to trust in God and wait on Him. How often do we make the same mistakes- trying to fit circumstances into a divine mold so that we don't have to rely solely on faith? I know I've done it plenty of times; I'd almost always rather hear 'no' than 'just wait' in answer to my prayers. But back to the story...

The situation with Charlotte's 'husband' was rather twisted and I didn't really buy into it. But what was worse was Archie's response at the end when she balks at the truth of her situation. "Shhh. Don't." Yes, let's dismiss the ugliness and all the emotions that go with it, just pretend it never happened. Charlotte's subsequent reaction, or lack thereof, was not at all realistic. Any woman would be deeply affect, traumatized even, by such events. And any man claiming to love her would help her heal, however slowly, by listening and slowly working away doubts, fears and trust issues. The whole, "just forget about it because I'm here now" attitude was too much for me to take.

Lucy did nothing but disappoint. Honeymoon or no, you can take a few minutes here and there (over a period of several months) to check up on your closest friend/confidante. Her letter, especially after all that build up, was rather empty. True to form, I say, despite her reputation.

I thought the staff and supporting characters were very well done with the exception of Sarah. You loved to hate her, with her arrogance, selfishness and total lack of empathy until she randomly pulls a 180 at the end, in what I suspect was just a way to tie things together. Or maybe the author couldn't deal with not redeeming her character. Or maybe she was setting things up for the third book. The world may never know.

All in all, this was a decent, middle of the line read. From a historical standpoint, the attention to detail to really flush out the lives of the serving class was interesting and well done. I'll give the third and final book a try, hoping it continues in this upward trend, despite my contempt of the lead character.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning Review

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (Avenue of Dreams, #1)

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?
Readers will love being swept away into a world of mansions, secrets, and romance as they follow Lucy through the streets of the Windy City during one of the most exciting times in the city's history. From opulent upper-class homes to the well-worn rooms of an orphanage, Olivia Newport breathes life and romance into the pages of history--and everyone is invited.

My Review: 3/10

If your only criteria for historical fiction is that it's light, clean and set at least a hundred years ago, then you'll probably enjoy this.

I didn't hate it, but I didn't really enjoy it either. For some reason it seems that authors of these types of books think that the only woman worth writing about is one that "breaks the mold" and is super progressive for her time, which is really ironic, I think, since they're usually branded Christian as well. Apparently, for it to be considered Christian, it needs to be fairly chaste and mention God, prayer and church at least once. Oy.

Putting those two major issues aside, I didn't really like the main characters. I felt like the author thought that making Lucy crave more for her life was depth enough and didn't bother to develop her character.

I did glean that she didn't see much of a problem with taking the easy way by lying to get what she wanted and cheating on her fiance (because seriously entertaining growing a relationship with another man while you are engaged is cheating. Tell me if your fiance did this to you, you wouldn't feel betrayed). Who cares if she aided a maid in need and volunteers at an orphanage? You could argue that the latter was only a cover anyway. This is not someone I would admire, respect or want to be friends with.

Moving on from Lucy, we have Charlotte the maid, who was interesting in her role as a supporting character, but that's about all I have to say about her. We also have Daniel, the fiance, who is supposed to be a love turned psycho. The author goes back and forth between making Daniel and Lucy's history one of an arranged marriage versus one of first love. She couldn't make up her mind, so I couldn't either. It was confusing and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to hate him or feel pity for him. Not that you can't feel both, but it really seemed like the reader was supposed to choose.

Then there's Will. I immediately had a problem with him from the line about knowing she wouldn't marry her fiance because of how she was looking at him. Cocky. Arrogant. Slimy. UGH. We know that he likes art and doesn't have a problem with women pursuing education (but he didn't grow up with a priviliged, entitled life, so why would he think he's better than Lucy?) and that he likes orphans. We actually don't see much of their relationship unfold or blossom; he is primarily set up as the anti-Daniel, which means he must be all that is good, just and benevolent.

The only character I really liked was Aunt Violet. I don't like the idea of her lying to aid to Lucy- if my siblings tried to pull this with one of my kids, there would be Hell to pay- but she had spunk and strength.

