Friday, January 31, 2014

The Dancing Master - A Review

Published - January 7, 2014, Bethany House Publishers

Author - Julie Klassen

Format - paper, ebook

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Alec Valcourt moves with his mother and sister to the small country town of Beaworthy to escape a scandal in London. He doesn't know when he moves to the town that dancing is strictly forbidden. As a dancing master, that puts a damper on his chances of employment. When he is offered a job as a clerk for Lady Amelia Midwinter, Alec accepts, even though his heart longs to be teaching dance. He soon finds himself drawn to the young, beautiful Julia Midwinter, daughter of his boss. Julia longs to escape the small town/country life she lives and seek adventure in the world outside of Beaworthy. She doesn't understand why dancing has been forbidden. As she seeks out Alec's company more and more, she discovers a need to find out the truth behind the reasons dancing is forbidden as well as her own past. When the scandal that caused Alec to leave London follows him to the town, will he admit the truth or will he continue to protect his family.

I've several of Julie Klassen's books before. When I kept hearing about how slow this one was, I found myself hoping I'd be able to get into it and enjoy it. I also found myself browsing the reviews, something I never do until I write my own, and was a little surprised at the lower than usual ratings for this book. While, I'll admit that this book is not my favorite one by this author. Truthfully, I don't feel it's one of her better written ones either. But I was still able to enjoy this book.

I found Julia to be, for about half of the book, very immature and more of a flirt than what I really cared for. The other half of the book, I saw her grow up and I actually liked her then. Alec was a bit too stuck on his appearance and not getting his hands dirty, but I truly liked him. I liked how he realized he had to make a living to support his mother and sister, and while the clerk position may not have been his dream job, it was a job that he could do. I loved the way he cared for his mother and sister. In fact, I found his caring for them to be sweet.

I absolutely ADORED the secondary characters. Specifically John Drummond and Walter Allen. I loved how they made a scene more interesting whenever they were in one. I also found the way that Alec helped Walter to overcome his problem with dancing to be very ingenious.

There was a bit of mystery surrounding the scandal that caused Alec and his family to flee London and around the Midwinters. Yet when the truth was actually revealed, I felt it was a bit of a letdown. Even the reasons behind dancing being forbidden was more anti-climatic than I'd expected.

Still, I can recommend this book. But I'd recommend, if you've never read anything by this author, in starting with either The Lady of Milkweed Manor or the Tutor's Daughter.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Regency England, Julie Klassen, historical fiction

Rating - 3.5 stars, though for purposes on Amazon and Goodreads, it'll be 3.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dare to Love Again - A Review

Publisher - Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, available January 2014

Author - Julie Lessman

Series - Heart of San Francisco #2

Format - ebook, paper

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Allison McClare is busy teaching at the school for young girls that her mother has opened near San Francisco's Barbay Coast. She has also sworn off men after her heart was broken one too many times. Detective Nick Barone (long e) is determined to keep the streets safe. When he meets the beautiful young teacher, sparks fly, along with verbal barbs. Alli longs for her family to allow her some independence while they want to shelter and protect her. When Nick is offered the chance to teach Alli how to defend herself on the streets, he reluctantly agrees. Yet the more time he spends with the sassy young teacher, the more he finds that the streets aren't the only thing that he needs to keep safe - his heart is in danger as well. For her part, Alli is bound and determined not to let another man have the opportunity to break her heart. But is she willing to Dare to Love Again when she finds herself falling for the handsome detective?

I think that I can safely say that I've "left my heart in San Francisco" with Julie Lessman's new series. I was delighted to return to world of the McClare family and read Alli's story. True, this family is not the O'Connor family of Julie's previous books, but, you know what? That's ok. To see a writer create a new series with memorable characters when so many fans are love her other characters and are reluctant to say goodbye to them takes talent. And I love that.

I truly loved this book. I think my favorite character in it is a little girl named Lottie. The way that she gets Nick and Alli to both realize that maybe God has something in store for them. I also loved being reunited with Cassie and Jamie from the first book of the series. I found Nick's struggle to separate the rich socialite who hurt him in his past from Alli to be very real. He truly didn't want to like - let alone love - Alli at all. But underneath everything, I found him to be a bit a teddy bear. Especially when he was around Lottie, the other girls from the orphanage, Miss Penny, and eventually Alli. Alli for her part is very hurt and wounded. She has walls built around her heart to protect her from being hurt again. And once Cassie talks some sense into her and reminds her of Who actually holds her future, Alli comes across as less spoiled brat and more gentle, compassionate woman. So while I didn't like her too much at the beginning, by the end I loved how her character changed and grew.

