Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: "Plain Fear: Forsaken" by Leanna Ellis

Summary from Hannah cannot move on.

She pines for Jacob, the boy who saved her life when she drowned, bringing her back from the brink of death by breathing life into her.

But Jacob is gone now, buried.

Levi's love for Hannah burns just as strong. But he knows how much Hannah loved his brother Jacob. He also knows the troubling event that took Jacob out of their lives. And he lives with that lie every day.

So when a stranger named Akiva comes to their community, he carries with him two secrets that will change their lives forever: he is in fact Jacob, whom Hannah had lost. And he is now a vampire.

When passions stir and secrets are revealed, Hannah must choose between light and dark, between the one she has always loved and the new possibility of love. But it's more than a choice of passion; it's a decision that will determine the fate of her soul.

I feel like this book has been a running joke in the reading community for a long time. You take the two genres that are so completely different from each other and mash them together to make one absurd novel. Everyone thought it couldn't be done so we always joked about it. And then Leanna Ellis finally did it.

Let's get this started by saying that this is NOT a Christian or faith based Amish novel. While this book does contain Scripture references and statements from the Amish faith, it is NOT meant to be a Christian fiction book. Vampires in this book, while not the ideal way to live, are not seen as evil that must be crushed out. This book does not have the usual good vs evil where good will always win as you see in some Christian fiction books that do feature vampires.

The plot is rather basic if you take away the Amish part of it. Girl loves boy, boy "dies", vampire comes into girl's life, girl is reminded of boy, girl must be saved from turning into a vampire, yada yada yada. Adding the Amish aspect does make the story unique because of their lifestyles and beliefs. I don't think though that the Amish in this story are very well equipped to handle vampires as most of them don't know what to do with them.

Hannah, I'm sorry to say, is a little dense. I'm not sure if it's because of how she was brought up or if in this type of Amish world vampires are just normal. I don't know how she didn't realize who Akiva really was or even what he was. She doesn't question and instead just goes along with everything which in my opinion makes a very poor heroine. To be honest, I'm not really sure why Roc is in this book. I felt that his character could have been eliminated completely and no one would have missed him. I didn't think that he really added much to the story and felt that any time the plot turned to him things slowed down. On the other hand, I really liked Levi and felt that he deserves better than Hannah for all that he's gone through.

I was a bit taken aback by some of the curse words and sex that's in the book. Not because I'm offended by them but since I have read Ellis's books in the Christian market, it's a bit weird to see her use them in this book. Some of it actually looks like it was tacked on later as it doesn't really flow with the rest of the story. I'm not sure if that was anyone's attempt at trying to broaden the story to the general market. There are references to Twilight, which rather annoyed me because I wish people would not keep thinking that all vampires must be judged against the ones in that book.

Overall, I must admit that this book felt a bit campy. This is not to say that I didn't enjoy it because I did. It's just with the two different genres mixing together, it's hard not to think of a late night horror movie while reading it. Is this the best Amish book out there? No. Is this the best vampire novel out there? No. Should you take this book seriously? No. Is it fun to read? Yes. Pretty much, if you are looking for a mashup that you just want to spend an afternoon with, this is one of those really unique ones that just calls for suspense of belief and just let the story go.

Plain Fear: Forsaken
by Leanna Ellis is published by Sourcebooks Landmark (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: "Ten Beach Road" by Wendy Wax

Summary from Madeline, Avery, and Nikki are strangers to each other, but they have one thing in common. They each wake up one morning to discover their life savings have vanished, along with their trusted financial manager- leaving them with nothing but co-ownership of a ramshackle beachfront house.

Throwing their lots in together, they take on the challenge of restoring the historic property. But just as they begin to reinvent themselves and discover the power of friendship, secrets threaten to tear down their trust-and destroy their lives a second time.

Summer's winding down and I was in the need for a good beach read to end the season. I actually have not been to the beach this year so I figured that a book set on the beach had to be the next best substitute. I also read this book during Hurricane Irene so it added even more of a beachy feeling as well.

The story focuses on three women: Madeline, Avery and Nicole. These three women couldn't be more different from each other. Madeline is a stay at home wife and mother, Nicole is a professional matchmaker and Avery is the co-host to a popular show on HGTV. On a normal basis, the women would never hang out in the same social circles. However, due to a Ponzi scheme gone wrong, all three have been severely affected and have come together thanks to a beach house they all share.

When the trio arrive in Florida, they find Bella Flori to be a beautiful house but in need of major repairs. The majority of the book focuses on the women repairing not only the house but building new friendships as well. Each woman has their own background story as well. Madeline's husband lost his job and her daughter has become pregnant by a Hollywood actor. Avery has spent years hiding her architectural knowledge to help her ex become famous and still battles with feelings of abandonment from her mother. Nicole is the sister of the man who stole all the money away from them and is trying to figure out how to handle her secret.

