Monday, April 29, 2013

Contentment Reading Challenge 2013: April

Not that this is news to anyone, but I've been buying and requesting (for review) a lot of books lately. Now I just need to find the time to read them, LOL!

Despite all of the new, exciting reads I have to look forward to, it was nice to re-visit such a great story like To Win Her Heart. I love Karen Witemeyer's books, and I actually should be reading her latest (Stealing the Preacher) soon! So this was a good time to pick up one of her earlier releases and get a head start on a double dose of her sweet writing.

I love the juxtaposition of the shorter librarian in a pretty, frilly dress and the tall blacksmith, looking like he just stepped out of the forge. Seriously cute!

To Win Her Heart is full of opposites that all work so wonderfully together: troubled pasts and happy futures, fighting and a fear of violence, difficulties with speech and eloquence in writing, hard labor and pressing flowers, and so on and so forth. It's such a lovely story full of unexpected tenderness and unexpected strength, all topped off with hope and charm. I love the unique quirks of the story, and the main characters are such dears. You can read my review from 2011 HERE.

I enjoyed experiencing the sweetness of this story once again. I read a little bit of it outside on a sunny Sunday, and the experience was all the sweeter for the warmth, the bunny nibbling the grass nearby, the pleasant breeze, and the smell of lilacs and other spring delights. I definitely think that where you read a book can have an impact on your enjoyment of it, at least in the memories you make! Can't wait to dive into Stealing the Preacher soon!

And might I add that the covers of Karen's books are just adorable?? 


So, tell me, fellow CRC-ers, what have you been re-reading lately? Feel free to link up below, and/or leave a comment!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Celebrate! (Captives Winner and Other Cheer)

Today is a celebratory day!

I completed an editing project for a client, and the package is all prettified and ready to be sent off this morning. (I'm grateful to my parents for helping me get that big stack of papers ready for shipping! And I'm also grateful to my dear Twitter friends for encouraging me as I faced crunch time!) It does feel very nice to meet a deadline. =) (Makes me feel like I'm back in college, LOL.) And it feels very, very nice to have business! I'm blessed.

Speaking of business and clients, I'm still loving working with Sandra Leesmith! Aaannnd... *drumroll* We have a cover reveal coming up next week! Some of you are already on the cover reveal/blog tour team, but if you're not and you'd like to be, please feel free to e-mail me for more information: I'm so excited to share the cover with everyone! Lena Goldfinch did an amazing job - the cover totally captures the "feel" of this atmospheric, moving romance. So beautiful!

We also have another reason to celebrate today... A winner has been chosen for the Captives giveaway via Rafflecopter and!

Congratulations to...

Megan K.!

I just sent you an e-mail, Megan, so be sure to check your inbox! Happy reading!

(And a big thanks to Zondervan and DJC Communications for providing me with two copies of this book!)

Hope you all have a lovely weekend! I'll be singing a good part of the weekend for our spring choir concerts. Good way to celebrate the season, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Review of Pieces of Me

Here's a description of the book from Goodreads:

"Forget everything you know. Forget your name. Forget any memory of your parents. Forget your own face in the mirror. Then, and only then, can you understand my world.

My name is Braidan, and I'm seventeen years old. I wake every day with no memory of what happened yesterday. No recollection of who I am. Only a series of post-it notes hint at the life I supposedly lead. But no matter how hard I try, I can't dismiss the thought that this isn't my life or my true identity. Notes plastered all over my room and school books tell me to search for answers. But how can I learn the truth when I'll forget everything the moment my mind drifts to sleep?

Ian, the new boy at school, claims he has the key to my walking coma. If what he says is true, I'm far more than just a girl with amnesia... and I've got precious little time to unlock my past.

Pieces of Me depend on it."

My Rating


My Review

Pieces of Me has such an intriguing premise! Just reading that synopsis and taking a look at the cover were enough to make me super excited upon discovering that I won a copy of the book. The story begins with so much mystery: a teenage girl wakes up with no memories of her past, her family and best friend tell her that her panic is normal, and two boys try to get her attention, wanting to help her remember them. But who can be trusted? What if the cycle of forgetfulness continues, and all of her attempts to remember re-set each new day? And what if the things she's forgotten are too dangerous and painful to face, even if she could remember?