Julie refers to herself as the Certified Drama Queen, and that title is very aptly earned in the pages of her writing. There is drama from the first page to the last page. And the way the drama is woven into the entire story doesn't make it seem like one big climax after another. No, it's subtle at times, yet it kept my attention through the entire story. Also there are two romance lines in the book. The romance between Nick and Alli and the continuing romance between Logan and Caitlyn. While this book could be read as a stand alone title, I recommend reading the first in the series before picking up this one.

I received this book for free from Revell Book for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of family drama, romance, Julie Lessman, Nora Roberts, Gone with the Wind, Jody Hedlund.

Rating - 5 stars
  Available at your local bookstore in January 2014 from Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fairest Beauty - A Review

About the book:
Publisher - Harper Collins, Zonderkidz, paper 2010, ebook 2013
Format - paper, ebook
Author - Melanie Dickerson
Series - Fairy Tales #3
Buy on Amazon

Sophie longs to escape the clutches of the duchess. She is mistreated and doesn't understand why the duchess seems to hate her the way she does. When a young man arrives with the startling news that Sophie is actually the long-thought dead daughter of the former duke, and betrothed to his older brother, Sophie sees this as her chance at happiness. But she's leery of trusting this strange young man. Gabe knows he disobeyed his parents by setting off on his own to find Sophie. He also knows that any sort of romance between the two of them is impossible - she's betrothed to his brother and he's betrothed as well. But he's determined to see her to safety. Yet when circumstances force the pair to flee suddenly and seek refuge at the Cottage of Seven, both Gabe and Sophie must now confront their growing feeling for each other.

My Thoughts:
I love fairy tales. And fairy tale retellings. I have to wonder why it took me so long to discover Melanie Dickerson's fairytale series. When the category of FOG was called for Book Cover Bingo in the Goodreads Group I'm a part of, I saw that this one fit that category and I could eliminate a book off of my ever growing to read list.

Unlike other retellings of Snow White I've read, this one was completely different. Sure there were still elements of the classic story I've grown up with. The beautiful princess. The huntsman. The handsome prince. The seven dwarfs. The evil wicked witch. But the way those elements were incorporated into the story made it unique. Sophie didn't realize she was the daughter of a duke. She didn't know her stepmother was the duchess. The seven dwarfs were actually seven misfits. And Prince Charming was the second son of a duke. But those elements helped to give life to the story and I really enjoyed it.

I loved, too, how Sophie struggled with forgiving the duchess for the hurt she suffered. I loved how Gabe had to also figure out how to set aside his own resentment and competitiveness with his older brother. I found all of the characters in general to be deep and more than just names on paper.

I'll admit, that once I finished this one, I made sure that I had the others in this series on my Kindle so I can read them as I can.

I read this book because it fit the cover called for Book Cover Bingo as well as for pure pleasure. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of young adult, fairy tales, Ella Enchanted, and lovers of happily ever afters.

Rating - 5 stars

Amazing isn't it

Isn't it amazing the way that God works? He answers prayers before we even really utter them. Yes, I know that with my head. I'm discovering that with my life lately.

I've been in need a more dependable car. My current car is pretty much held together with duct tape and a prayer. The past few months, repairs have been needed. God's been gracious in the fact that the repair always fell on a payday or when there was money available for the repair. Plus the repair was never too expensive.

This past weekend, my mother and I were down in Port Lavaca. That's where my uncle currently lives, but where my father grew up and where my grandparents lived until they died. Our family is in charge of the family reunion this summer on my grandmother's side of the family. So this was a meeting to do a little estate things from my grandfather's estate as well as to plan the reunion. Or to at least pick a couple of dates and figure out a location.

While we were there, my uncle wrote out checks for those of us who are the heirs of the estate. It's not the first time this has happened, so that wasn't anything really new. What's so amazing about this time, though, is the way God was working without my even knowing it.