The historical aspect was okay. There was a little too much listing clothing and food- not worked in interestingly, just listed.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Our home story: the beginning

So we have been house hunting on and off for years and after a third attempt at vigorous searching (we have officially exceeded our move out goal of September 1st) for about 6 months, I've discovered a startling truth. Home hunting is like trying to find the elusive soul mate.

In fact, our house hunting pattern strongly resembles my dating history: I started out with high standards, which yielded no results. Then I let them slip a little in an effort to put myself out there. I mean, maybe The One was right in front of my face and I was just missing it. Maybe I would grow to love him. Nope. I just put myself in very uncomfortable situations that were doomed to fail. I cannot count the number of times where God saved me from myself. Then in complete and utter frustration and hopelessness, I swore off them all. And lo and behold The One crossed my path. Now if you go back and subsitute all the masculine pronouns, you'll have our house hunting history. It's been quite the journey.

Bringing you up to speed, I was sick to death of house hunting. I don't think my standards are crazy high, but I know what I want: a 1500 square foot, 3 bedroom, two story home with a nice basement and lots of potential. Preferably in North Hills school district. If it happens to be an older home with all the antique charms, a grand staircase, more than one bathroom and a large yard, so much the better. We found two that we really liked but this was early on and we wanted to make sure we didn't make a move without God. In the meantime, both were snatched right out from under us, one just about a week after being listed. I've kept checking the dozens of daily listings our realtor sends us, but none of them felt right. And I just felt drained and like I must have misunderstood God's intentions for us. So I reconciled myself to the fact that buying a house this summer did not appear to be in the plans for us and it may not happen for some time. That being the case, we weren't interested in moving to another (wayyyy more expensive) apartment, so I needed to embrace the idea that we would be staying in our current place for the time being.

This was disappointing to us on a number of levels. The girls are at the age where they are very possessive of their things and space and having them and their bunkbeds crammed into a 12x6 room is just NOT working out. I work from home and my work space happens to be shared living space. There is no where to really escape the noise. We have a family of Bhutanese refugees living above us. Or maybe multiple families. There is around 9-14 of them. Suffice it to say we are feeling squished in like sardines, which made the idea of staying here for the forseeable future a rather difficult pill to swallow. But I have learned a lot over these past few years and God has been working with me on trust, contentment and faithfulness, so I saw it as an opportunity to embrace the ways I've changed and lean fully on Him.

A day or two later, I got another emailed listing among many others. I quickly looked it over and OH MY GOSH it was beautiful. The house was big, it was in exactly the area I wanted. Three floors with a big basement, SEVEN deco fireplaces and all the charms of a century old home. And the price was right! I couldn't contain my excitement and immediately contacted our realtor telling her we wanted to see it right away. It was pretty much all I could think or talk about. I couldn't forsee any surprises unless there was a problem with the foundation or something else extreme and not easily evident in pictures. The next day I was so excited and anxious and nervous that my heart was racing and I felt like I was going to throw up. I'm getting jittery just writing about it.

We showed up fifteen minutes early, which if you know me, should tell you this was big. We scouted the backyard (private, fairly enclosed, a front AND back porch, a mini vineyard!) and waited for our realtor. She came and we toured the home. Yes it wasn't perfect. TONS of hideous wallpaper, cracks in some of the walls, water damage, a kitchen from the 30s. But all I could see was beauty. This home was everything I wanted. I was dancing. Our realtor called the seller's agent and talked. Apparently there were already two other offers made that day! This had us rethinking ours. The house was listed a decent amount under market value and once it was fixed up, it would be worth so much more. We spent the night signing paperwork with our realtor and going over the next steps, but I felt pretty discouraged. I was definitely afraid to get my hopes up. Our offer wasn't that impressive comparatively; surely they would pick someone else.

The next day, we got an email from their realtor letting us know that the owner was going to keep it open until Tuesday night so that "everyone would have an opportunity to bring their best offer to the table." Yikes. We spoke with our realtor again and a mortgage rep and submitted an improved offer, one that was better for the seller, but that we were still comfortable with. We left it at that, feeling pretty good. We've done our best, and I think we've got a decent shot.