The story is quite fun to read. It's a very good women's fiction story as it shows perspectives from each woman. I felt as if I really got to know each of them and saw how they grew throughout the book. Wax's writing is engaging and I really felt as if I was on the beach helping to fix up the house. It also made me sad to see how money corrupts people and they don't care about how it hurts others as long as they get what they want.

There is some profanity in the book that I could have done without but it was used in a way to show a character's personality so it didn't bother me too much. Other than this, I really enjoyed this book. I have no idea why I haven't read Wax's books before but after this one I definitely want to read more from her. As I stated, it's the perfect beach read and even includes a hurricane as well! Light, fun and a perfect way to end the summer.

Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax is published by Berkley Trade (2011)

This ARC was provided by a publicist

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Winner

Congrats to the winner of Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Book Review: "Tout Sweet" by Karen Wheeler

Summary from In her mid-thirties, fashion editor Karen has it all: a handsome boyfriend, a fab flat in west London, and an array of gorgeous shoes. But when her boyfriend, Eric, leaves she makes an unexpected decision: to hang up her Manolos and wave good-bye to her glamorous city lifestyle to go it alone in a run-down house in rural Poitou-Charentes, central western France.

Tout Sweet is the perfect read for anyone who dreams of chucking away their BlackBerry in favor of real blackberrying and downshifting to a romantic, alluring locale where new friendships–and new loves–are just some of the treasures to be found amongst life's simple pleasures.

I love stories that take place in other countries. I especially love travel memoirs that take place in foreign countries. It's probably because I would love to live abroad myself and experience the life that the author is living. I also think it's great to get a different perspective from different authors as well as the different types of places that they go to with the adventures that they have.

Karen is a late 30-something Brit who goes to France to start a new life away from memories of her ex-boyfriend and other unhappy memories. Her journey begins with an email that was misdirected to her but soon finds out that the email saves her life. She meets up with old friends, new romances and a old house that she soon claims as her own. Throughout the book we see how Karen learns to move on from her old relationship and begin her life again.

While I enjoyed the book, it wasn't what I was expected. I thought that this was going to be more of a travel memoir with Karen talking about her experiences with the French culture and lifestyle. There are sections where she does this and it's very fun to live vicariously through her when she does. However, the rest of the book is more about the relationships in her life than it is about travel. This isn't a problem but since I was expecting one thing and got another, it was quite a shock. Some of the men that Karen meets seemed to appear and disappear very fast. Then there are others that we don't really get a final resolution on. One more note includes something that I normally don't have a problem with memoirs. However since the author did put up a note in the preface stating that she's changed names, places and some situations, it makes me wonder how much of her story is actually true. Conversations and aspects of the story seem very detailed so I just wondered how much is actually remembered and what was embellished.

Overall though this was an interesting read. While the travel part was lessened, reading about Karen's love life was actually quite interesting. The drama involving her friends was captivating as well. If you are in the mood for a relationship memoir that takes place in a foreign country, this is the book for you.

Tout Sweet by Karen Wheeler is published by Sourcebooks (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted by Staci of Life in the Thumb this month.

Here are the books I got this week.

For Review:

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Queen by Steven James
Christmas in Sugarcreek by Shelley Shepard Gray
Naomi's Gift by Amy Clipston
A Whisper of Peace by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Contest Win:

Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter and Diann Hunt

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review: "Blue Skies Tomorrow" by Sarah Sundin

Summary from When her husband becomes a casualty of the war in the Pacific, Helen Carlisle throws herself into volunteering for the war effort to conceal her feelings. But keeping up appearances as the grieving widow of a hometown hero is taking its toll. Soon something is going to give.

Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit. His stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life--and a convenient excuse to ignore his deepest fear. When the beautiful Helen catches his eye and captures his heart, he is determined to win her hand.

But when Ray and Helen are called upon to step out in faith and put their reputations and their lives on the line, can they meet the challenges that face them? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

This is the third book in the Wings of Glory series that focuses on the Novak brothers during WWII and the women they fall in love with. Those boys can never get a girl easily it seems as they have to go to combat - both in actual battle and to win over her heart. This story focuses on Ray, the soft spoken brother, and Helen, a young war widow who carries a big secret.

The book focuses on their relationship as well as their experiences separately. Helen is the main focus on the story and it's very difficult to read what she went through. I will admit that I had difficulty liking some of the characters in this book. There are the obvious people who you are not meant to like as well as those you feel sorry for due to their circumstances. But as horrible as this sounds, I just did not like Helen's character. Yes I know that she has a history of being abused in relationships but it frustrated me at how she continued the cycle and didn't want to get help. She had many opportunities to get out of the situation and instead she kept turning them down.

I think that out of all the books in the series, this was probably my least favorite. The other two books had heroines who were stronger and could take of themselves. Helen, on the other hand, feels like she doesn't feel complete unless she has someone to take care of her. Still I enjoyed the historical research done for this book. I really liked Ray's scenes during the war. I also was very interested in the treatment of African Americans during the war and I wish that more had been talked about. Perhaps an entire book or series should be done with those characters. I'm sad that the series is over but I'll be looking forward to reading more from Sundin in the future.

Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin is published by Revell (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Other books in the Wings of Glory series that I have reviewed:

A Distant Melody
(Book 1)
A Memory Between Us (Book 2)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: "The Twelfth Enchantment" by David Liss

Summary from Lucy Derrick is a young woman of good breeding and poor finances. After the death of her beloved father, she is forced to maintain a shabby dignity as the unwanted boarder of her tyrannical uncle, fending off marriage to a local mill owner. But just as she is on the cusp of accepting a life of misery, events take a stunning turn when a handsome stranger—the poet and notorious rake Lord Byron—arrives at her house, stricken by what seems to be a curse, and with a cryptic message for Lucy. Suddenly her unfortunate circumstances are transformed in ways at once astonishing and seemingly impossible. With the world undergoing an industrial transformation, and with England on the cusp of revolution, Lucy is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy in which her life, and her country’s future, are in the balance. Inexplicably finding herself at the center of cataclysmic events, Lucy is awakened to a world once unknown to her: where magic and mortals collide, and the forces of ancient nature and modern progress are at war for the soul of England . . . and the world. The key to victory may be connected to a cryptic volume whose powers of enchantment are unbounded. Now, challenged by ruthless enemies with ancient powers at their command, Lucy must harness newfound mystical skills to prevent catastrophe and preserve humanity’s future. And enthralled by two exceptional men with designs on her heart, she must master her own desires to claim the destiny she deserves....

This book is something I normally wouldn't have picked up so therefore it took quite a long time to finish reading it. This is not to say that it was a bad story or that I was dragging my feet to read it. It just wasn't something I can easily read and thus I had to invest my time while I read this story. There's a lot going on in the book so you have to pay attention if you don't want to get lost or miss out.

Lucy seems like your typical Austen heroine, a young woman of age who's looking for someone to marry but only for love. She's been in talks to marry a man older than her who has the means to save her family from destitution but it will not be a happy marriage. Just when you think that this is your average regency romance, think again. I felt like I was reading a Jane Austen book filled with magic and supernatural beings. Lucy discovers secrets about her family and the company that dealt with as well as the fact that she herself can see things not of this world. The culmination deals with trying to get back her true niece as well as rid her sister of her greedy husband. Well known characters of the time period also make appearances in surprising ways such as William Blake and Lord Byron.

I wouldn't call this book a mashup as it doesn't take the comedic tone that a lot of those types of books tend to do. This also isn't a well known story with a twist. However Liss does make the reader feel as if they are in an Austen inspired novel with the historical authenticity in place as well as how the characters act and the description of the setting. I didn't find myself confused throughout the book yet as I said earlier, due to trying to get a sense of everything it took me a while to digest everything in. Overall, I found the story very entertaining with a different twist on the same story. Even though I normally don't read books featuring paranormal-ish situations or characters, I had a good time reading them in this context. It's a unique read and I think fans of different genres will come together and enjoy it as well.

The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss is published by Random House (2011)

This ARC was provided for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: "Breath of Angel" by Karyn Henley

Summary from When Melaia, a young priestess, witnesses the gruesome murder of a stranger in the temple courtyard, age-old legends recited in song suddenly come to life. She discovers wings on the stranger, and the murderer takes the shape of both a hawk and a man.

Angels. Shape-shifters. Myths and stories—until now.

Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm. When Melaia becomes a target, she finds refuge with a band of angels attempting to restore the stairway. But the restoration is impossible without settling an ancient debt—the “breath of angel, blood of man,” a payment that involves Melaia’s heart, soul, and destiny.

There's a reason why I normally turn down about 98% of books that are fantasy based. I just cannot get into the world. I guess I need something more down to earth and of this world in order for me to comprehend the surroundings, characters and way of life. While it is easier for me to visualize this in a movie, in a book I have to create everything in my mind and unless the author includes illustrations, sadly I am inept at doing this.

Melaia is a young priestess who finds herself traveling through strange lands as she hunts down the secret of her heritage. The reader follows her on her adventure as she meets angels, men and learns about the relationship between the two. There's some magic, suspense, adventure and a bit of romance thrown in. Melaia is a very capable young woman and a good role model. Since this book takes place in a fantasy world, it is hard for me to see any allegorical references. Yes there are angels, but these aren't like the angels you read in the Bible. The Nephilim are mentioned but otherwise no traces of faith related talk stuck out to me. Therefore I believe that general market YA fantasy readers will find no problems while reading this book.

While I am sure that fantasy lovers will enjoy this book, I just could not get into it. This is at no fault with the author or her writing. There were times when I felt like I was getting into the novel, but then due to my inability to conjure in my mind the scenes, I felt at a loss. I finished the book because I wanted to know to what happened to Melaia and her past. I did find the resolution satisfactory. The story ends with a hint towards a sequel but sadly I will not be picking it up. While this book may not have been for me, fans of YA fantasy and angels will most likely really enjoy this story.