Seriously, the beginning of this book is riveting, and I quickly got caught up in wanting to discover the answers to Braidan's difficult questions and awaiting the events that would irrevocably change her life and the lives of those close to her. The sticky-note images in the print version of the book really add to the suspense, especially when Ian gets involved. The whole set-up is very clever!

Even though the plot ends up containing some now-familiar elements in various YA books (the love triangle, some sci-fi drama, various on-the-run scenes, etc.), it held my interest throughout, and there are some surprising twists along the way. From the first scenes at Braidan's house and at high school, it's hard to guess where the story will go - and I think the end result is far from predictable!

I would classify this book as general Young Adult fiction, although there are a couple of references to God and faith. Since faith is included in the story, I wish it involved a little more depth. If Braidan's faith is going to be mentioned, I feel that, even in a fledgling stage, it should be more obvious beyond a couple of quick references. It just felt "thrown in" to the story. And the final scenes, while interesting, had an over-the-top, neatly wrapped-up feel to them.

Overall, though, Pieces of Me is an engaging YA mystery with a sci-fi flavor, plenty of surprises, exciting suspense, and romance.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book, which I won via a giveaway on her blog. I was not required to write a review.* 

P.S. I posted a letter to one of the characters a week ago on The Borrowed Book blog, if you're interested in learning a little more about the book!

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Review of The Ryn

Today I'm sharing my review of The Ryn as part of Serena's blog tour! At the bottom of the post is the Rafflecopter widget for an awesome giveaway, so don't miss that! And check out this cover reveal post to learn more about Serena and the cover of The Ryn's sequel, The Remedy. Happy reading, everyone!

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"DESTINED by prophecy. GUARDED by deception. PURSUED by Love.

Centuries ago, an oracle foretold of the young woman who would defeat E’veria’s most ancient enemy, the Cobelds. But after two centuries of relative peace, both the prophecy and the Cobelds have been relegated to lore—and only a few remain watchful for the promised Ryn.

Finally, a child is born who matches the oracle’s description, but a Cobeld curse accompanies her birth. Led to believe they succeeded in killing the prophesied child, the Cobelds emerge from hiding with plans to overtake the Kingdom.

But the child survived.

Secreted away and called 'Rose' for the first nineteen years of her life, Rynnaia E’veri has no idea of her true identity until a chance meeting with an injured knight reveals not only her parentage and true name, but the task assigned her by the oracle: discover the Remedy that will destroy the Cobelds’ power.

Now, her time has come.

Offered the assistance of pirates, scribes, storytellers, a young woman who died centuries ago, and the knight who is quickly working his way into her heart, Rynnaia is fortified with friends. But if the Ryn is to complete her task, she must come to terms with not only who she is, but for whom she must be willing to die. For the kingdom’s survival depends on her.

THE RYN begins an expanded re-imagining of the classic Grimm fairy tale, Snow White & Rose Red."

My Rating


My Review

The Ryn is an epic and engaging story that combines so many delightful elements: fairy-tale pieces, bits of fantasy, swirls of colorful surprises, and generous helpings of familial and romantic love. I love the suspense, brought about not only by the danger, but by the anticipation of unfolding events and revelations. One of those revelations brings about such a great twist to the storytelling - one that is sudden but awesome in its cleverness. There's so much creativity at play in this story, and I love the passion behind it and the excitement that permeates it!

Some great characters are introduced in this first book in the "Eyes of E'veria" series, including a hero that quickly stole my heart, a talented and over-protective brother, a handsome-and-he-knows-it pirate, and many more. The ending moves at a bit of a slower pace, but there are some fabulous scenes in there, and it builds a foundation for the sequel (The Remedy), which I am really looking forward to reading! For a unique and wonderful re-imagining of a fairy tale, The Ryn has a lot to offer, and I hope this will only be the beginning of a long list of books penned by Serena Chase!

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an ARC e-version of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 19, 2013

My Review of Captives (With Giveaway!)

Here's a description of the book:

"When eighteen-year-old Levi returned from Denver City with his latest scavenged finds, he never imagined he’d find his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many—including his fiancée, Jem—taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe.

Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams.

Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands’ walls.

Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands’ façade before it’s too late?"

My Rating


My Review

Jill Williamson has a fantastic imagination. Captives is full of interesting "What if?"s and difficult choices. Williamson doesn't spare her characters from facing trauma, evil intentions, and the consequences of poor choices - and the result is poignant characterization. Despite the fact that there are three male POVs in this story (with the males being teenagers, at that), I found myself curious about their reactions and journeys. I loved seeing things through Shaylinn's eyes, and I would have liked more scenes from her perspective, but I was still drawn into the story as seen by all of the POV characters.

Levi, Omar, and Mason are all such different boys, with such different approaches to problems and such different interests. There's a hint of the movie Brother Bear in all of this - these three brothers who each have a role in their family, but who are all searching for ways to be accepted. It's a long, painful road to forgiveness and opened eyes, one that doesn't come to an end at the conclusion of this book. Two more books to come in "The Safe Lands" series promise more character development and powerful plot twists.

As a dystopian story, I found some of the extremes combined with recognizable elements intriguing. The things that Shaylinn and the other characters learn about themselves because of the setting are thought-provoking. I confess, though, that I'm not quite sure I can reconcile the Safe Landers need/desire for obtaining children, going as far as to raise children not of their own blood at all, with their self-centered ways. The people value beauty and youth, with their motto being: "Find pleasure in life." They're focused on satisfying themselves and getting the most out of life (for themselves) while they can. I don't quite get how that sort of lifestyle leads them to think that they need to "save" their population. What on earth for? Do they really care about future generations? Do they really care if their people die out, as long as they find pleasure before their own "liberation"? I could understand wanting to find a cure for themselves (for the plague that has claimed them) and needing to capture uninfected outsiders to help in that process, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around such self-centered people raising up children for the sake of the group as a whole. Of course, they each have to work at a task that benefits the community as a whole, which is necessary for them to survive... But would most of them be aware enough to think of a future beyond each one's own?

Perhaps I'm being too "black and white." As becomes obvious as the story progresses, not all of the Safe Landers are as they seem. They are humans just like the "outsiders," with longings and concerns beyond the dictates of society, although many of them deaden their hearts through excessive self-indulgence. Perhaps their society's desire to claim children for their land is a hint at each person's desire for something bigger than themselves, something new and hopeful. (Perhaps some quotes from C.S. Lewis' works might fit here? *wink*)

Captives is not a feel-good read (I don't think any dystopian book is supposed to be!), and it explores addictions, poor coping mechanisms, greed, sin. But it offers hope through its portrayals of forgiveness, faith, strength of character, and conviction. And it ends at a great spot - offering a dose of satisfaction while still leaving plenty of unresolved plot elements to make up the next books in the series.

*With thanks to DJC Communications and Zondervan for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

A Map of The Safe Lands

You can learn more about the fictional setting of Captives on The Safe Lands website.

Book Trailer


I kind of got ahead of myself and requested an ARC of Captives from DJC Communications...while I was still on the author's list to receive a review copy. ;) So I have an extra copy of Captives to send to one of you! You can enter the drawing using the Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cover Reveal ~ The Remedy by Serena Chase

The lovely Serena Chase, co-blogger at Edgy Inspirational Romance, has recently released her debut novel, The Ryn! I had the pleasure of reading an ARC back around the beginning of the year, and I am looking forward to diving into the sequel shortly! Readers who enjoy fantasy/fairy-tale combos, epic plots, exciting romance, and deeper themes should find a whole lot to love about Serena's stories. I'll be sharing a review of The Ryn very soon, with a review of The Remedy to follow later. =)

Curious about the "Eyes of E'veria"? Well, take a look at the cover for The Remedy, the second book in the series...

 Very pretty and mysterious, is it not??

I love how there are elements that match this book to its predecessor, and yet this cover is a little more "hidden." The fiery red hair takes up most of the background, suggesting something bursting to life (kind of like the cover/symbolism for Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins). But the hair also acts like a curtain, covering the heroine's expression and cloaking everything but a glimpse at her stunning gaze and her prestigious role. There is much we readers long to have revealed in this sequel, right? So we'll look forward to clicking past the cover (thinking Kindle e-book here) and figuratively going behind the curtain to find out the adventure and emotions that await!