Friday evening or Saturday morning, my mother had been praying during her quiet time that somehow-someway, God would provide the much needed funds for both my brother and myself to get a new car. Needless to say, 8-10 hours later, that prayer was very visibly answered in the form of estate checks. These were a considerable amount. Then to go on to show just how awesome God is, my uncle reminded me that my aunt works for a car dealer. I'd completely forgotten she worked for a car dealer. She asked me what sort of vehicle I was looking for, and I gave her the range.

But God wasn't finished yet.

I facebooked my aunt with a little more detail early Monday morning. She replied with a link for a 2012 Ford Focus. The dealership was going to sell it to me for way less than the asking price and they would deliver it to me after work on Tuesday.

I just love it when God shows that He's awesome. Because I know that there is NO WAY I would have been able to afford a car without God being awesome like this. Especially since I've not yet team built to earn a Mary Kay car.

An email to the insurance agent got me off of mom's insurance onto my own plan for very inexpensively. I even have all of the temporary insurance cards that were emailed to me.

All of these things add up to my knowing without a doubt that God was working. The timing, the way everything fell into place. Everything.

And the car drives beautifully. Of course I'm still figuring out where everything is - like how to adjust the seat, the windshield wipers, etc.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What Once Was Lost - A Review

About the book:
Publisher - Waterbrook/Multnomah, September 2013

Format - ebook, paper

Author - Kim Vogel Sawyer

Buy on Amazon 

Summary (from Amazon):
A woman meant to serve, a child in the dark, a man standing apart—can these three souls embrace a God with new plans for them?

On a small Kansas farm, Christina Willems lovingly shepherds a group of poor and displaced individuals who count on her leadership and have come to see the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor as their home. But when a fire breaks out in the kitchen leaving the house uninhabitable, she must scramble to find shelter for all in her care, scattering her dear “family.”

With no other options, Christina is forced to approach Levi Jonnson, a reclusive mill owner, to take in a young blind boy named Tommy Kilgore. Levi agrees with reluctance but finds himself surprised by the bond that quickly grows between him and Tommy. As obstacles to repairing the farm pile up against Christina, she begins to question her leadership ability and wonders if she can fulfill the mission to which she's dedicated her life. And when an old adversary challenges Christina, will she find an unlikely ally—or more—in the aloof Levi? Can Levi reconcile with the rejection that led to his hermit-like existence and open his heart and life to something more, especially a relationship with a loving God?

My Thoughts:
 This one captured my attention from the beginning. I loved how Levi encouraged Tommy to do things for himself. Christina's determination to keep the "family" of the poor farm residents together was also sweet. I really loved though, how each of the residents found something else for their situation - a place to live, a job, a family, etc. The romance was almost an after thought.

I'd have to say that the overall theme was of letting go. Letting go of resentment, of what the character thought was best, a general surrender. Anyway, I found myself pleasantly surprised by this book. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but I will definitely be reading more by this author.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook/Multnomah's Blogging for Books Program for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of Lauraine Snelling, Tracie Peterson, Robin Lee Hatcher, historical fiction

Rating - 4 stars. A solid 4 star rating.

Please rank my review.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Taming the Texas Rancher - A Review

Summary (from Amazon)
Race to the Altar 

Though he'd never planned to wed, Daniel Westland must marry and produce a grandchild before his brother does in order to inherit the family ranch. Leave it to him to pick a mail-order bride who insists on being courted! Yet every time Daniel wonders if Hannah Young is even suited to rugged living, the petite schoolteacher shows her gumption. 

What man sends away for a bride but doesn't really want to get married? Hannah came to Granite, Texas, hoping to find love and security, and she can't settle for less than a true partnership. If the brooding, handsome rancher can just learn to trust in Hannah, their future could be as filled with promise as this bountiful land..

My Thoughts:
I read a lot of the Love Inspired Historicals every month. Some of them I will actually post a review on my blog, Goodreads, or Amazon. Some I won't. Sometimes, I'll only post the review on Goodreads. I know my reading schedule is so full that I do not have time to review EVERY book I read, though my facebook page may show I've completed it. But every once in a while, I will decide to post a review of one these books.

Rhonda Gibson is one Love Inspired Historical author whose books always delight me. In this one, I loved how both Daniel and Levi are expecting their brides to arrive, yet only one does. And Hannah expects to be courted. The journey that Hannah and Daniel go on is fun and full of some interesting twists. I typically read Rhonda's books in a couple of hours and never really want the story to end.