Now it is Tuesday afternoon. I wasn't going to write anything at all, in case we don't get it. But then I realized that more important than whether or not we get this house is the testimony to how God has changed my heart. 3 years ago, I was covetous and irresponsible in determination to catch up. I was emotional and buying a home had become an idol. I've gone through so much since then. This time around, we've treaded lightly and careful and really done our research, praying every step of the way.

Buying a home is a really big investment. One that, as we've seen, does not always pay off. So settling for something that can only be a "starter home" is just reckless. Especially when we consider the fact that we might like to move around a bit or live abroad. I have never prayed over one issue so much as I have over this. And not just to get what I want. But to want what God wants for me. To trust Him, to be patient, to be content whereever I am, and to not let me take a single step without Him. Just as often as I've prayed to God asking Him to bless us with a particular home, I've asked Him to remove it as an option if it's not in His will for us. I've also asked Him to move quickly. He never disappoints.

I'm writing this now, because the point isn't actually whether or not we get this house;  I've seen what He can do. I fully trust Him for my good more than I trust myself.  If this falls through then I will embrace it, practice contentment and refocus my sight on the eternal because I know that He can and will provide abundantly, when the time is right. And if we do get this house, I hope that I never forget the lessons I've learned or lose the things I've gained: stronger faith in my Father who works all things for good, for His glory. His kingdom come.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Premier Versatility: butterflying necklaces

Useful with long necklaces and multi-strand necklaces!

Premier Versatility: Using Bracelets as Pendants

I always say that my favorite thing about Premier Designs jewerly is the versatility. I'm a bargain shopper and I love getting a great deal. Stuff that's reversible or has 500 uses... like 31 bags or Windex- I'm all about it. My fellow jewelers are crazy creative and we love sharing ideas. I pass these ideas on when I do jewelry shows, but a common question has been, "does an instruction manual come with the jewelry?!" Now that I'm getting more technology-friendly, I'm devoting a lot of time to providing reminders of what I show off.

This is the first video I made, which shows two ways to use bracelets you may have on hand to create a totally different look. I show two example of the stretchy bracelet method and one for the criss-cross method.

Hope you found it useful!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rules of Murder Review

Rules of MurderRules of Murder 

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.
Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game.

My Review: 4/10
To be fair, I think Ms. Deering captured the breezy attitudes of the time very well. It is not her fault that they grate on me. If I had found Drew's manner charming as intended instead of cocky and shallow and slimy, the book probably would have gotten a higher rating. But unfortunately, if you can't stand the main character, it's probably not going to end well.

Despite trying to give him depth, the constant careless, insincere banter really turned me off.

I thought the romance was kind of ridiculous and unbelievable. Perhaps as a fling, nothing more. Their instant mutual attraction and declarations of love built on nothing was reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. This is not a compliment; while heralded as the greatest romance of all time, those who of us who recognize it for what it really was (a tragedy), place blame where it is due: on the immature, selfish and unstable lovers. But I digress.

The plot was built well enough, I suppose. Except the end when the villain completely broke character for the sake of explaining any and all loose ends (and there were quite a few). The reader is constantly told, in addition to or instead of being shown, and is never really left to make their own conclusions.

Edenbrooke Review

Edenbrooke: A Proper RomanceEdenbrooke: A Proper Romance

Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

My Review: 9/10

I really loved this book. The word that kept coming to mind was delightful. I was frequently laughing out loud and smiling to myself as I read. This is definitely one I will come back to again and again.

I loved the characters and imagery and the depth of the relationships. I loved the overall experience.

Now for the criticisms.

the first 90% of the book was just SO GOOD! But the last 10% fell apart for me. I thought it was way too over the top. The rescue was too coincidental, which just never sits well with me. I think, well if they were just one second to late -at any point- then it all would have been lost. The only way I can deal with dumb luck built on dumb luck (Clumpett happens to be in hearing range, tells people, her father and Philip happen to be in the country and happen to come across William and co. and they happen to stumble on the right inn) is if it's attributed to divine intervention. I felt Donaldson missed a great opportunity here.

