Monday

Review: The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here's a really nice Regency romance novel with a bit of romantic intrigue. The only trouble with it is that it's Book 2 and there are a lot of references to what happened in Book 1. Those references made me feel like an outsider, rather than in the story. I continually felt like I'd missed something until I finally realized it was a Book 2 rather than a stand alone or Book 1.

That said, the characters are quite likeable and developed quite well. Interesting storyline. A little different than any other Regency I've read. We've got n0t-a-book-worm inheriting all these books from her father. She opens a library that sells subscriptions so people can read the book. What a neat set up for this story.

If you haven't read the first in this series, I suggest you purchase it before you read this one. You'll enjoy this one much better. Also, if the first one is written as well as this one then you are in for treat. Well-written, good story, no plot contrivances (Yea!), and solid story telling.

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Review: T-H-B

T-H-B T-H-B by Randy C. Dockens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love indie published books! I love science-fiction! I praise all writers with the gumption to indie publish! So congrats to Randy Dockens. The premise of this book is really good.

First, this book was professionally proofread. Kudos for that!

Second, this novel was not professionally developmentally edited--that's when an editor dives deep into the story to help the author streamline and pull the story together tightly to make a fast-paced page turner.

Third, Dockens does a good job of developing the main character who is believable and 3-D. The POV is written very well. However, the love interest/physician is a bit flat. Transitions from one scene to another are non-existent, and the number of characters is very large... not that it is a huge problem, it's that developing a lot of characters so they fit perfectly in the story to move the story along is very difficult to do. A developmental editor could do this for Dockens and make this story zing with some much needed zest.

The premise is very good, but the execution of it still needs a lot of work to make this a really good book. That said, the story is good enough to keep your attention, except when more characters without much development are added to the mix. When that happens, keep reading, it'll become clear.

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for a copy of this book to honestly review.

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Thursday

Review: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor

12 Days at Bleakly Manor 12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rated PG because of subject matter

A superb read. Romance, mystery, intrigue, and some snow, ice, cold rooms and weird cuisine.

Although you've got tones of Bleak House (Dickens) and a plot reminiscent of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, you don't have to read those stories to get full enjoyment of this book.

I just love howMichelle Griep delicately develops the characters. Clara is the main character and was left at the altar by Benjamin who is also invited to spend Christmas at the manor along with some rather fun, weird characters who are all promised some fabulous something if they are the last one at the manor on the 12th day of Christmas. Ben was wrongfully imprisoned and thought Clara had betrayed him. Clara thought Ben had betrayed her family and impoverished her by stealing their fortune. The other characters some tangles to unweave as well.

You get a wonderful character study of each one as their stories unfold.

I enjoyed every word of this story. It's a keeper and worthy of 5 of 5 stars.

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Review: Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light Let There Be Light by Dan Gordon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rated PG because of subject matter.

I have the highest respect for Sean Hannity, Kevin Sorbo, and the movies that the Christian actor has made. I believe strongly there just are not enough Christian movies that have a good Faith message.

That said, I don't highly recommend this book. I can definitely see how this story makes a terrific movie. While Dan Gordon has written some amazing scripts for movies, his forte is not novel writing. Somewhere in the beginning of the book in all that "boring" pre-novel information you find out that Dan made a deal with Sam Sorbo (Kevin Sorbo's wife) that he would collaborate with her only if she would write the book and give it to him for rewriting and she wouldn't complain or insist on any changes. How sad--and arrogant.

I would love to have read Sam's story before Dan rewrote it.

The premise of this story is absolutely wonderful! Character development is quite good for the main character, Sol, but leaves a lot to be desired in his wife and children. Although, the other characters are developed fairly well.

You find yourself tisk-tisking when Sol does some very stupid things. But novels are not like movies. Plot development is different. Character development is different. There are some words and phrases used over and over that give this narrative a hollow tone. I think too much time is spent on the stupid things Sol does before the big event happens that turns the plot corner. It's a bit heavy handed because it stands out like a sore thumb. Gordon may as well have put a neon sign at the top of the page that says "Here is the beginning of Sol's turnaround." Okay, maybe that is going a tad too far.

