Saturday

Review: Wed by Necessity

Wed by Necessity Wed by Necessity by Karen Kirst
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I tried and tried to get into this book. I really liked the premise, but the execution fell flat. I just could not care one way or another about the main characters. The animosity/attraction between the two main characters is far too heavy-handed in the beginning. If someone is aggravated by another person, they aren't interested in how broad his shoulders are. The beginning is just not believable in my opinion. This kind of writing goes way back to those kidnap-woman-fall-in-love books written back in the late 70s and 80s.

Some authors made the premise work because the story was about preconceived perceptions being wrong, lack of communication, and finally discovering the other person's true character. Classic Pride and Prejudice. This one does not work.



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Thursday

Review: A Hero's Homecoming

A Hero's Homecoming A Hero's Homecoming by Carlene Havel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly a captivating read. However, there are some holes in the storyline that constrict the story flow somewhat. The protag comes home to find his house sold, his bank account drained and his wife is nowhere to be found. Now... all those problems seem to just disappear when he finally makes it home to his dad's house. The reason I say it's captivating is because you seem to forget those problems as he gets closer to God and to the one woman who is actually worthy to love. I guess if your dad is as rich as Midas you don't have to worry that you've lost everything.

One thing that I really liked about this book is that the characters don't agonize over everything and the author doesn't constantly "bring you up to date" like you've forgotten the plot from one chapter to the next.

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Review: Christmas at Dove Creek

Christmas at Dove Creek Christmas at Dove Creek by Scarlett Dunn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great story, great character development, solid and believable external conflicts and then you get to the end and realize why there's very little internal conflict with both main characters. What I found wonderful was the authentic Cajun flavor of the dialogue, the story, the details even though it is set in Colorado. Great job by the author, the editor, and the publisher. Thanks for a good read!

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Review: Stars in the Grass

Stars in the Grass Stars in the Grass by Ann Marie Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise is very depressing. A child is killed in an accident and the family has to deal with the tragedy--all seen from the eyes of a 9-year-old girl. There are some sweet moments, and one or two places made me smile, but frankly the whole is gut-wrenching. I fight depression all the time, so this book was not good for me to read. The reason is there was no hope or ray of sunshine given at the beginning of the story. I need that to know that to latch onto because we can't count on happy endings anymore. There have been lots of books that end, and I feel cheated because the ending did not meet expectations.

It's very well written. It stays in the 70s with no oppsies from the 21st century, even speech patterns stay in the 70s. BUT readers need hope when faced with reading something so depressing. There has to be hope for the sunshine in a rainy week otherwise it becomes too oppressive.

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Wednesday

Review: The Honorable Heir

The Honorable Heir The Honorable Heir by Laurie Alice Eakes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four stars because the research is excellent and no modernism!

Enchanting story. Of course, the story has been told before countless times, but Eakes gives this one a nice flair. The story has a bit of mystery, a handsome love interest who just happens to be part of the family of Catherine's late husband.

Intriguing supporting characters are cousins, the wronged fiancee, and Catherine's sister. Eakes weaves the stories together beautifully from Catherine's point of view for the most part. She doesn't take long, backstory trips that clog the story flow. The research is wonderful. However...

Writing problems plague this story. There are a lot of character introduced without developing them so that you really don't know who Tristram is and who Ambrose is and where did Florian come from? The plotline drags in the middle with too much redundancy. You can only wonder about a person being a thief so much before you just have to move along. The huge problem remains that once Catherine fell in love with a pretty face along with a bit of lust, it looks like she'd be on her guard and less likely to fall in love with another pretty face and pack of muscles. That part seems very unrealistic to the point of unbelievability.

To make this novel work well, take out about 9,000 words, tighten the 1st half, and focus on giving each main character reasons to fall in love with each other. Also coerce the villain to confess, don't just let a confession fall on the floor like a broken plate.

Received the ARC from Netgalley.

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Monday

Review: Passages Across Time

Passages Across Time Passages Across Time by Bonnie Howell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting read if you like a lot of retrospection. At least CJ has a good outlook on life, and it's got a lot of positive prose in it. Except...

CJ has this idea that she missed so much because she didn't take the right turns or make the right decisions in life. But a windfall lands in her lap so she gets to take that trip she never did, and buy everything she saw that she just might like. I have to wonder why is it that people have to swing on a pendulum to find out what they think they want, they really don't want.

Anyway that the kind of story this is... however

Description is really good, and small town living is very well depicted. You get a great feel for the sights, sounds, and smells in CJ's world. Riding with CJ happens to be a worthy ride.

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Review: And Then She Was Gone

And Then She Was Gone And Then She Was Gone by Christopher Greyson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Apparently, this is not the first in the series, but it goes back to Jack Stratton's teen year's and his first solved mystery. I was intrigued from the first page. Then when I realized it was about a 17-year-old, I thought oh, it's a YA. in a series. But, the beginning is quite chilling. Well, it was good all the way through. I especially liked how the characters were developed from their actions and responses to situations. I will most likely read all the other books.