What are your thoughts on the cover? How about the similarities and contrasts between the first and second covers in the series? 

If you're not familiar with this author, here's some information about her:

"A life-long lover of fairy tales, Serena Chase is the author of THE RYN (3/26/13) and THE REMEDY (April 2013). Together, these two novels comprise an expanded re-imagining of the classic Grimm fairy tale, Snow White & Rose Red, and are the first two books in the 'Eyes of E’veria' series.

A frequent contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog and Edgy Inspirational Romance, Serena lives in Iowa with her husband, two daughters, and a white golden-doodle named Albus. She has been known to live vicariously through her hair, however, so don’t be too surprised if she looks a tad different from one day to the next. We all have our vices.

Connect with Serena on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, & Goodreads.

You may also contact Serena Chase by email:"

And if you haven't yet read The Ryn, you can purchase an e-book copy now on! The Remedy should be releasing very soon!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Walk Through the Past (With a Sneak Peek at Bleeding Heart)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of taking a walk at Headwaters Forest Reserve, along with my mom, sister, two of my uncles, and one of my aunts. It was a really pretty day, although a bit cold (which is not unusual for this area by any means!).

So, since I've been bombarding you with book reviews right and left, I thought I would share something different today: some pictures from our walk (thinking of you, Aunt Becky!), and a glimpse at my WIP, Bleeding Heart. Hope you enjoy! =)

A Walk Through Falk

Not much remains of Falk Town - just some remnants of the caretakers' home, one transported storage building, some artifacts, pictures, and some signs along the trail to point out what used to be. But the forest that gave the logging town its purpose is still there, as beautiful and mysterious as ever.

The signs with their old pictures help you to visualize the way things used to be:

Imagine the sounds of trees crashing to the forest floor, the train chugging with its heavy load of lumber, the men chomping food in the cookhouse, the musicians playing a fast tune at the Saturday night dance...

This is one of the settings of Bleeding Heart.

Can't you just feel a story waiting to be told here?

Perhaps I should write another story set here - lots of "scope for the imagination," as Anne of Green Gables might say! I've barely scratched the surface of this setting's potential. =)

And look! We saw the flower that shares the name of my first novel, the prequel to Bleeding Heart:

I love exploring this place...

...especially with family. (That's me with my dear sister below!)

A Brief Scene in Falk

And here's a brief snippet from my first draft of Bleeding Heart (inspirational historical romance), where Joe discovers that ranching never prepared him for a stint as a lumberjack...

Never had Joe seen such huge trees. Stories about the redwoods seemed more like fiction than fact – and yet here they were, taller than anything he could have ever conceived. There were other tall trees here, too. And he had to chop them down.

Standing on a springboard held in place by notches in the tree, Joe wondered if he didn’t fear heights when he was younger because he’d never been up in a tree like this one before. One false move, and…

“Stop lookin’ down at the ground. Ain’t gonna help ya none.”

 Joe grimaced. “Thanks, Myghal, but I could’ve figured that one out on my own.”

Myghal waited, using a handkerchief to wipe away the sweat on his brow and looking for all the world like he was at home in this giant of a tree.

Finally, Joe grabbed onto his end of the saw again, and they continued to cut into the tree. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Just like Joe’s thoughts regarding Sally.

Two nights ago he had been proud to hold Sally in his arms. The radiance of her smile thrilled his heart, and he hadn’t thought of Elizabeth once the whole evening. The beautiful sight of Sally dancing was enough to fill his mind, and then some. But now he wished that he could take it all back. Becoming attached to Sally was the last thing he needed. He had promised himself that no one would have a chance to break his heart again. And if there was one guarantee when it came to Sally, it was that someone’s heart was bound to get broken.

Well, it won’t be mine.