You are rooting for Sol to turn his life around. After all, it's Kevin Sorbo, so you know he will turn it around as soon as he sees the Light (by the way, there are way too many books with this title).The plot depends upon Sol not seeing the light right away. Perhaps this journey in his darkness goes on a bit long. Readers get that he's off the deep end after the first couple of incidents.

Then Sol has a near-death experience, and you find out (not a spoiler) the reason why Sol is so desperately trying to fill the hole in his soul with drugs and alcohol and all manner of worldly things. But you have to go through a lot with Sol to get to that point. Don't give up, it does get better.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book. This is my honest opinion.

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Wednesday

Review: The Girl Who Lived

The Girl Who Lived The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rated PG-15 because of subject matter.

Christopher Greyson pours out an amazing story from the POV of a young woman, traumatized as a little girl that causes her to tread a dark path because she has surviver's guilt and was further traumatized by the best-selling book her psychiatrist mother wrote about the tragedy.

This is a wonderful psychological thriller/mystery with all the tingling questions and as the spine chilling answers unfold, you just have to wonder how the girl survived without a mental breakdown. Oh, wait. She did have one of those as well.

Never fear, the premise may sound very depressing, but the book is not. The character development is superb not just in the main character, but in most of the supporting cast as well. There are several subplots, too, but they are not distracting as the answers to the subplot questions pertain to the mystery. So pay attention, the ride is bumpy, and quite creepy especially when you find out certain things about the killer.

The plot is very good. Greyson weaves a complicated plot masterfully into a page-turning-staying-up-till-the-wee-hours-of-the-morning novel.

This one is a keeper, and gets 5 of 5 stars.

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Review: The After War: The Complete Novel

The After War: The Complete Novel The After War: The Complete Novel by Brandon Zenner
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Rated R for the language. There are some F-bombs and some foul language, and taking God's name in vain.

Let me first say that I am a dedicated supporter of indie publishing. I know that it is challenging, and I try to support anyone brave enough to do it, so kudos to Brandon Zenner for doing it.

The premise of this book is a bit formulaic so you expect certain things to happen, and they do. I have to say that I am not a fan of dual POVs. In this book one is in Canada and the other is in the heartland of America and it takes forever to bring them together. Every great book has a character that has good motivations--wants something desperately and is willing to do just about anything to get it. These characters don't have that. They act like they do, but they really don't. Survival isn't enough. They already survived some major war and plague. So survival doesn't cut it.

There just isn't any reason why the world is as it is, and really no motivations for the characters to start a trek across the country after the two years is up. Why two years? How did anyone know that at the end of two years it would be safe to come out?

So when reading, those questions come to the back of your mind, don't fret, they won't be answered. That's frustrating.

The characters are flat because there is no development for Steve and Brian. I can't remember the name of the fellow that was the outdoorsy guy who weathered the Whatever War and Plague in Canada, and he was one-dimensional as well.

However, if you are looking for a dystopian story that has such great narrative that you are living and breathing the atmosphere: the narrative and description in this book are top-notch. You are literally in their world.

The trouble is, if you don't know the characters and their motivations, then you don't care about them. The switching POVs with cliffhanger chapters is not my cuppa tea. Transitions from one POV to the other are non-existent. I've never found a writer who could do this well except Mary Stewart.

I would love to recommend this book, but I just can't.


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Tuesday

Review: The Engagement Plot

The Engagement Plot The Engagement Plot by Krista Phillips
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love really good romances that are packed with great character development. I was disappointed.

I do not understand how a person who deeply believes in God, who is determined to adhere to Scripture teaching about being pure until married, can not work at forgiveness since that is also a command in Scripture.