The declarations of feelings were way too melodramatic and drawn out. And even worse, this book tumbles headfirst into the same misunderstand-makes-smart-characters-stupid pit that most of its kind fall in. I could understand the misunderstanding itself, but I didn't think her actions were in line with her personality; I felt that Marianne would have confronted Philip or continued to hope, especially when he continued to behave so encouragingly. Then the constant self denial in the face of almost everyone else's encouragement of his affection was too much to believe. I kept thinking, WWLBD (what would lizzie bennet do)? She would have hoped and aggressively sought out the truth. She would have been forthright and certainly combative if she felt she was being used or played with. She would have been real. I reject anything less.

Philip's declaration was too pretty, flowery and girly, not at all realistic.

The abduction itself should have been omitted. The nephew's character made me question the uncle, especially as it all started by his eavesdropping. Why was this never fleshed out?

The ending was too neatly wrapped up; while I love escaping in reading, I don't want a total suspension of reality, where suddenly characters betray their own interests and personalities to fit the resolution (grandmother, cecily, etc).

I know this is nitpicky, but at the beginning of the book, I thought the twirling was sweet, but by the end, I thought it was overemphasized and therefore too childish.

I thought this was a Christian historial romance. While I loved that morals and virtues were common themes and upheld well, I don't recall any direct reference to Jesus and faith. So I was a little disappointed there.

On the whole, I will forray into Edenbrooke again and again, but I will likely end right before the orchard abduction or at the end of chapter 22, before william comes home alone. This book was so good, and for a first novel, it gives me so much hope for what this author will create. Particularly because I actually read her second book, Blackmoore, first; I already know how much she improves from one book to the next.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blackmoore Review

Blackmoore: A Proper Romance

Blackmoore: A Proper Romance

Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart. It is Wuthering Heights meets Little Women with a delicious must-read twist.

My Review: 10/10

This is the kind of story I'm always hoping to stumble upon when I pick up a historical fiction novel. I thought the language, etiquette and characterization was flawless. I didn;t mind the flashbacks, as they were in chronological order and the author laced the story with enough intrigue that I was dying to unravel the mysteries of Kate as well.

Normally when a misunderstanding of the two main characters' feelings is what separates them, I can barely trudge through the story; it usually makes the characters behave unnaturally and stupidly. But this was done so well! Kate starts it by declaring she will never marry almost immediately after the tenor of their relationship begins to change. And she never elaborates, until the very end. Henry is engaged, defends his fiance and seems content. I found it totally believeable.

I thought the falling out with Sylvia was realistic as well. Kate's mother and sisters were appropriately cringeworthy- I felt every bit as desperate to get them away from Blackmoore as Kate did.

The plot was so well done. The way Kate backed herself into a corner in the heat of the moment was something I could see myself doing. And I so appreciated the way Sylvia spoke her mind and called Kate on the ugliness of her behavior; it was so well done, that I felt similar emotions of shock and shame, having missed the immortality of what she had agreed to as well. I couldn't believe it.

Miss St. Clair was the perfect opponent. Lovely, refined, etc. She reminded me of Caroline Bingley, except with more confidence (and good reason). Her condescension was subtle enough that she could get away with strategically placed barbs that would only make Kate look insecure and petty if she spoke up.

I loved the birds and music and other supporting characters. This was just so well done I could go on for ages.

Now, onto the criticisms:

I thought there was a little too much description in the first couple of chapters (there was hardly any dialogue and this was particularly troublesome right after the plot dropped.

I didn't think Kate worried enough early on about the possible ramifications of her hasty actions.

But my biggest problem was the us of Kate's "demon." I didn't think much of it when she was advised to play music to release (and essentially be rid of) her demons. But at the end of the book, it actually says, "and this time the demon told me to write." So now the demon is giving advice? And she follows it?! I thought this sent the totally wrong message, especially the context of love. I get that she was tormented, but I don't think anyone would advise following the guidance of your "demon" or tormentors. It was such a brief moment, but it was poignant for me. Not in a good way.