Hope you enjoyed the sneak peek! And I hope I get to share more with you soon! Preliminary steps have been taken toward starting on the cover design (can't wait to work with the talented Lena Goldfinch on that!), and the manuscript is now with the lovely author and editor Elizabeth Ludwig. We'll see where God leads from here!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Review of Trouble in Store

Here's a description of the book from Bethany House:

"Fired from her most recent governess position, Melanie Ross must embrace her last resort: the Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he's not about to let an obstinate woman with newfangled ideas ruin all he's worked for. In hope of turning her interest elsewhere, he determines to get Melanie married off, and luckily, there are many single men in town quite willing to take her off his hands.

 The problem is, Caleb soon realizes he doesn't want her to marry any of them. He's drawn to her more every day, and he has to admit some of her ideas for the store offer unexpectedly positive results.

But someone doesn't want the mercantile to succeed, and threatening words have escalated into destruction and danger. Will Melanie and Caleb's business--and budding romance--survive the trouble that's about to come their way?"

My Rating


My Review

The story begins with Melanie Ross as a governess, struggling to keep all of her charges under control and ultimately being betrayed by a lie told by one of the boys. With very limited options, she clings to the hope of a new beginning out in Arizona territory, where she's sure that her deceased cousin's business partner will give her work at his store. While Melanie imagines that her most difficult challenge is simply getting to Arizona, she quickly discovers that there's much more "trouble in store" in convincing the current owner to give her a chance.

It took a little while for the story to really draw me in, as I'm not overly fond of governess stories and I was eager for Melanie to get to Arizona. But I soon discovered that the synopsis fails to mention the fact that Caleb is a father. For most readers, I'm sure this wouldn't really be a bother. For some reason, though, I'm generally not a huge fan of romance stories with children, as it creates a different dynamic. (Not a bad one - just different!)

All in all, though, I didn't mind Levi (Caleb's son) being a part of the story. I just would have liked to see his character bring out more in Melanie's character, as there was so much potential regarding Melanie's fears and concerns and growth, but I didn't really feel like it was explored to its fullest in a way that would have left me satisfied.

As for the suspense, the various secondary characters make the guessing fun and the outcome interesting, and the mob mentality that occasionally takes over offers a subtle cautionary theme. There were times, though, when I wished for more in terms of the danger and the romance.

Both of Carol Cox's latest Western romances are clever, but I confess to loving Love in Disguise quite a bit more than Trouble in Store. They're both enjoyable reads, but the former's romance, suspense, and theme came together in a way that pulled me in and made me overlook the bit of cheesiness because it was just so fun with such a heart-warming ending. In contrast, Trouble in Store didn't pull me in enough to overlook the formulaic and familiar nature of the story. It's a sweet and intriguing read, but it didn't completely meet my hopes and expectations.

*With thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note ~ This book will be released June 2013.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Review of Sapphire Ice

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"To Robin Bartlett, men were nothing more than violent users. After a hair-raising childhood, Robin and her two younger half sisters battled simply to survive. Determined to give her sisters a very different life from that of their mother; to never have to rely on a man for anything, she worked two jobs and put them both through college, while accepting help from no one. Her heart had turned to ice and she had no use for men or God.

Antonio 'Tony' Viscolli had grown up on the streets, homeless. At seventeen, he entered a downtown church with the intent of casing it, but found himself on his knees at the altar. After being fostered by the youth minister, Tony followed God’s leading and eventually became a very successful and powerful businessman. In a fallen world, he was a gem.

When Tony bought the restaurant where Robin bartended, she immediately resented his intrusion into her well ordered, but exhausting, life. She suspected his offering her special attention and constant kindness was merely his way of expecting something from her in return, something she wasn’t willing to give.

Tony knew God had led him to Robin. Would she ever allow herself to trust him? Could she ever allow herself to trust God? Or would the winter of their tragic youth rise from the shadows of the past and freeze any chance at happiness?"

My Rating


My Review

In this first installment of the "Jewel Trilogy," three sisters struggle to understand one another and to figure out how they can best help one another in a time when they're all trying to move on from a difficult past and build a foundation for a better future. Robin, Maxine, and Sarah make for an interesting study in contrasts, and this introduction paves the way for more unique reads. Sapphire Ice focuses on Robin's love story - a story that has many familiar elements, but some unexpected touches.

