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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Review: The Beautiful Ones

The Beautiful Ones The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An amazing read, kinda fun and kinda frustrating at a character so blinded by previous infatuation. Very character driven story with beautiful descriptions. Because it's character driven, the story moves a bit slow. In fact, the development of characters happens a lot in description and no so much in deeds until further into the book. So, it isn't a surprise when the wicked cousin does/says something quite selfish and, well, wicked.

The magic interweaves the story with a bit of tension that keeps the pages turning. Again, the pace is slow, but that is to help the reader really care about what happens to the characters and for wicked cousin Valerie's comeuppance. In some places it is a bit melodramatic, and other places the author flips points of view that is distracting in a lot of ways.

I personally dislike it when head jumping has no transitions. When you are in one character's POV and next page you are in a different character's POV can be very unsettling with no smooth transition. It's almost better the head hop within a scene because at least you have a point of reference.

I like the book. Don't have a desire to read it again as I do with Georgette Heyer's romances and Jane Austin's. So, it's just my opinion.

3 of 5 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley to St. Martin's Publishing for the book in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: A Dangerous Legacy

A Dangerous Legacy A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved the story and the characters. Camden does a wonderful job with historical details that really add so many dimensions to her stories. This one won't disappoint!

I particularly enjoyed the inside look at news of the day in 1903, and the peek inside a sanitarium with the horrendous practices. (It isn't graphic, just horrifying).

Character development is really good, but one thing that was a bit reader shocking is the abrupt turn around at the end of the story. I get it, but it's still very abrupt.

Each character has a flaw that is even pertinent to today as well. Woven into the story these flaws take the characters out of the 2-D realm of paper and ink (or eReader) into full, lively color complete with smells and textures that you don't find in most stories these days.

It's a keeper, and a great, satisfying read.

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for giving me this copy to review.

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Review: The Essence of Malice

The Essence of Malice The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a story that you definitely need to read the previous stories in order to get any kind of character development for the main characters. But the other characters are developed quite well to the point that there were lots of characters to choose from to pin the murder upon. Keeps you guessing pretty well to the end.

Also, I was lost when I found out that the marriage had been troubled. Also, why in the world would someone love another person that was so secretive???? Not healthy.

Setting that aside, the mystery is very slowly solved. Achingly slow. It irritated me no end that husband was so secretive toward wife. I lost interest long before the end, and the characters did not leave a lasting imprint in my mind.

Disclaimer: I would probably have totally enjoyed this story if I had read the previous novels. I adore period mysteries and the early 1930's is quite a wonderful era for a mystery!

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Review: Crisis Shot

Crisis Shot Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story kept me interested until close to the end. The author missed an opportunity for a cataclysmic climax and missed it completely. Way too many points of view so it was very difficult to really care about the protagonist, not even sure which one was the protagonist. So I lost interest. The premise is pretty good, but I think there are lots of other small town, small county sheriff/police chief stories that have been done so much better.

However, the tiny details of police work were very interesting, and the management of the officers different personalities was great!

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Review: A Match for Melissa

A Match for Melissa A Match for Melissa by Susan Karsten
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Karsten does an excellent job with the historical part of this story. Great attention to detail. Her descriptions bring the era alive.

Characters are very well developed. Quite a good element of faith, and Melissa is adamant of marry in the faith. I found it hard to imagine that with that strong will to marry in the faith that she didn't see through several of the characters. Nonetheless, she perseveres and wins her man. Of course.

I found each page of the story to move the story along... none of the missteps that newbies generally make. She had an excellent editor to go along with her excellent story telling.

This is a keeper.

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Review: Crossing the Lines

Crossing the Lines Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here is an excellent venture into the mind of a writer and mind of a character interacting. I've actually had conversations with my characters before... but not like this!

Excellent writing, but not so great an ending. I felt very deflated and disappointed. I guess, if I had read any other of her books, I might have been prepared for this kind of ending. This was my first read of hers and I completely and enthusiastically enjoyed it all the way to the last chapter, maybe last 2 chapters.

The characters are so well developed the transitions seem to be transparent. Head hopping is not really noticeable. That is the mark of an excellent writer. Description is not overpowering, but so deft that the authors places you right in the scene. You're sitting on the sofa, or the in the garden, or in the car, or at the bistro drinking coffee while they story moves around you. In fact it gets to the point where you aren't sure who is the real deal and who is the character.

The plot is quite intriguing, and the murder really isn't a murder--or is it really murder? You'll have to read to find out.

This one is a keeper.