Breath of Angel by Karyn Henley is published by Waterbrook (2011)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: "Before Ever After" by Samantha Sotto

Summary from Three years after her husband Max's death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max–same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose–he could be Max's long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.

As outrageous as Paolo's claims seem–how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn't he looked her up? – Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down–if it is really Max– and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max's stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her "happily ever after." And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to.

I knew I wanted to read this book when I read the synopsis. It sounded so intriguing and mysterious that I had to find out what was really happening. As soon as I started reading, I knew that I had made a good choice. There is mystery, romance and a splash of magic in this book. All together it makes for one very good read.

Shelley has been recently widowed but then finds on her doorstep a man who looks just like her late husband and carries a picture of him claiming that he is his grandfather. Though in disbelief, she goes along with Paolo to get to the bottom of the mystery. Through their search, she reminisces of all the times she was with Max and the stories that he told to her and realizes the double meaning behind those stories. I really don't want to give away the overall plot of the story so hence why this review might sound a bit vague.

The book is told through many flashbacks and stories. While some readers might find it a bit confusing, I never got lost. Every passage is clearly marked, you just need to read the headings to find out who is the focus as well as when the passage takes place. It is very important to note the time frame of each passage. I will say that the epilogue seems a bit vague to me. I'm not really what it's trying to say or imply. I felt a little lost when I finished the book but only because of that little paragraphs. Perhaps someone smarter than me, can help explain?

I can't believe that this is Sotto's first novel as it is absolutely fantastic. I loved the premise of the whole book as well as all of the different stories and characters. I'm not really sure what genre this book would fall in but whatever it does, it's a must read. It's beautifully written with a blend of history, mystery, romance, suspense and magic. If any of her writings in the future are even half as good as this one, I foresee great things ahead in her future. HIGHLY recommended.

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto by Crown (2011)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

I'm able to give away one copy of this book provided by the publisher. To enter, you must fill out the form below. This contest is open to US and Canada entrants only. Winner will be picked Monday August 29.

PLEASE use the form only to enter the contest. For any comments about the book, review, etc. please use the comments link at the bottom of the post. All information must be filled out correctly or else your entry will not count. (ie. you must use FULL name and list your mailing address). Your info will only be used for this contest and will be deleted after the contest is over.

Mailbox Mondays

Trying out a different format this week, we'll see how it works.

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted by Staci of Life in the Thumb this month.

Here are the books I got this week.

For Review:


LinkShadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock
Promises, Promises by Erica James
The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund
Love Finds You in Sundance, Wyoming by Miralee Ferrell
Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey
Cherished by Kim Cash Tate

For INSPYs Judging:

From Paperbackswap:
Treasuring Emma by Kathleen Fuller
Against the Wind by Brock and Bodie Thoene

Contest Win:
Something Old by Dianne Christner
Surrender the Dawn by Marylu Tyndall
Lost in Dreams by Roger Bruner with Kristi Rae Bruner

From Shanyn at Chick Loves Lit:

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Review: "The Colonel's Lady" by Laura Frantz

Summary from In 1779, when genteel Virginia spinster Roxanna Rowan arrives at the Kentucky fort commanded by Colonel Cassius McLinn, she finds that her officer father has died. Penniless and destitute, Roxanna is forced to take her father's place as scrivener. Before long, it's clear that the colonel himself is attracted to her. But she soon realizes the colonel has grave secrets of his own--some of which have to do with her father's sudden death. Can she ever truly love him?

This story takes place during a time when Kentucky didn't end with a y and relationships between the British and Americans equal war. For Roxanna and Cassius, they find themselves being put together in a unique situation because of the circumstances surrounding them. After losing her father, she becomes the colonel's scrivener, a position not normally held by a woman. The two find themselves attracted to each other but secrets come out revealing that there is going to be a long and bumpy road ahead for the both of them.

I hate saying this but I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did Frantz's other books. I'm not really sure what it was but the storyline and characters just didn't really click with me. It actually took me quite a while to read the book, mainly because I just couldn't get into the story. I think my biggest flaw was probably Roxanna's character. I understand her grief and sadness over the death of her father, as well as her insecurities over her disability. However, her constant jumping to conclusions and assumptions drove me up a wall. Also one more small qualm, but at the end of the book, a male character says to a female character that he looks forward to having at least 12 children. Statements like this in romance novels drive me crazy because it makes it sound like the woman is going to be barefoot and pregnant the rest of her life.

This is a good story. I enjoyed Frantz mixing historical fact with her fiction. It's written well and in the right mood, I think most readers will enjoy it. I just haven't been feeling the romance stuff lately so that might have soured my point of view. Either way, I'm still looking forward to when her next book comes out. Also just wanted to mention that I really like this cover.