Something about this book held my interest and made me want to keep coming back to it and find out more. The characters are intriguing. Tony and Robin have a lot of issues, and they start out with some big communication problems - so there is a sense of mystery as to how they will resolve their differences and make a relationship work. The roles of "handsome, rich man" and "hard-working, poor girl" are nothing new, but the specifics of their situations - along with Tony's Italian background and his choices - make the plot fresh.

The content is "edgy" and yet bordering on "preachy," which is a different sort of combination. I like how the story offers a hopeful outlook and an emphasis on repentance, but some things did come across as too convenient/quick to me in how they were portrayed. Also, the structure and writing could use a little bit of polish to remove some flaws so it sparkles all the more... (One thing that's a little frustrating is all the POV shifts without any demarcation, which can disrupt the flow.)

Sapphire Ice is a sometimes daring, sometimes heavy-handed inspirational romance story. It suggests that this series has a lot of potential, and overall it is an enjoyable, interesting read on its own.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-version of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Assorted Snack Size Reviews

I've kind of been shopping for entertainment stuff a lot lately... (Probably should cut back on that!) But I've found some really fun items, and this evening I have a couple of "snack size" reviews for you!

"Season"-ed Snack Size Review

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

Rating: Spring/Summer

This one sounded fun - and was it ever! The layout of the story is really clever. I love that the reader is given a glimpse in the beginning that offers understanding to characters one might otherwise love to hate; the more somber situations and warnings add just the right touch of seriousness to an otherwise hilarious story. And the mix of fairy tales (Cinderella and Snow White), time travel to the Middle Ages, and some great twists and humor - not to mention the sassy, slacker fairy godmother, the leprechaun, the cyclops, etc. - all add up to a really entertaining read!

Un-"season"-ed Snack Size Review

Red by Taylor Swift

The Red album contains some fun songs ("22"), some kind of intense songs ("I Knew You Were Trouble"), some sassy songs ("We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"), and some sweet songs ("Begin Again"). The songs are pretty much all about finding love, trying to find love, or losing love. The messages aren't always the best - the most understanding or the wisest - but Swift does capture the feelings of a 20-something girl trying to navigate love and life. I've found this to be a fun album to sing along with and dance to when I'm in the mood for being a little loud. ;)

Note: "Seasoned" or "unseasoned" is in reference to my book rating system. Thanks to Juju of Tales of Whimsy for the inspiration regarding mini reviews!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Review of It Happened at the Fair

Here's a description of the book from Howard Books:

"A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair’s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?"

My Rating


My Review

The setting steals the show in this engaging story about two talented people who meet at the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair, 1893). I really enjoyed the tour of the fair - from the exciting rides to the informative exhibits and eating establishments. And the pictures from the World's Fair in the edition I was provided for review really added a great nostalgic atmosphere to the reading experience. (According to the author's blog, the pictures are only included in the print version - vs. the e-version - and that might only be for the first edition.)

While I absolutely loved the historical setting, the hero and heroine make the story more than just an informational glimpse into the past. Cullen and Della are great characters with intriguing quirks. Cullen is a farmer with allergies who prefers inventing and fixing things, but a past tragedy, devotion to family, and former failures keep him from initially embracing the opportunity he's given to be a part of the fair. Della is a teacher with a heart for the deaf and a fear (planted by her father) of the deceptiveness of men. A girl back home, a debate about how to best help the deaf, and various insecurities make the romance as interesting to follow as the characters' nightly outings at the fair.

The story isn't all fun and games, as there are hardships and catastrophes to face, as well as deeper issues to consider. But all in all, this book is really a treat as sweet as the hot chocolate Della loves so much. I would have liked a bit more of a thrilling ending and a bit less of a superficial look at matters of faith (especially with the emphasis on patriotism), but for a creatively told story, I recommend finding out what happened at the fair.

*With thanks to Howard Books for providing me with an ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note ~ This book will be released on April 30, 2013.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Review of Forsaken Dreams

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"They Left Everything behind to Build a New Southern Utopia.