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Wednesday

Review: Loving Luther

Loving Luther Loving Luther by Allison Pittman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the dark of night, Katharina von Bora says the bravest good-bye a six-year-old can muster and walks away as the heavy convent gate closes behind her.

Though the cold walls offer no comfort, Katharina soon finds herself calling the convent her home. God, her father. This, her life. She takes her vows—a choice more practical than pious—but in time, a seed of discontent is planted by the smuggled writings of a rebellious excommunicated priest named Martin Luther. Their message? That Katharina is subject to God, and no one else. Could the Lord truly desire more for her than this life of servitude?


Well, we find out. I was amazed at how closely Pittman stayed to the historical facts, but filled in with era-accurate story. You really get to know Katharina and her friends in the convent, and your heart breaks with how these children are raised in the Catholic church.

The characters are very 3 dimensional and so well crafted that you wonder how they'll handle what comes next after you turn out the lights. Just wonderful writing. You experience the intrigue and questions, worship by rote, and the courage and fear the nuns feel as they read the treasured words from the Bible in their own language and not Latin. You tremble at the thought of stepping outside a comfort zone that is not so comfortable in the cold, hard halls of the convent.

Descriptions bring in all the senses. You feel the terrible cold to your bones, the bland food depresses appetite, the rough fabric scratches the skin, the needle pricks your finger as secret pockets are made.

Excellent detail in story. The love interest of Katharina [spoiler]who rejects her because he was a weak person ruled by his mother and whom she does not end up with[/spoiler] gives a poignant reason for her attraction and true love for Martin Luther.

If you do not know Katharina's and Martin's story, this would be an excellent book to read. Pittman does not delve into the reformation movement except for the intrigue in smuggling in the questions and Bible verses for the nuns to ponder. It's all told from Katharina's point of view, so we don't agonize with Luther over his reformation awakening or his excommunication. This is a tender and poignant story about a little girl growing up in a convent and a religion that could not answer her questions. It's how the answers she found gave her a maturity in God to be a truly helpful helpmeet for Martin Luther.

Exquisite.


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Review: On Love's Gentle Shore

On Love's Gentle Shore On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am usually the odd one out when it comes to reviewing books. I do have very high standards, and this one falls short. But I do have a very good reason.

After 15 years Natalie and Justin are just as hopping mad at each other as if they had separated the day before. Fifteen years after my divorce from a man that cheated on me with 2 prostitutes not once but twice, I had forgiven him and we were able to be friends. Mostly because we shared 2 daughters and grandchildren, but the searing anger was gone. I knew that God said to forgive. Period. I had to work hard at forgiving, but I finally did.

These 2 lovebirds were supposed to be Christian and yet had harbored vicious anger forever. I wonder if Johnson knows just how long 15 years really is. I wonder if she even thought about God's command to forgive.

I got fed up with the spitting venom, which was not funny nor was it a particularly pleasant reading experience. Having lived for 22 years in a marriage with that kind of vicious bickering and venom, it took me a little while to understand why I had such an aversion to this story. It was the anger. And believe me, Johnson does an excellent job in describing that.

So don't take my observations to much to heart. I can imagine a really cold simmering anger after 15 years, but not this hot, raging vitriol. It didn't make sense.

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Review: Heart on the Line

Heart on the Line Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an exceptional read! I loved it.

Karen Witemeyer has written a tale with just the right mix of romance, intrigue, mystery, and humor in a truly good story. I did read the 1st book in the series, but it didn't matter because these characters were developed on their own merits, not building on the characters in the first book. This is a good stand alone story.

Karen does a great job of developing her characters. They are intriguing and fun examples of the era. She did her research well, and it was good research. In the story that revolves around telegraph operators, the times of late 19th century shine in the idiosyncrasies of life in a town full of women and one man (except for the supply delivery fellow). She resists the temptation for worn jokes, but does poke a little fun at the culture of the day, all within the era--no modernisms, thank goodness.

The pace is fast, but not so fast you whiz by the romance. She makes good use of the anticipation factor so that when the love interests finally recognize their love, it's very satisfying.

You'll get to know all different types of women, and none are caricatures--it feels like they are real and could be your best friends if only you lived way back then.

Five of five stars and this book is worth every penny. It's a keeper for sure.

Thank you NetGalley and Bethany House for my eBook copy to review in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday

Review: Bread of Angels

Bread of Angels Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a good fiction read, but biblical details are not exactly correct. Let me get that off my chest first. It would help her story a lot if Tessa had studied a good bit of Jewish tradition and factored that in. The reason the women gathered at the riverside to worship, pray, and teaching (the Greek word means oratory), is because it takes 10 Jewish men to create a synagogue. There weren't 10 Jewish men to do that. Paul, in all his journeys, sought out the synagogue first to preach, and then took the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Philippi was a Roman outpost/colony, but it had myriad peoples there.