Anyway, the only other complaint that I have is how short the follow up was. It left too much unanswered and I craved more.

All in all, I loved this book.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.*

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Quarryman's Bride

The Quarryman's Bride (Land of Shining Water, #2)

The Quarryman's Bride

Emmalyne Knox and Tavin MacLachlan were destined to be together...until the tragic deaths of Emmalyne's youngest sisters. Family tradition mandates that the youngest daughter should remain single to care for her parents in their old age, and now that daughter is Emmalyne. Her father unyielding, Emmalyne surrenders to her duty, heartbroken. Tavin leaves town, equally devastated.

Years later, Emmalyne's family moves, and she and Tavin meet again. Their feelings for each other are as strong as ever, but their painful past and Emmalyne's father still stand between them. Soon both families are in the midst of the growing conflict rising between the workers at the granite quarry that Tavin's father owns and operates. When a series of near-fatal accidents occur, Tavin must figure out who is behind the attacks before someone gets killed.

Bound by obligation, yet yearning for a future together, can Emmalyne and Tavin dare to dream that God could heal a decade-long wound and change the hearts of those who would stand in the way of true love?

My Review: 3/10
I think this is a generous rating. This book was boring at best and senselessly depressing at worst.

I just did not enjoy this book. I admit, I did not read the first one, because I did not realize this was a series. And After reading the first few chapters, I did skim the next twenty percent of the book.

The only positive thing I have to say is that it was a breath of fresh air to read about a heroine who was obedient, humble and servant, rather than a fierce, ahead-of-her-time pistol. But I felt this character was wasted. We are introduced to a heartbreaking situation, fastforwarded ELEVEN YEARS LATER with no time spent, not even blips, in their lives. This story could have been stronger if we had been taken along on that ride and could have seen firsthand how Emmy grew to despair for her mother, find companionship with her brother and grew to resent her father. But nope, the author obviously feels these are all unimportant when contrasted to her broken engagement; they're briefly brought up later and quickly resolved.

And, despite her admission of such feelings, I didn't see that her actions followed suit, making it unbelievable. For example, many women would be hardened, turned weak or bitter or angry etc, after so many years of pain and suffering and unappreciated sacrifice. The first man to pay her attention (and a possible escape) would have certainly at least proved to be a temptation. Not so with Emmy.

Anyway, the story picks up with us being dropped in eleven years later to see that nothing has changed, but they are packing up and returning home. I think the lack of change was unrealistic. And I was completely bored by the next TWENTY PERCENT of the book being spent on talking about how she spruced up the dump and made it a home. Ugh.

I was surprised by Emmy's friend, Fenella's, storyline. I just couldn't see the point.

I have witnessed people doing 180 degree changes in personality. But this happened SO rapidly and we didn't really get insight into Luthias' feelings or motivations. I was confused by some contradictions where he was concerned, like his questioning Tavin on his feelings the first time. His conversion was not gradual at all.

Things wrapped up too smoothly at the end, which was just not believable for me, especially not where Fenella was concerned. I have siblings, in laws and friends and I can't imagine behaving the way ANY of the characters did if this happened to one of my family or friends.

And I did not get pulled into the subplot of the trouble with the union. I just couldn't get into it.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Stealing the Preacher Review

Stealing the Preacher

Stealing the Preacher 

On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he's forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man's daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he's haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind--a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the person is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna's outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?

My Review: 8.5/10 

I absolutely loved 90% of this book. I was frequently chuckling or smiling to myself over the sweetness of it all. The "stealing" of the preacher was a fresh idea and the characters had substance. I liked that Crockett was drawn to her unorthodox beauty right away, but was attracted to other women as well; it was realistic. I felt that his falling in love with her was natural and I loved that he had deep, concrete reasons, as opposed to the flimsy ones that are typically used in books of this genre.

I loved that Silas' story had just as much significance as the romance. I thought his progression was realistic as well; any Christian could relate to a loved one rebuffing God. I appreciated the messages of steady patience and prayer as the remedy.