The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz is published by Revell (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Friday, August 19, 2011

Interview with Paige Harbison

I'm happy to have here today on my blog, Paige Harbison, author of Here Lies Bridget.

I see that you're from the DC Metro Area. What is the best/worst thing about living in this area?

Well, to mention a typical gripe, the traffic. I hate having to base my activities for the day on whether or not I’ll be able to get home afterwards.

Your computer with your latest manuscript has crashed and there's no way of retrieving what was on the hard drive. How do you react?

I freak out and call all my techie friends. Of course, the rewrite is always better…but who feels like doing that??!
A muggle's wish come true: you've been granted magical powers from Harry Potter's world! What's the first spell you use?

I find that luck potion and run right to the lottery.

When you saw the first finished copy of your book, what was going through your mind?


Star Wars fan? Yes? No? If no, why not?? (this is a question i ask everyone, as i am a huge star wars geek, will not be offended if not a fan :)

Hahaha, well….I’ve never seen them. I know. Your jaw just dropped. You’re preparing a list of reasons why it’s the best thing ever. I will watch them. I just haven’t. Don’t know why. I love being obsessed with things.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: "Unforgettable" by Trish Perry

Summary from Rachel Stanhope tries to see the good in everyone.

But Josh Reegan tests even her good graces when they meet outside her Arlington, Virginia, dance studio in 1951. He's attractive, yet his cynicism and cockiness are hard to tolerate.

A journalist and former World War II Air Force pilot, Josh considers ballroom dancing a frivolous waste of time. Although Rachel's confident nature is a refreshing challenge, he wouldn't tangle with her if his newspaper hadn't assigned him to cover her studio's competition in New York City.

Between the melodrama of ballroom antics and the real drama of political corruption, Rachel and Josh have their hands full. The last thing either of them expects is mutual need and support. But once they stop dancing around the truth, the results are unforgettable.

There are many reasons why I enjoyed this book. One, it is set in Northern VA where I live. Two, the main female character is older than most heroines in a romance novel as she is in her thirties. Three, it's a Christian fiction book and it involves dancing and shown in a positive light!

The story is set in the 1950s and Rachel is a young woman who owns a dancing school. This is something you don't see a lot of during the time period, a young woman who owns her own business. She's rather resourceful in running her place as well as a very good dancer as well. Through some twists she comes across some extra help which leads to her competing in several dance competitions. She also finds herself competing for the heart of a young man.

I wasn't a fan of Josh's view on males and dancing. The book never says it out right but it seems pretty obvious that Josh thinks guys who dance are feminine and possibly even gay. He thinks that real men do not dance and those that do obviously aren't real men. Of course the whole irony in all this is that he's a reporter for the newspaper writing for the Style section. I loved the chemistry between him and Rachel because right from the beginning she is not afraid to go toe to to with him. It's great seeing her match him word for word on some of his arguments as well as putting in him in his place several times. I totally believed their relationship.

I didn't find this book to be preachy or even talking about faith that much at all. It does mention characters going to church and they do mention their faith. But that's not the real focus of the story even though it is present throughout. The story is more focused on the romance and dancing which I appreciated very much.

The only qualm I had was the very end and Josh's decision about where he ended up working. I would have liked him to go against the grain instead of picking the obvious answer. However this is such a small qualm and doesn't have any effect on the rest of the story. Simply put, this is a delightful book that features a lovely romance story set in the 1950s and features lots of dancing that will sweep you away. I hope Perry writes more books in this time period as it was a joy to read.

Unforgettable by Trish Perry is published by Summerside Press (2011)

This review copy was provided by the author

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Inspys Awards Needs Judges!

I've borrowed this from My Friend Amy

If you are a Christian with a love for faith driven literature and have time to devote to reading five books this fall for the INSPY Awards we need you!

The INSPYS are blogger awards so we need bloggers who review books to take the next round! You could be part of choosing the next INSPY winner!

Be a blogger
Provide a sample book review in the application
Agree to our statement of faith
Be responsible to obtain their own copies of the books they are judging
Agree to read all five of the short listed books and turn their decision in by the deadline of December 10th.

The INSPY categories are
General Fiction
Literature for Young People
Creative Nonfiction
Speculative Fiction
Mystery & Thriller

Please go visit the INSPY site and sign up now if this is of interest to you

Book Review: "Murder in Plain Sight" by Marta Perry

Summary from Did a sweet-faced Amish teenager brutally murder a young woman? To save her career, big-city lawyer Jessica Langdon is determined to defend him—against the community's bitter and even violent outrage. Yet without an understanding of Amish culture, Jessica must rely on arrogant businessman Trey Morgan, who has ties to the Amish community… and believes in the boy's guilt.

Jessica has threats coming from all sides: a local fanatic, stirred up by the biased publicity of the case; the dead girl's boyfriend; even from the person she's learned to trust the most, Trey Morgan. But just when Jessica fears she's placed her trust in the wrong man, Trey saves her life. And now they must both reach into a dangerous past to protect everyone's future—including their own.