And it had Jewish women who worshiped God, not Roman idols, and they came together on the Sabbath day, not just any day of the week. This is where Paul went first. While it is possible that Lydia was a proselyte, I think she was actually Jewish because of the way the text reads.

Except for the few other biblical inaccuracies, the book was finely researched and well depicted. I enjoyed the fictional depiction of Lydia especially the way Tessa described life in Thyatria with the dominant Romans and Roman customs. I also appreciate the way Tessa manipulated it so a Roman woman could own and run businesses. Sadly, that isn't how it was. Female babies were often given the name Oncia (born 1st), Secundia (second born), Tertia (as you've guessed, third born) and so on down the line. Female babies were often put outside the gates of Roman cities as unwanted because they were not regarded as worthy. Although Roman women had a lot more freedom and worth than did Greek women who were considered property and were never allowed in public, in their own dining rooms when male guests were there, nor anywhere that they could be seen by any male person other than papa or husband.



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Review: Whispers of the Wind / The Scent of Magnolia

Whispers of the Wind / The Scent of Magnolia Whispers of the Wind / The Scent of Magnolia by Frances Devine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very enjoyable read. This is the first book by Frances Devine that I've read, and I'm glad I did. I'll let you read the other reviews for what the story is about. However, I must say that I can definitely tell that Frances did her homework. The research she did was in depth and articulated well without being teachy or lecture like. Very well done.

Characters are well developed, although I think the superintendent acted a bit out of character sometimes, but then we find out why later on, so the tweaks and quirks are forgiven when we find out.

Lily, one of the children, is well developed, but the others are such minor characters that it doesn't really matter that they aren't developed. But it feels like something is missing -- children -- when we're in a school and the children are weaving in and out of the story as children do naturally.

The plot is fairly good, too. The romance heavily uses anticipation which is quite delicious. I really liked reading this book. Highly recommend.

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Review: An Alien Perspective

An Alien Perspective An Alien Perspective by Roxanne Barbour
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm probably one of the most critical reviewers that you'll meet. I really don't know why this book averaged 1.5 stars when it is really an excellent read. The characters are extremely well developed for a YA story. There are no cardboard characters here. Admittedly the action is a tad bland if you want to compare this it to something like StarTrek or Star Wars. But if you do, you are missing the whole point of a very poignant story.

Why is it that teenagers are so resilient and so determined to rise above situations. Because they believe that nothing bad will happen to them. Oh, sure, something bad happens to other teens, but nothing bad will happen to me. Adults on the other hand will struggle and strive with each other, will jockey for power, will have trouble working in a team environment, and will [spoiler]act just like the second team found a day's walk from our original team.[/spoiler]

If you've ever taken some college communications courses, this would be a good study in small group communication and leadership.

This is a study in survival from teenagers' point of view. I'd say this would be an excellent read for 9-12 year olds.

I do recommend this book.

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Review: Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a must read for every author whether you've written 30 books or still working on your first manuscript.

Bell has packed so many great ideas into this one book that you can't sleep with everything whirling around in your head.

I can't put it away. I keep dragging it out and rereading chapters because every time I reread a few pages, new ideas pop in my head. This is one of the best books for aiming your writing in order to hit the target every time you pull the trigger. Well... that isn't a great analogy, but maybe you get the gist of what I'm saying.



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Review: Transitory

Transitory Transitory by Ian Williams
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I just couldn't quite get into this novel. It moved a bit slow, and the characters were not well developed. After about half-way through, I realized that I just didn't care about the characters, so I quit reading.

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Tuesday

Review: A Tale of Two Kitties

A Tale of Two Kitties A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, I have to disagree with one of the reviews here that it was a seamless knitting of previous story into this 9th book in the series. Frankly, I got lost with all the characters that seemingly had nothing to do with moving the story along.

I love the small town relationships, it's just that there were so many of them. It took forever to get into the mystery. I finally gave up.

The writing is very good, the characters were already developed in earlier books so I missed out on that. But the kitties were a delight. I just love the premise of these books. I'll have to go back and read from the beginning so I'll know what's going on, I guess. Anyway, this is a good, clean story and the way Sofie Kelly tells the story is excellent. If you've read something of hers before, then you'll love this one just as much. If you haven't read anything of hers before, I strongly suggest that you purchase an earlier book and then come to this one just because there are so many characters to keep track of that you might get lost like I did. I said "might", not would.