Short Straw Bride was one of the first historical christian romances I read and I really enjoyed it. Over time, I have come to appreciate it even more when compared to others of its kind. This book took off so quickly, that I really thought Jo and Crockett would get married early on the book. That would have been so refreshing. I mean, why is it that romance authors seem to think the story *ends* with marriage?! That's when it just gets started! Not to mention, it would have thrown more weight into Silas' relationship with Christ. Oh well.

But what really got me was the extreme melodrama at the end. All of sudden, there's an attempted hanging and before you can blink, another man getting carted off to prison. These instances were just too extreme for my taste, because they cheapened and undermined the message of steady faithfulness and they just weren't relatable nor realistic. I didn't buy into Silas' reaction to his faith being tested so harshly and so swiftly after beginning to believe the gospel.

For me, the last ten percent, starting with Holly showing up with a "peace offering" all the way to the end is where everything unraveled. The ending may not have been as "exciting" but it would have been more impactful if it had been better grounded in humble reality.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, June 13, 2013

After The Ending Review

After The Ending (The Ending, #1)

After The Ending 

The first book in a new Post-apocalyptic Romance series.

The Virus spread. Billions died. The Ending began. We may have survived the apocalypse, but the Virus changed us.

When people started getting sick, “they” thought it was just the flu. My roommate, my boyfriend, my family…they’re all gone now. I got sick too. I should have died with them—with the rest of the world—but I didn’t. I thought witnessing the human population almost disappear off the face of the earth was the craziest thing I’d ever experience. I was so wrong. My name is Dani O’Connor, I’m twenty-six-years-old, and I survived The Ending.

The Virus changed everything. The world I knew is gone, and life is backwards. We’ve all had to start over. I’ve been stripped of my home, my dreams…all that is me. I’m someone else now—broken and changed. Other survivors’ memories and emotions haunt me. They invade my mind until I can no longer separate them from my own. I won’t let them consume me. I can’t. My name is Zoe Cartwright, I’m twenty-six-years-old, and I survived The Ending.

We’ve been inseparable for most of our lives, and now our friendship is all we have left. The aftermath of the Virus has stranded us on opposite sides of the United States. Trusting strangers, making sacrifices, killing—we’ll do anything to reach one another. Fear and pain may be unavoidable, but we’re strong…we’re survivors. But to continue surviving in this unfamiliar world plagued by Crazies and strange new abilities, we have to adapt. We have to evolve.

And more than anything, we have to find each other.


If you have a problem with descriptive PDA, death and language, this is not the book for you.

My Review: 7-8 , I go back and forth.

The best thing about this book was the pace. It was a real page turner that I just could not put down, and any conflicts that posed serious threats were handled almost -immediately-. I've never read anything quite like it. Part of me was relieved because I don't enjoy evil being drawn out, and part of me was like, that's it? So easy? But like I said, it really kept the pace moving.

I did think the language was a -little- overdone. I was a little annoyed with how anyone opposed to the main character was immediately, emphatically, relentlessly called a bitch. Like five times per paragraph. And of course they were pure evil. This book kind of categorizes people as good or evil. There's no in between. I'm not sure if it's fair since this seems to be a requirement of the plot (either you're a crazy or a survivor...) but it made for kind of flat characters which bugged me.

The funny thing was that I didn't feel like the plot was clear; death strikes almost immediately and I wasn't really sure what the whole point/problem/plot was. It kind of seemed like I just got to experience it with them and -that- was the point. Normally this would really frustrate me, but it kind of added an element of authenticity.

I felt like Dani and Zoe were the same person, but not in a good way; their sex scenes were literally described exactly the same way.

And I thought that the Abilities were not distinctive/unique enough. I thought it was kind of lame to give Dani SUCH a strong power. I mean being able to speak to animals would have been enough, but to be telepathic with people too? And hundreds /thousands at a time? Overkill. As a side note, I totally would have sent all manner of lethal wild cats after Cece and Carla. Problem solved.

Those were the things I had problems with, but they were not enough to keep me from getting into it. Like I said, it was hard to put down. I like the apocalypse AND super power themes put together and I feel like there's so much mystery left to uncover that I'm really looking forward to the next one.