While I do read a lot of Amish books, I really want to read more books that feature them that are not faith based. I don't want to feel like I'm getting preached at while reading the story. Interestingly all the non faith based Amish books that I have read have all been in the suspense drama, usually with someone being murdered. I find this a bit amusing.

Jessica is a young lawyer from Philadelphia who comes to Amish country to defend a young Amish man accused of murder. It's an unusual case and she finds herself having to understand the Amish and their ways so she can represent him better. Along the way she finds herself the target of attacks as well. I have read Perry's books before including several of her Amish series. I have enjoyed her books because I felt like she doesn't romanticize the Amish way of life and she also incorporates scenarios not seen in other Amish books. This story is no different as the reader never feels that Perry is trying to portray the Amish as the only right way.

To be honest, the romantic subplot didn't really hold my interest. Trey got on my nerves sometimes so I felt like I wanted to gloss over some of their scenes together. I was more focused on finding the killer and the suspense parts of the story. The romance seemed a bit lackluster but doesn't feel forced either. I guess I just wished it was more of straight up suspense novel as opposed to being romantic suspense.

Overall this is a nicely written suspense novel. The suspense scenes are done well and you probably won't guess the killer until the very end. The scenes with the Amish show you how they live without forcing beliefs on you. As I stated I felt the romance could have been a bit better but didn't deter from the story. I have always liked Perry's writing and I'm glad that there are more books to be read in this series.

Murder in Plain Sight by Marta Perry is published by HQN Books (2011)

This review copy was provided by the Amazon Vine program

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: "Bumped" by Megan McCafferty

Summary from When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food. Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep.

Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.
Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

I am a HUGE fan of Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series. I loved reading about her life and was sad when the series ended. Something that baffled me though was that even though the series focused on Jessica's life during her teenage years, those books weren't classified as YA. Therefore Bumped is McCafferty's YA debut. And what a debut it was.

The world that Melody and Harmony live in is a world where teen pregnancy is the only viable solution. With the virus making people infertile, what was once a taboo is now the norm. Girls are anxiously awaiting being told they are ready to "bump" and become vessels to carry babies. Sex is no longer something that people look forward to in marriage or a relationship. It has become a business transaction with the sole purpose to procreate young.

If I had to pick a twin that I liked better, I'd have to go with Melody. Harmony is too sheltered, too religious and too much hiding of secrets for me. I got annoyed with her a lot throughout the story and felt as if her intentions were masked by religious fervor. The scenes with her and Jondoe seemed like a jab at organized religion which, while wasn't offensive, seemed rather aggravating to me. Melody on the other hand seemed genuine and her relationship with Zen, while complicated, showed true affections for each other. I had more empathy towards her throughout the book.

I was put off by all the lingo that was introduced during this book. It would be ok if it was gradually introduced to the reader but I felt bombarded by it in the first quarter of the book. I couldn't understand most of it and the rest just really annoyed it. Also equally annoying was Harmony's constant use of "Oh my grace." It was just a phrase that I wanted to erase from my memory.

I don't know if I could survive in the world described in this book. Teenagers being used for sex to make children seems a far off notion and yet quite possible all at the same time. It's a difficult scenario to imagine yet unlike other dystopia novels I didn't feel a sense of hopelessness. The story ends in a way where the reader knows more books will be told to complete the saga. I'm looking forward to reading more of Melody (and I suppose Harmony as well) and the adventures and tribulations they will continue to face.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty is published by Balzer + Bray (2011)

This ARC was provided by the Amazon Vine program

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mailbox Mondays

I have been thinking about doing this for a while but I never seemed to get around to it.
I'm not sure how long I will do this or if it will be done every week but I'll just try it for a while. Have a feeling I will NOT be sticking with this format...

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted by Staci of Life in the Thumb this month.

Here are the books I got this week.

The Survivor by Shelley Shepard Gray (publisher for blog tour)
Signspotting 4 by Doug Lansky (publisher)

Reasons to be Happy by Katrina Kittle (publisher for blog tour)

The Focus on the Family Clubhouse Collection by Ray Seldomridge (paperbackswap)

Little Black Dress by Susan McBride (publisher)
The Year Everything Changed by Georgia Bockoven (publisher)

Mercy Comes Morning by Lisa T. Bergren (publisher for LibraryThing ER)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Review: "The One Who Waits for Me" by Lori Copeland

Summary from Bestselling author Lori Copeland sets her brand-new story in North Carolina the months after the Civil War. In the midst of chaos, there is also a sense of possibility and the hope of love when:

  • Sisters Beth and Joanie run from a vindictive uncle toward healing
  • Trella, a pregnant young slave, leaves a plantation for freedom
  • Gray Eagle, a Cherokee military scout, finds refuge for the young women
  • Captain Pierce, a quiet man of faith, heads for a plot of land and a new life
  • Samuel, a black soldier, longs to follow his father’s preaching legacy

The intersecting lives and tales of these engaging characters and those they meet along the way create an uplifting story of tested faith, growing seeds of love, and the challenge and gift of believing God’s promise of a future.