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Monday

Review: The Silent Corner

The Silent Corner The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a die hard Koontz fan for decades (I won't say how many because that would date me:). This book did not disappoint me. It's a bit different, but such a great read. I read the ARC, so some of his wordiness had not been edited out. However, his descriptions have hit a new high. Reallly good, very poetic. In fact so poetic that some of them were a little distracting.

The story premise is very good and extremely frightening. Scary because technology can reach this peak, and who's to keep some corporation from doing this very thing? Koontz's mind is a scary place for sure.

Jane Hawk is a marvelous character. She's the only person who realizes what's going on, and she doesn't have anyone she can trust. I felt her frustration, her fear, her courage, and her patience-end. I cheered and I shivered. There are times when I got aggravated with Koontz's plot twists. After all, a hero needs her sidekicks!

Received the ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: prepared to die

prepared to die prepared to die by Peter Dudgeon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really like books from UK authors. This one didn't really hold my attention because there were so many different angles and points of view. I really hate this kind of jumping around, and seeming disorganized plot. Somehow the author gets to the end, but I'm bumfuzzled as to how. The language gets foul at times that doesn't add to the plot or give any kind of impact.

This is not an Agatha Christie type of mystery that is well thought out and all the characters are well developed. The, I think, protagonist is a bit introspective for me. But there are so many different characters whose heads we pop into and out of that it's hard to keep track.

The premise is good. The writing is also fairly good. It's the editing that needs a lot of improvement.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: No Easy Target

No Easy Target No Easy Target by Iris Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! I really like how Iris Johansen draws you into a story and gives the old brain lots of twists and quirks. How neat to have a protagonist that can talk to dogs. What an interesting beginning to have her talking to a tigress!

This is a wild ride. The story doesn't stop escalating, and the stakes keep getting higher and higher. Love this story, the premise, and the characters. I really cared what happened to all of them!

The characters are very well developed, and they do surprise you. How a person can endure what she endured and then [spoiler alert] walks right back into the horror she escaped from!

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Review: Lockdown

Lockdown Lockdown by Laurie R. King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book has way too many points of view from way too many characters. I couldn't get interested enough in a character to actually care what happened to that character. Even trying to skip forward and focus on one character didn't help. If this is the way that publishers are going to edit and publish books -- thank goodness for indie publishing!

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Review: Sherlock Mars

Sherlock Mars Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was intrigued by the book blurb. How fun to have a sci-fi murder mystery. Well, in a way it was fun, but very complicated. You've got about 4 storylines rolling along in this book and it's difficult to keep up with each one. My favorite was the prejudice problem with androids and humans. It could have been the mystery -- but that got lost in all the puns and wedding and wondering who was who.

This would have made several good books if the storylines had been separated, but then the characters weren't developed very well so the storyline would be the only thing holding it all together. Perhaps, it would have helped if I had read the first one? But if it was just like this one, I doubt I'd spend the time just to sort it all out.

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Wednesday

Review: Fringe Runner

Fringe Runner Fringe Runner by Rachel Aukes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book as one of the few sci-fi novels that was good from start to finish. A lot of them have really poor writing, character development, and other problems. This one had none of that. Oh, a few typos, but nothing seriously wrong.

It's fast paced. It has an excellent storyline and a good beginning for the series. It is not a cliffhanger ending, but you get a sneak peek at the next books so you don't feel quite so deprived. This is going to be a great series and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books.

It does have foul language, but it isn't every other word, jam-packed with them. No taking the Lord's name in vain, which is a show stopper for me. I didn't get an allergic reaction to them.

It didn't take long to like the characters. That is rather a rare characteristic in novels today. I can't read a story where I don't like the main characters. I especially like the girl pilot in the wheelchair. Her attitude is heroic. I like that a lot. So often there are stories that have characters that don't have any flaws. How boring. This book is anything but boring!

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Monday

Review: Fatal Gift

Fatal Gift Fatal Gift by Michael Frase
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Character development is top notch. You really get to know these characters, but in not in such a way that has you deeply caring about them. They have flaws; their emotions are raw; they make really bad choices; really bad things happen to them. Other than that its a rollercoaster ride for the reader.

I really really hate head jumping without transitions that ease the reader in a logical slide from one character to another so that connections can be made and distinctions between characters are drawn. Oh well... there are a lot of characters and it can get a bit confusing at times. This is more suspense than mystery.

This is a raw book, graphic, and void of much compassion. I get the feeling that the author didn't like even one of these characters. However, it is very vibrant. You can smell the grass pollen and dust and the fear.