*I was given a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Most Peculiar Circumstance Review

A Most Peculiar Circumstance (Ladies of Distinction, #2) A Most Peculiar Circumstance 
Miss Arabella Beckett has one driving passion: to help the downtrodden women of America. Naturally, she supports the women's suffrage movement and eagerly attends rallies and lectures across the country. On her travels, she makes a simple offer of assistance to a young woman in need that goes sadly awry and lands both ladies in more trouble than they can manage. An independent sort, Arabella is loath to admit she needs help and certainly doesn't need help from an arrogant, narrow-minded knight in shining armor.

Mr. Theodore Wilder, private investigator extraordinaire, is on a mission. A mission that began as a favor to his good friend Hamilton Beckett, but swiftly evolved into a merry chase across the country. By the time he finally tracks down Hamilton's sister, Arabella, he is in a less than pleasant mood. When the lady turns out to have radical ideas and a fiercely independent streak, he soon finds himself at his wit's end.

When they return home to New York, circumstances force their paths to continue to cross, but the most peculiar feelings growing between them certainly can't be love. When the trouble Arabella had accidentally stirred up seems to have followed her to New York and threatens her very life, the unlikely couple must face the possibility that they might have landed in the most peculiar circumstance of all: love.

My Review: 2/10

Oy. The first half wasn't horrible. Several times I thought to myself, "Okay, compared to her first book, her writing is getting better; she really has some potential." And then the second half happened and it was so bad that it more than made up for first half being tolerable.

I found nothing about the prostitutes, except maybe one or two of Dot's lines, to be believable- nothing in their characterization nor any other of the other characters' reception of them. And then, when Arabella announces to a bunch of people she just met that none of the prostitutes would "proposition a man in this household because they are honorable," just mere sentences after privately reflecting she'd just heard Sarah quietly speak for the second time ever, I about lost it. The poor characterization isn't even consistent!

Again, I found none of the other character's attitudes or prejudices accurate; there were none. Pretty much everyone is liberal and progressive. If they aren't, they will be shown the light and join up in record time. There is no depth, no flaws to any of them. They were so flat I could easily interchange one for any other.

There is no suspense or mystery in this book. The murder subplot is clearly explained from the very beginning, and then the author kindly reminds you who the culprits are halfway through, in case you might have forgotten that the suspects are limited and have been rather obvious.

Also, it is not normal for everyone to like you. They all loved her. Pretty much immediately. Anyone who didn't was eventually brought to reason. Which, as I said, is not normal, and what's worse, it's boring.

What was with Arabella constantly reflecting that Theodore was "...intriguing," and Theodore going back and forth between thinking she's "...approachable," or "...unapproachable?" Ugh.

And that reminds me, the dialect and the use of Christian names really threw me off.

About 60% through, I was so thoroughly bored that I started skimming. There was no mystery to how this story was going to play out and I really didn't want to ingest anymore sugary sweet exchanges.

I don't even know why anyone would bother to read the following books. The author has made it clear that Zayne ends up with Agatha and Felicia ends up with Grayson. My bet is that it will play out like the first two books: progressive woman + prejudiced man + extreme circumstances + fighting their affections for one another, and then BOOM, the pretenses drop and they're in love. But I probably will read them because, evidently I'm a glutton for punishment.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Island Review

The IslandThe Island

‘I walk toward the sea. The endless surface of the water extends to the horizon, whichever way I look.

Our world is small. We are on our own, and we only have ourselves to depend on. We rely on the Force deep within us, as taught to us by our forefathers.

If I were to walk westward from here, I would come across a barrier – the Wall. Behind it, there are Fools. At least, that’s what everyone says.

I have never seen one.’

Leia lives on the Island, a world in which children leave their parents to take care of themselves when they are ten years old. Across this Island runs a wall that no one has ever crossed. The Fools living behind it are not amenable to reason – they believe in illusions. That’s what The Book says, the only thing left to the Eastern Islanders by their ancestors.
But when a strange man washes ashore and Leia meets a Fool face to face, her life will never be the same. Is what she and her friends believe about the Island really true?