To me, the premise of the book is great. It promised to be a good, fun, sometimes funny read. Phillips didn't follow through with it. Hanna had the right to be angry that William betrayed her pretending that she gave in and had sex on their "alone night" to the whole world. I really, really get that. But to start having those loving feelings revive and still hang on to the anger went too far for me to suspend my belief. Hanna actually acknowledges that she needed to forgive because she was Christian, but she stubbornly held on to that anger like a protective shield. So this leaves a huge hole in the plot.

There are other holes like why is it that most people believe if you spend a lot of money on a person that indicates a heart attitude change? What is it about a man being handsome and popular that is supposed to make you believe that is all that's needed for a woman to swoon in love?

Handsome and Beauty with great bodies does not make love bloom. Lust maybe, but not love. Today it seems like people can't tell the difference between love and lust.

The fact that Hanna and William had some fairly good dialogue saved the book for me. I found I did start to care what happened. But, [spoiler]a man needs to demonstrate a lot more change than spending money, having great parents, a little remorse to be worthy of the love of a woman. William just didn't grow as a character. Yes, he quit his job in the end, but that was sort of selfish because he knew he couldn't have Hanna if he didn't quit. William needed to demonstrate a little altruism and some repentance rather than just some remorse over what he did.[/spoiler] I think Phillips could have done a better job at that because she really is a good writer.

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Review: Lily of the Manor

Lily of the Manor Lily of the Manor by Anita Stansfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was a movie a long time ago starring Paul Newman and Joann Woodward that could have been truly boring, but instead was fascinating. This is that kind of novel/romance.

If written any other way, it would have been so boring. But this melodrama is actually fascinating because it is character driven rather than event driven. The only thing that could be improved is the character of the children could have been developed more. It would have made it more interesting. But then there are 12 of them, and that would have been a daunting task.

Rather predictable, but how the problems and situations are resolved makes it readable. Also, there is an interesting reveal of just how children were treated in the 1800s. It isn't graphic, but you get the idea and it sort of churns your stomach. We've come a very long way.

Good story premise, and could be a tad unbelievable except Lily suffered some prejudice because of her looks, and Fredrick suffered child abuse that he barely remembers.

What i really liked about it was that Fredrick and Lily found qualities about each other to love and thus it isn't handsome hunk and gorgeous woman thrown together and magically love abounds. It's a lot more real than most romance fiction. The faith factor is a bond that draws them together at first, and this faith factor never dissipates. Just a lovely story.

It gets 4 stars instead of 5 because it is a lot wordy and there's quite a bit of rehashing that could have been trimmed out with good editing. Although this book was a Netgalley and Covenant ARC (thank you!) so it might have been trimmed after I got the ARC.

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Review: To Wager Her Heart

To Wager Her Heart To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've liked the Belle Meade Plantation books, but there is just something a bit off about how Alexander handles the prejudice in this one. It seems like she must have had a problem with prejudice in her younger years because that seems to be the theme in the Belle Meade series (all are stand alone, though).

Alexander paints nearly all the whites in the story as bigots and only Sylas and Alexandra as open-hearted, compassionate people who not only respect the negroes but work for their betterment as well. This was not the case. Too many people accept bigotry as a national pasttime of the South. Just as preachers falling into the wiles of fast women becomes national news because of its rarity, so does the sensationalism of bigoted Southerners. While the Northerners were the most prejudiced.

The author did a good job of depicting the prejudice of the North when the Jubilee Singers did their tour. In fact, she notes in the back matter that the real life Jubilee Singers met much worse prejudice and abuse than depicted in the novel.

Another hole in the plot was the absence of "carpetbaggers" who ran rampant over the South during this time until 1877, nor is mentioned any government help that was offered during this time through the Reconstruction era. However, when depending upon God, one doesn't look to the government does one?

I did love the characters. I read to the end because of the characters and Tamera Alexander did a very good job developing them into believable and lovable people except the antagonists. There is nothing two-dimensional about any of them including the supporting cast--including Alexandra's father and mother.