Embark on a seafaring adventure in a brand-new series from bestselling author MaryLu Tyndall. After witnessing the death and destruction caused by the Civil War, Colonel Blake Wallace is eager to leave his once precious Southern homeland for the pristine shores of Brazil and the prospect of a new utopian community. Widow Eliza Crawford seeks passage on Wallace’s ship harboring a dirty secret—and a blossoming hope for a fresh start. But will dangers from the sea and from man keep them from the peace and love they long for?"

My Rating


My Review

As a fan of MaryLu Tyndall's work, I'm excited to report that this first book in her new series is promising and intriguing! Forsaken Dreams takes place mostly on the sea (Tyndall's setting specialty!), and there are plenty of dangers - both internal and external - to keep the plot interesting. The characters are varied, like well-fitted puzzle pieces that come together to form a fascinating blend of romance, opposition, challenge, and growth.

The beginning of the book was a bit off-putting, as it jumped around in time and made the introduction to the story a little rough. (I can see why it might have been done that way, as it emphasized the "Jonah" theme, started off with some excitement, gave some important back story, etc. However, I think the damage to the flow of the story outweighed the potential benefits. If it was just the one "jump" scene with Hayden, I think that would have been fine, but the first chapter "jump" didn't work for me.)  

Once the story catches up to where the first chapter left off, though, the adventure continues on uninterrupted. The middle of the story is full of interesting interactions and insights, as well as one crisis after another.

The ending is good, but it isn't as epic and satisfying as the endings to some of Tyndall's other novels. The one thing about this series is that the nature of the overall plot makes it difficult to enjoy this first installment as a stand-alone. A cliffhanger (of sorts) is certainly acceptable, especially as it makes me eager to continue the journey through the eyes of Hayden and Magnolia in the next book, Elusive Hope! But I wished for a little more excitement to this (current) conclusion to Blake and Eliza's story.

All in all, though, Forsaken Dreams is a great beginning to the "Escape to Paradise" series, as it introduces a great new cast of characters and demonstrates the need to forgive and be forgiven, to understand and to appreciate. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how this series continues!

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Book Trailer

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Review of Aire

Here's a description of the book from Goodreads:

"A tale of Legends reborn, of royal intrigue, and an unforgettable, heart-melting romance that will sweep you away.

Annalisia is a seer, a princess with a courageous spirit—and a soft spot for Legends.

Jovanni is a Legend, a commoner with no patience for pampered royals.

Principessa Annalisia is stunned and conscience-stricken when an unknown enemy mistakenly abducts her maidservant. Determined to find the girl, Annalisia disguises herself as plain Anna and slips away from the palace. She tracks down Jovanni, her maidservant's daring older brother, they soon begin to search together. As they uncover clues, Anna also discovers a kindred spirit in Jovanni. But would he be so free with her if he knew who she really was? Doubtful. Even so, she reveals her secret gift of visions to him, and in so doing disobeys the orders of her beloved grandmother, the queen.

With Jovanni, Anna can almost imagine she’s like any other seventeen year old girl, free to pursue the longings of her heart. When she learns that he also has a secret—he's a sentinel, an ancient shapeshifter who can take the form of a falcon—it seems as if they were destined to be together, as in the legends of il Sentiro. Though Anna is tempted to wish otherwise, she can’t forget that she’s a princess and it's her duty to marry another. Meanwhile, their hunt leads Anna ever closer to danger, for she herself is being hunted.

A princess and a commoner.

They never should have fallen in love...but they did.

AIRE is a lush, romantic fantasy, inspired by ancient Italy and Turkey."

My Rating


My Review

Lena Goldfinch has a wonderful talent for creating vivid, beautifully imagined fantasy worlds. I loved the sweetness of her novella, The Language of Souls, and I love the added "epic" quality to this longer fantasy romance. Aire is an exciting story that expounds on the ideas of sacrificial love and the existence of realities beyond the common.

I had the pleasure and honor of being a beta reader for this story, and it was a treat to see it grow and to fall in love with it a little bit at a time. With great suspense, enjoyable romance, a grand setting, and some intriguing secondary characters, Aire is a wonderful read. This book has solidified my "fan" status, and I can't wait for Lena to share more of her stories with readers! 

*With many thanks to the author for allowing me to read an early copy of the story in exchange for my feedback and my honest opinion.*