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Review: From Ice to Ashes

From Ice to Ashes From Ice to Ashes by Rhett C. Bruno
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not exactly riveting fare. Although it is interesting. It would be nice if the author realized that readers are not dumkaufs and can actually remember from page to page that the Ringers are long, skinny humans with very slender hands and not a lot of strength. Instead, we are constantly reminded. We are constantly reminded that germs are deathtraps to Ringers, and the cleansing process one must take moving from level to level is also drilled into the noggin. These constant reminders drag the story to a snail's pace. With some really good editing, this could truly be a riveting spacer saga. The language is coarse, but I've found that to be the case in almost all sci fi I've read lately. Sigh...

The reader can easily skip over the constant reminders and find a pretty good storyline. It's probably worth the eBook price.

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Wednesday

Review: Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've really enjoyed other books by Turano. The other books she's written have characters whom I grew to care about quite quickly. Caring about what happens to the characters, wondering what's going to happen next are prerequisites for an enjoyable read for me. This one didn't quite hit the mark.

For no apparent reason Asher is drawn to Permilla (obviously made up name, which people just didn't do back in previous centuries unlike now, which is a drawback for me because period works should stay in the era they depict). While I can understand great passion can arise just because a person likes the way another person looks, Permilla is described as pretty--but why is she a wallflower... oh! She can't talk to men... but, then why can she voice her opinion so eloquently about Asher to Asher?

When I got to the point where the two main characters were going to let someone else find out who the potential murderer was, I completely lost interest and put it down. So sorry Turano. This one flop (in my opinion) won't keep me from reading your books because they previous ones have ALL been really good. Everyone is allowed at least one backstep once in a while :)

It wasn't meshing for me. When I consider the high quality of previous books by Turano with this one, this one falls flat.

Got it from Netgalley exchanging for an honest review.

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Review: Inspector Hobbes and the Bones

Inspector Hobbes and the Bones Inspector Hobbes and the Bones by Wilkie Martin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I got this book because I really like Wilkie Collins' stories and the premise sounded wonderfully quirky. Let's just say that I'm allergic to certain types of language, and the dialogue in this book was limp and couldn't draw me into the story. I know this isn't because it's from across the pond. It's just that the writing did not appeal to me as a reader nor as an editor. I'm sure this must be because I didn't read any of the first 3 in the series. But on the other hand, I just couldn't get into the story. So much happened to poor Andy that I found I didn't really care about Andy. Any he's not like Mr. Bean who funny in the mishaps. Just didn't click for me, but I see that it does for most of those who reviewed it. Guess I'm the one out in the cold :)

Downloaded from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

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Review: My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas: Priscilla’s Reveille

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas: Priscilla‚Äôs Reveille My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas: Priscilla’s Reveille by Erica Vetsch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved this story. It had some great character development and the dialogue was very believable as well as pushed the story along. Head hopping was at a minimum, and for that I am very grateful. I truly enjoyed the children characters who were not as developed as the main characters. That was a bit of a disappointment because there wouldn't have been a story without the children. The narration and the dialogue were period- accurate. In other words, I wasn't jerked out of the 1800s into the 21st Century with the turn of a phrase. Good book, and a keeper! I give this 4 stars out of 5 stars because there were a couple of places that were a bit confusing that blocked the story flow for me. I know it was probably because this was an advance reader copy rather than the real-deal off the shelf. But, I call them as I see them, and I've read things off the shelf that have this same problem, so those stumbling blocks may still be there when you read the book. Just sayin'

Received this book from the publisher at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday

Review: From This Moment

From This Moment From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was intrigued from page 1. I do recommend this book for historical romance readers. I am also intrigued with the historical accuracy. However, Once again the era norms are ignored and the women are encased in 20th and 21st century ways of thinking. I don't find that very historically accurate so you've got a fine line to walk that as a general rule falls on the side of accuracy, but there are moments when you are jerked out of the 1800s and experience a 20th century smack-down. If that doesn't bother you, then you'll like this book.

I especially liked the scientific aspects, the tensions among the characters, which makes for good conflict without seeming like the author is trying too hard to create conflict. It just comes naturally among the characters. Character development is pretty good, too.

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Tuesday

Review: Deep Freeze Christmas

Deep Freeze Christmas Deep Freeze Christmas by Marian P. Merritt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well... I reviewed this book several weeks ago, but I haven't a clue what happened to it.

This story is very well written and has that authentic Cajun flavor that pours from Chef and the main character Leona Buquet. Also well done is the electricity that spark between Leona and Cameron. I like that peppering of faith that sprinkles the story. Not preachy... just good story writing. Excellent editing, too!

Well done White Rose Publishing! Kudos to you, too.

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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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