I read this book for pure pleasure.

Rating - 4 stars

Recommended to fans of Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, Love Inspired Historical, mail order brides

Rhonda's newest book, His Chosen Bride is due out this May. You can pre-order it here.

Where to buy Taming the Texas Rancher

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gypsy Duke - A Review

About the book:
Publisher - Felicia Mires, April 2013
Author - Felicia Mires
Find on Amazon 

In the midst of the Napoleonic wars, another battle rages. The Duke of Somerset is soon to die, but he's not about to give up control of his family. He changes his will, forcing his son and heir John to remain under the authority of a man dissipated by alcohol and perversion, Lord Bartholomew, the Duke's brother.

When Bartholomew makes threats against the young woman John is supposed to marry and then challenges the betrothal, John take steps to protect Kitty. He forbids her from visiting the estate without her mother or father in attendance. He then assures her father, Earl Raeburn, that he intends to marry Kitty in three years, when he reaches his majority and takes control of the estate.

Uncle Bartholomew responds to this interference more violently than John anticipated. After two attacks against John's life, his mother decides it's no longer for safe for John to live on the estate. In the dead of night, they visit the gypsies, who have come to help with the harvest. After offering them a healthy bribe, they agree to flee the area, sheltering John in their caravan.

John hopes the letter he's left Kitty will sufficiently explain the situation, but it doesn't come close to meeting her romantic requirements of a love letter.

The three years pass much too slowly. John doesn't belong with the gypsies, and they never let him forget it. He misses his mother and Kitty, the only two people who ever showed him acceptance or affection.

He's finally ready to return to his estates, when he receives a visit from someone high in his majesty's government. The whole world is at war with Napoleon, but someone from the gypsy caravan is supposedly offering vital information to the enemy. If John wishes to save the gypsies, he'll have to prove their innocence. This means acting as a spy for the British government, something no gentleman duke would consider. When he doesn't return at the appointed time, it could also mean the end of his betrothal to Kitty.

John is almost ready to reveal the guilty parties, when he receives word that Kitty has decided to launch a Season in London. With his bride available on the Marriage Mart, John is convinced he can no longer wait to return to acceptable society. At the first big costume party, John attends dressed as a gypsy and falls instantly in love with his own fiancee. Knowing Kitty's desire for all things romantic, he begins a careful onslaught of her heart. Capturing her attention is easy, following through with the wooing whilst managing a career as a spy is not. If John isn't careful, he could lose a lot more than his estates. He could lose Kitty and his life.

Being a Gypsy Duke isn't easy with the threat of treason hanging over your head.

This Christian Regency is an adventure of approximately 336 print pages.

My Thoughts:
Every once in a while, I will stumble across a book that surprises me. It surprises me in one of two ways - 1. I either have no expectations and it is delightful or 2. I have high expectations and it crashes. This book falls into the first category. I'd been contacted by the author several months ago with a request to review her book. I'd agreed and it sat unread on my kindle until I was looking for something new to read.

I was very impressed with the style of writing. It was very easy to read and drew me into the story. The characters were also engaging. I found that Katherine was not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside as well. I loved how she lived her faith. For John, he was a bit complicated. He didn't see the reason for having a faith, but he still respected those who did. But I loved watching him grow from the arrogant young man he was at the beginning to the man he became by the end.

I received the Kindle version of this book for free from the author for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recommended to fans of historical fiction, swashbuckling heroes, romance

Rating - 4 stars - very much a solid 4 star rating. I look forward to more by this author.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Born of Persuasion - A Review

About the Book:
Publisher - Tyndale House Publishers, published August 2013

Author - Jessica Dotta

Series - Price of Privilege Book 1

Buy on Amazon

Format - ebook, paper, audio cd

The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

My Thoughts:
I thought that this book had very interesting premise. I enjoy, for the most part, reading things set in Regency England. In some ways, there was a Jane Eyre/Wuthering Heights kinda of feel to this one. It also felt very Gothic. Yet, despite that, I found I couldn't get into the book. The main character annoyed me to no end, which for me is never a good sign. I couldn't relate to Julia at all.