Or is everyone in their world, in fact, a Fool?

(Please note: this novella contains a few references to the famous sci-fi movie Star Wars which are pivotal to the plot. None of the characters in The Island are in any way related to the characters in the movie.)

My Review: 6.5/10

I've not read a lot of novellas/short stories, because I often find them incomplete or rushed. And those are the complaints I have with this book.

It was an interesting concept. I agree with other reviewers that the star wars connections initially raised an eyebrow. As it went on and more unravelled, it really turned me off. BUT the conclusion put everything together and made it alright.

The writing was decent, the storyline interesting, the characters mostly likeable. It kind of reminded me of Lord of the Flies, with much less corruption, although that may have been due to limited pages in comparison.

I felt like the romance was WAYTOORUSHED and the plot happened so fast that I really didn't have a chance to -feel- the suspense. If it had been lengthened into a full novel with another hundred and fifty pages or so, I think it could have really been something.

(NetGalley provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Reign Review

Reign: The Chronicles Of Queen Jezebel (Lost Loves of the Bible #3)Reign: The Chronicles Of Queen Jezebel 

Beyond the Drama, Her Heart Was Real
From the moment her marriage to prince Ahab thrusts her into the intrigues of palace life, Jezebel’s exotic beauty opens doors and her will breaks down walls. Torn from her homeland and wed to power in a strange country, Jezebel vows to create a legacy and power all her own. Some might call her a manipulative schemer, bent on having her way. But they don’t know the whole story, and she was much, much worse. As she moves through the halls of power, her heart struggles between devotion to the gods she worships, the prince who loves her, and her thirst for revenge. She sparks a battle between her strangely powerless gods and the God of palace administrator Obadiah—a God who confronts her with surprising might. She will fight, though victory may cost her everything.

My Review: 8/10

I read this not being previously familiar with Jezebel’s story. All I could recall was that Jezebel = bad. I mean, even her name is a derogatory word these days. So I wasn’t sure which direction this book would take.

I read a couple of reviews before starting because I hadn't realized at first that this was one in a series, and wasn't sure if I'd be able to read it without having first read the previous two. If you're in the same boat, don't worry, this book stands alone. The reviews disheartened me because I am a very empathetic and sensitive person when it comes to violence. But I trudged on. The author wastes no time diving right into the sin, cruelty and perversion. I didn’t think it was as graphic as others thought. Though painful to read, particularly because these things are not just fiction, they happened, it was bearable.

I quickly came to understand Elijah’s sorrow. After his curse, I had a horrible sense of foreboding: This was going to get a whole lot worse. I could see things unraveling. How could Ahab not? How could he not be more affected, more nervous, more driven to set things right? And not just for himself, he was bringing this upon his people as well. I guess it’s in our human nature to want to hope things work out okay even when we’re making destructive decisions. We have the completed Bible, so we know when there’s no hope for a situation. Although, they had prophets, so they knew it too. I guess it just comes down to faith. And as Ahab says, he was born without Hebrew blood, without religion. He even states early on that, “whether or not they are real, the gods are for us,” showing that he had no faith.

This was the low point for me. I knew enough that I knew Jezebel’s story would not end well, and if this was the beginning… well I braced myself for further pain and suffering. It did get better though. I wanted to root for Ahab and of course would wish that Jezebel and her people would turn from evil and know God. But though I could not know that relief, I was able to rejoice for Elijah and the nation of Israel regaining their sanity.

Bottom line, I would recommend this book. I expected to learn a little more about Jezebel and Ahab, and the people of that time, possibly even a little bit about human nature and how their failings are ones that are still relevant to us today. And yes, I did glean all of that, but what I took away from this book was a better understanding of my Father. I got a glimpse of the pain and frustration and rage over the events that took place, but also the mercy and love.

On side note, the only complaint about the writing that I had was that the dates jumped around too casually. I think the author intending it this way to give the passage of time a feel of melting away, but it had the opposite affect on me, as I had to stop every time I noticed and get my bearings and try to figure out where all the characters were and what was going on. And I appreciated the few facts at the end of the book- simply unthinkable!