Good mystery with plenty of twists and turns. I'm rarely surprised in whodunits because I analyze so deeply. I love to solve puzzles. But this one was a surprise because it turned out it wasn't who I thought it was. Greyson lays down a great puzzle to analyze. I got really annoyed with Jack Stratton because he kept doing things that were stupid, and then he put his dad in a situation that was quite dangerous although the dad walked right into with eyes wide open. But that's at the end and no spoiler.

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Review: Slender Reeds: Jochebed's Hope

Slender Reeds: Jochebed's Hope Slender Reeds: Jochebed's Hope by Texie Susan Gregory
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am ever hopeful that a really good biblical fiction will burst forth from a Christian fiction writer... something like Ben Hur or The Robe. Maybe someday...

But not today.

The problem with most fiction that tries to be biblical is the lack of research on the author's part. Not only lack of research, but lack of biblical knowledge. I tried really hard to believe that what was unfolding in this story was possible and plausible. However, the author did not know that Joshua and Caleb were not the same age. Caleb was years older than him. Joshua's name was Hosea when he was in Egypt. Moses changed his name when he ordained him as his assistant to follow him in leading the people.

I have enough of the spiritual gift Teacher in me that once someone has veered off the plausible path in a book, it is hugely difficult for me to continue. Within just two pages the above wretched mistakes appeared. I gave up because it was such a story-stopper for me.

Received this from Netgalley.

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Review: Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere

Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere by Bo Brock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven't enjoyed a book so much since I read James Herriot's series All Things Great and Small and the other 3 after that.

I think a person has to have a true sense of humor to be a vet. Bo definitely does. He started writing columns for the local newspaper and a vet magazine picked up one... people made so many great comments the magazine asked him to keep writing. This book is the culmination of several of those columns. I'm so glad he got the idea to publish them.

Great read. So funny and poignant. Not exactly like James Herriot, but pretty close.

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Review: Sofi's Bridge

Sofi's Bridge Sofi's Bridge by Christine Lindsay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book!

Exquisite research into the era, and deftly written into the story. Character development was very good, albeit a little see-through in places. I got first annoyed and then lost patience with Sofi's sister and mother. But then, there really were women like that back then.

Very good storyline but with too many story fronts. Two main characters who have their stories, then the sister's story, and then the mother's story. Amazingly, they did not get tangled into a confusing mess. However, we have a delicious villain who you just keep screaming at Sofi to quit listening to.

Love the scenery descriptions. You can smell the must in the old cabin, see the dust motes dancing in the sunbeams, and hear the whispering trees as the breeze rustles the leaves.

The descriptions, the deft transitions into each story, the research into bridge building of the early 1900s, the quality character development make this a 5-star reading treat.

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Tuesday

Review: The Return of Sir Percival: Guinevere's Prayer

The Return of Sir Percival: Guinevere's Prayer The Return of Sir Percival: Guinevere's Prayer by S. Alexander O'Keefe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was quite intrigued with Sir Percival. I can see a lot of merit in the story, and great attention to researching the times of medieval England.

There is a LOT of telling story instead of showing story, although I'm not a fan of flashbacks so I'm grateful there was a telling not a showing around the campfires with the back story--but, there is way too much back story that does NOT move the story along. The reader gets bogged down in back story. Maybe this story should have started in the back story since the author is so interested in it.

On the other hand, the author has done a really good job with creating the life and times of medieval England. There were tons of nuances throughout that paints almost photographically clear pictures of what it was like to live during that time (both those with money and those without), except the ability to read and write. There is a network of spies for the Queen that can read and write, and that just wasn't the case back then. Character development is subtle, and that is exactly how I like it. You get a feel for what each character cares about through their actions and their words. Great development, except there is too much back story.

The story, on the other hand, is full of rehashes as if the reader can't remember from one chapter to the next the character motivations. There are zero transitions when head jumping happens (that's jumping from one character's viewpoint in one part of the story to another character's viewpoint in a different part of the story). This results in jerky, stop/start story flow, which deflates story momentum and tension. Leaving a character in "dire straits" does not create story flow tension that would amplify white-water story flow; it dilutes it into confusion. If you are going to jump from one character to another (this story has basically three POVs), then you really need transitions from one section to another. Transitions are a primary tool in writing that are rarely used correctly. When used to best advantage, the reader never notices. The reader gets to that holding-breath, edge-of-seat reality, and he/she can't put the book down. That's the kind of writing that can pull off more than one point of view. Unfortunately, O'Keefe needs a lot more practice before she can pull off that kind of story.

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Wednesday

Review: Slave Queen

Slave Queen Slave Queen by H.B. Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Normally, I don't care for two intertwining stories. It's usually makes the story flow all jerky and hard to follow. But this one is rather intriguing. Reader beware, there are zero transitions. Zero flow from one to the other so it is definitely stop/start reading and most of the time jarring. Yet, the stories are compelling. You can't help but turn the pages, and then you think about it all wondering what to do like you are in the story. That hasn't happened to me in a very long time!

Wonderful writing. Superior character development. You can feel the dry heat, smell the dust, hear the harem sounds, and get a glimpse into ancient Turkey. The research is superior as well. All in all this is a very satisfying read.

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