This is an enjoyable read, worthy of purchase. You'll get to know quite a bit of railroad and Nashville history that is as accurate and I can determine. Good job on that as well.

* This novel was provided through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: An Inconvenient Beauty

An Inconvenient Beauty An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very well done! I'll let the other reviewers tell you the story... I'll tell you why the story is really good, in fact...

Great story, and even though this is the 4th in the Hawthorne series, the character development is not skipped over nor is there any real need to read the first three to know what's going on. Of course the previous characters play a part in this one, and you get to see the happy marriages :), but this is a great example of a stand alone story in a series.

Each of the main characters has a problem that stems from their own personality. That is another rare jewel to find in a novel. And contrary to Randy Ingermanson's axiom that in order to do a story well each character needs to want something so badly he/she will do anything to get it. Hunter writes so well that you don't notice the motivations so much as you delve into and really love the characters--all of them, even the ones who's head you do not jump into!

Hunter is one of the rare authors that can tell a story very well so that, even though there may be some problems with formatting when reading an ARC in Netgalley, you just brush those errors to the side because the story is so good. This isn't a convoluted story route. It has several complications that are quite interesting, but you aren't jumping into character's heads to be told their motivations every other chapter. Hunter treats her readers with respect, thank you. There's very little rehashing if any. The story move along at a good pace without pages and pages of character angst. The value of that is a very good story with a great plot and believable characters whom you can love... and hate.

Love the way that Hunter takes you into the era without problems in modernisms popping up that jerk you out of the story.

5 of 5 stars. Worthy read, and it's a keeper.

* This book was given to me by Bethany House and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: The House on Foster Hill

The House on Foster Hill The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'm sorry, but this story is not my cuppa tea. I really hate dual stories mixed into one novel. I haven't read an author that has been able to really do something like that well. If you start out in the present than hark back to a hundred years ago, it's really hard to do transitions well. No exception here.

Character development is basically non-existent except for Ivy. I think Wright liked Ivy more than--what's her name. Seems like she spent more time with her. However, without well-balanced character building, I found I didn't really care about either girl, or their love interests.

The dual story line gave no time for building suspense. Using cliff-hanger chapter endings is just plain annoying when you flip to a different time frame in the next chapter. It is a ploy that TV scripts use to keep people glued through commercials... don't need that in books. If the story premise is good and the writing is good, readers will come back to the story.

Maybe I'm too persnickety, but I value and guard my reading time because I have so little of it. This one wasn't worth the time I spent.

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Review: Deadly Proof

Deadly Proof Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was pretty good. I especially liked how Dylan kept on track with minimal head hopping. We get the viewpoint of the three main characters. Kate Sullivan, her old-time friend from law school, and her private detective who is a former Army Ranger. Really good character development in all three of them.

You are drawn into the story from the very first page, and each page is a turner. However, there is a bit of wordiness, and quite a bit of rehashing points. I don't like that at all because it feels like padding to me, and this is why the book gets 4 stars instead of 5 from me. While some of the padding is interesting, the rehashing is just annoying. Why do authors who get up from there writing have to go back and rehash motives and previous stuff already handled just to explain why a character thinks something or does something? It's like the author is reminding himself/herself what had happened to get the story flowing again after a break. Readers don't take long breaks, so we don't forget from one chapter to the next. Argh!! (Those readers who buy the already published work might not see these things. Don't know because I read the first upload from Netgalley, it wasn't even an ARC.)

Besides those problems, the premise is right in line with John Grissom's best, only this one is steamed with faith and some faith problems especially with Landon (Kate's PI), which are very well interwoven in the story. Another thing done very well is great transitions from one POV to another. You aren't jerked out of the story trying to figure out where you are or whose head you are in. Congrats on that Dylan!

*Received this book from publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Special note to publisher--if you'd just take a little time to edit before upload to Netgalley, it would make our reading life so much easier!!! I'm willing to forgive a few mistakes here and there for indie published work, but come on Bethany, you are a professional! Give us a break!

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