As I got further into the book, I became more frustrated. There were parts of the book that were really good - page turning, kept my attention, I didn't want to put down. But those sections were few and far between for me. When the book dragged, it literally dragged and I felt like I was being tortured to keep reading. I realize that this is the first book in a series, but I wasn't expecting the ending to be so abrupt. It literally just stopped.

Overall, the saving grace for this not being a one star rating, is the fact that when the book was good, it was really good. I think that this author shows she has talent. But I think too she needs to figure out how exactly to keep her reader engaged. I'm hoping her next work will prove, for me at least, to hold my attention better.

I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to like the book, only give my honest opinion.

Fans of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Downtown Abbey, Jane Austen may enjoy this book. I wasn't one of them.

Rating - 2 stars

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Carolina Gold - A Review

About the book:
Publisher - Thomas Nelson, published December 2013.

Pages - 336

Formats - ebook, paper.

Author - Dorothy Love

Buy on Amazon.

Summary (from Amazon):
The war is over, but at Fairhaven Plantation, Charlotte's struggle has just begun.
Following her father’s death, Charlotte Fraser returns to Fairhaven, her family’s rice plantation in the South Carolina Lowcountry. With no one else to rely upon, smart, independent Charlotte is determined to resume cultivating the superior strain of rice called Carolina Gold.  But the war has left the plantation in ruins, her father’s former bondsmen are free, and workers and equipment are in short supply.
To make ends meet, Charlotte reluctantly agrees to tutor the two young daughters of her widowed neighbor and heir to Willowood Plantation, Nicholas Betancourt.  Just as her friendship with Nick deepens, he embarks upon a quest to prove his claim to Willowood and sends Charlotte on a dangerous journey that uncovers a long-held family secret, and threatens everything she holds dear.
Inspired by the life of a 19th-century woman rice farmer, Carolina Gold pays tribute to the hauntingly beautiful Lowcountry and weaves together  mystery, romance, and historical detail, bringing to life the story of one young woman’s struggle to restore her ruined world.

My Thoughts:
I was really excited to read this book. The Civil War and Reconstruction are some of my favorite time periods to read about. I'd never read anything by Dorothy Love before, so I didn't know what to expect. I found this book to not hold my interest at all. I had a really hard time getting into the book and relating to the main character. While I did admire Charlotte's determination to save her plantation and make a go of planting rice, she came across the pages as really rather stiff.

The education that I received of rice planting was very interesting. I honestly never knew that parts of the South were ideal for rice growing. I knew of the cotton and tobacco, but never the rice. That was very interesting to discover. I also didn't know that this book was inspired by a true story.

The interaction Charlotte had with Nick and his daughters, I did find endearing. I loved how she figured out each of the girls' personalities and tailored her teaching to those personalities.

Overall, while the book itself was pretty boring, parts of it were good enough to capture my attention. For someone who loves history and historical detail, this would be a great book for them.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to like the book, only give my honest opinion.

Recommended to fans of historical fiction.

Rating - 3 stars.

Monday, January 6, 2014

No One To Trust - A Review

Published - January 2014 by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Format - e-book & paper

Cost (paper) - $14.99

Buy on Amazon

ISBN-10 - 0800722086

ISBN-13 - 978-0800722081

Pages - 336       Series - Hidden Identity #1

Author - Lynette Eason

Summer Abernathy had gone to sleep expecting to be woken up when her husband returned home from his business trip. She did not expect to be rudely awakened by three strange men, her husband missing, and the life she knew a lie. Confused and scared, Summer doesn't know to trust. When she's forced to go on the run and into hiding along with her husband, she is determined to find the truth. Both about the situation they are in and about the man she married. Will Summer be able to forgive her husband for the past and can the pair have a chance at a future together?

I've read several of Lynette Eason's books before, but this is the first I've read in one of her series. Fast-paced, this book literally was one I could not put down. I loved that Summer's husband had to work hard to regain her trust. But there were also little things about him that showed how much he truly loved her. A few of the secondary characters are ones I'm hoping appear in future books in this series and we can get a little more background on them. 

I cannot wait for the second book to come out!

I received this book for free from Revell Books for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Recommended to fans of romantic suspense, Dani Pettrey, Irene Hannon, Dee Henderson, Lynette Eason.

Rating - 5 stars