I hate to admit that this is not Copeland's best work. I felt many times the story to be cliched, stereotypes were being used and characters were underdeveloped. I wasn't really a big fan of either of the two sisters. I understand that due to how they grew up, they are fearful, not that strong and scared of men. However, Beth just kept getting on my nerves constantly throughout the book. I never warmed up to her and was rather lackluster at any implied romances involving her. Joanie is slightly better but I like stronger characters.

Pierce is a good man though why he was taken with Beth, I don't know. I was happy that Gray Eagle was not shown in the same way that most Christian fiction tends to portray Native Americans. He's not a "noble savage" or seen as an outsider. However I was not pleased with how Beth and Joanie kept referring to him as a savage or being surprised that he knew the "white man's language." I understand that they seemed to be sheltered in how they grew up but it was just painful to keep reading their comments over and over throughout the book.

In terms of Trella and Samuel, to be honest I really don't know why they are included in the story. They never get much to say, are always in the background and are really just stock African American characters to make the story fit in the time period. As soon as Trella entered the story, it was made obvious that she was going to end up with Samuel, the only other African American character in the book. Other than maybe a few plot devices, I honestly could see them being taken out of the story and it wouldn't have changed anything at all.

The villains of the story are not very well conceived. The demise of one of them seemed rather abrupt and I thought for sure there would be more to the story. This book is full of Christian-ese phrases so those who are not fans of it might be tempted to avoid the story. It's pretty much your typical safe Christian historical romance. If that's what you are a fan of, you'll be fine otherwise I'd recommend Copeland's other books over this one.

The One Who Waits for Me
by Lori Copeland is published by Harvest House (2011)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with FIRST Wild Card Blog Tours

Here is the first chapter of the book:


Beth’s sister stirred, coughing.

Beth gently shook Joanie’s shoulder again, and the young woman opened her eyes, confusion shining in their depths.


“He passed a few minutes ago. Trella will be waiting for us.”

Joanie lifted her wrist to her mouth and smothered sudden sobbing. “I’m scared, Beth.”

“So am I. Dress quickly.”

The young woman slid out of bed, her bare feet touching the dirt-packed floor. Outside, the familiar sound of pond frogs nearly drowned out soft movements, though there was no need to be silent any more. Ma had preceded Pa in death two days ago. Beth and Joanie had been waiting, praying for the hour of Pa’s death to come swiftly. Together, they lifted their father’s silent form and gently carried him out the front door. He was a slight man, easy to carry. Beth’s heart broke as they took him to the shallow grave they had dug the day before. Ma’s fever had taken her swiftly. Pa had held on for as long as he could. Beth could still hear his voice in her ear: “Take care of your sister, little Beth.” He didn’t have to remind her that there was no protection at all now to save either of them from Uncle Walt and his son, Bear. Beth had known all of her life that one day she and Joanie would have to escape this place—a place of misery.

It was her father’s stubborn act that started the situation Beth and Joanie were immersed in. Pa had hid the plantation deed from his brother and refused to tell him where it was. Their land had belonged to a Jornigan for two hundred years, but Walt claimed that because he was the older brother and allowed Pa to live on his land the deed belonged to him. Pa was a proud man and had no respect for his brother, though his family depended on Walt for a roof over their heads and food on their table. For meager wages they worked Walt’s fields, picked his cotton, and suffered his tyranny along with the other workers. Pa took the location of the hidden deed to his grave—almost. Walt probably figured Beth knew where it was because Pa always favored her. And she did, but she would die before she shared the location with her vile uncle.

By the light of the waning moon the women made short work of placing the corpse in the grave and then filling the hole with dirt. Finished, they stood back and Joanie bowed her head in prayer. “Dear Father, thank You for taking Ma and Pa away from this world. I know they’re with You now, and I promise we won’t cry.” Hot tears streaming down both women’s cheeks belied her words.

Returning to the shanty, Joanie removed her nightshirt and put on boy’s clothes. Dressed in similar denim trousers and a dark shirt, Beth turned and picked up the oil lamp and poured the liquid carefully around the one-room shanty. Yesterday she had packed Ma’s best dishes and quilts and dragged them to the root cellar. It was useless effort. She would never be back here, but she couldn’t bear the thought of fire consuming Ma’s few pretty things. She glanced over her shoulder when the stench of fuel heightened Joanie’s cough. The struggle to breathe had been a constant companion since her younger sister’s birth.

Many nights Beth lay tense and fearful, certain that come light Joanie would be gone. Now that Ma and Pa were dead, Joanie was the one thing left on this earth that held meaning for Beth. She put down the lamp on the table. Walking over to Joanie, she buttoned the last button on her sister’s shirt and tugged her hat brim lower.

“Do you have everything?”


“Then go outside and wait.”

Nodding, Joanie paused briefly beside the bed where Pa’s tall frame had been earlier. She hesitantly reached out and touched the empty spot. “May you rest in peace, Pa.”

Moonlight shone through the one glass pane facing the south. Beth shook her head. “He was a good man. It’s hard to believe Uncle Walt had the same mother and father.”

Joanie’s breath caught. “Pa was so good and Walt is so…evil.”

“If it were up to me, he would be lying in that grave outside the window, not Pa.”

Beth tried to recall one single time in her life when Walt Jornigan had ever shown an ounce of mercy to anyone. Certainly not to his wife when she was alive. Certainly not to Beth or Joanie. If Joanie was right and there was a God, what would Walt say when he faced Him? She shook the thought aside. She had no compassion for the man or reverence for the God her sister believed in and worshipped.

“We have to go now, Joanie.”

“Yes.” She picked up her Bible from the little table beside the rocking chair and then followed Beth outside the shanty, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Pausing, Joanie bent and succumbed to a coughing spasm. Beth helplessly waited, hoping her sister could make the anticipated trip through the cotton fields. The women had planned for days now to escape if Ma and Pa both passed.

Beth asked gently, “Can you do this?”

Joanie held up a restraining hand. “Just need…a minute.”

Beth wasn’t certain that they could wait long; time was short. Dawn would be breaking soon, and then Walt would discover that Pa had died and the sisters were missing. But they had to leave. Joanie’s asthma was getting worse. Each gasping breath left her drained and hopeless, and Walt refused to let her see a doctor.

When Joanie had mentioned the notice in a discarded Savannah newspaper advertising a piece of land, Beth knew she had to buy the property and provide a home for Joanie. Pa had allowed her and Joanie to keep the wage Uncle Walt paid monthly. Over the years they had saved enough to survive, and the owner was practically giving the small acreage away. They wouldn’t be able to build a permanent structure on their land until she found work, but she and Joanie would own their own place where no one could control them. Beth planned to eventually buy a cow and a few setting hens. At first they could live in a tent—Beth’s eyes roamed the small shanty. It would be better than how they lived now.

Joanie’s spasm passed and she glanced up. “Okay. You…can do it now.”

Beth struck a match.

She glanced at Joanie. The young woman nodded and clutched her Bible to her chest. Beth had found it in one of the cotton picker’s beds after he had moved on and given it to Joanie. Her sister had kept the Bible hidden from sight for fear that Walt would spot it on one of his weekly visits. Beth had known, as Joanie had, that if their uncle had found it he’d have had extra reason to hand out his daily lashing. Joanie kept the deed to their new land between its pages.

After pitching the lighted match into the cabin, Beth quickly closed the heavy door. Stepping to the window, she watched the puddles of kerosene ignite one by one. In just minutes flames were licking the walls and gobbling up the dry tinder. A peculiar sense of relief came over her when she saw tendrils of fire racing through the room, latching onto the front curtain and encompassing the bed.

“Don’t watch.” Joanie slipped her hand into Beth’s. “We have to hurry before Uncle Walt spots the flames.”

Hand in hand, the sisters stepped off the porch, and Beth turned to the mounds of fresh dirt heaped not far from the shanty. Pausing before the fresh graves, she whispered. “I love you both. Rest in peace.”

Joanie had her own goodbyes for their mother. “We don’t want to leave you and Pa here alone, but I know you understand—”

As the flames licked higher, Beth said, “We have to go, Joanie. Don’t look back.”

“I won’t.” Her small hand quivered inside Beth’s. “God has something better for us.”

Beth didn’t answer. She didn’t know whether Ma and Pa were in a good place or not. She didn’t know anything about such things. She just knew they had to run.

The two women dressed in men’s clothing struck off across the cotton fields carrying everything they owned in a small bag. It wasn’t much. A dress for each, clean underclothes, and their nightshirts. Beth had a hairbrush one of the pickers had left behind. She’d kept the treasure well hidden so Walt wouldn’t see it. He’d have taken it from her. He didn’t hold with primping—said combing tangles from one’s hair was a vain act. Finger-picking river-washed hair was all a woman needed.

Fire now raced inside the cabin. By the time Uncle Walt noticed the smoke from the plantation house across the fields, the two sisters would be long gone. No longer would they be under the tyrannical thumb of Walt or Bear Jornigan.


Beth sniffed the night air, thinking she could smell the precious state. Never again would she or Joanie answer to any man. She would run hard and far and find help for Joanie so that she could finally breathe free. In her pocket she fingered the remaining bills she’d taken from the fruit jar in the cabinet. It was all the ready cash Pa and Ma had. They wouldn’t be needing money where they were.

Suddenly there was a sound of a large explosion. Heavy black smoke blanketed the night air. Then another blast.

Kerosene! She’d forgotten the small barrel sitting just outside the back porch.

It was the last sound Beth heard.