Friday, November 21, 2014

Review - My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White

After being dragged to the 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice by her mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth’s life changes when Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy appears on the screen. Lizzie falls hard and makes a promise to herself that she will settle for nothing less than her own Mr. Darcy. This ill-advised pledge threatens to ruin any chance of finding true love. During the six intervening years, she has refused to give any interested suitors a chance. They weren’t Mr. Darcy enough. Coerced by her roommate, Elizabeth agrees to give the next interested guy ten dates before she dumps him. That guy is Chad, a kind and thoughtful science teacher and swim coach. While she’s dating Chad, her dream comes true in the form of a wealthy bookstore owner named Matt Dawson, who looks and acts like her Mr. Darcy. Of course she has to follow her dream. But as Elizabeth simultaneously dates a regular guy and the dazzling Mr. Dawson, she’s forced to re-evaluate what it was she loved about Mr. Darcy in the first place.
When I saw the opportunity to read My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White I couldn't pass it up.

I was gifted the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice by my brother (probably the best gift he's ever given me) for a birthday back in... 2006 I believe. I'd just been dumped by a guy I thought was all that and a bag of potato chips, though, so it took me months to decide I was ok enough to watch a romantic movie.

When I watched it, the guy who dumped me didn't even matter anymore. What I needed in my life was Mr. Darcy. More importantly, Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy. No one else would do. It became my favorite movie (the book became a favorite of mine as well (yes I read the book AFTER I watched the movie)). Forget that he was arrogant and rude at the beginning, he was wonderful by the end. And I was hooked.

So I could totally identify with everything that Lizzie was feeling in this story. To a point. Luckily, I never became as obsessed as she did. Lizzie was so intent on finding Mr. Darcy and only Mr. Darcy that NO ONE ELSE WOULD DO. No one. Not even Mr. Wonderful, Chad. Chad was sweet and attentive and kind and REALLY liked Lizzie. And she was so stubborn that she had to be forced in to even giving him a second shot.

I had high hopes for her until Matt Dawson walked in to the bank. Then it was "Chad who?" I mean, Matt fit the mold. He was aloof, uppity, stand-offish... but then warmed to Lizzie the same way that Mr. Darcy had warmed to his own Lizzie. Forget that he was also often rude and completely ignorant of Lizzie's feelings. Or dismissed them altogether as childish and unimportant. He wasn't supportive of her and he was genuinely embarrassed to even mention Lizzie to his parents. Which, as it turns out, probably had worked out in Lizzie's favor. As they were the HUGEST snobs I've ever seen.

Despite her walking away from a relationship with Chad, he still kept coming back. He helped her when she needed help. He was kind to her when he didn't have to be. He even helped her get a foot in the door as an interior designer. Matt belittled the clothing she wore, got irritated and grumpy every time she mentioned Chad even though HE was constantly around MEG, an ex-almost-fiance who had followed him to Portland and now worked in the bookstore that he owned, and totally discounted her talent as a designer despite the fact that it was what she'd trained and gone to school for.

I mean seriously... at that point, who cares if he is her perfect Mr. Darcy. GET RID OF HIM.

I can only support the fantasy to a point.

I understand it. Completely. But seriously... move on.

That being said, it was a great book. Because really... who has watched the movie (in any form) or read the book and not wished, even if just for a second, that they could be Lizzie Bennett. Or that they could find someone like Mr. Darcy. Who has seen Mr. Darcy dance with Lizzie at the Netherfield Ball and watched him profess his love to her and not wanted to be in her place?

My Own Mr. Darcy captured that fantasy perfectly. And then took it to the next level. It was kind of a wake up call to the ones who are so focused on a certain type of guy that they refuse to look at anyone else. They are so set in their dating requirements that they refuse to see that there may be someone else who is perfect for them. Even if they don't match all of the qualifications.

I wanted to yell at Lizzie throughout almost this entire book. Her friends and family were much too patient with her. Although I suppose if they hadn't been it would have been a much shorter story. If you like Pride and Prejudice, the book or the movie, I think you should give this book a read. If you've ever wished that Mr. Darcy would walk across the meadow in the early hours of the morning and re-affirm his affection for you then you should definitely read this book.

Personally, I'm glad I didn't stick too strictly to the Mr. Darcy fantasy. The man I married is admittedly nothing like him. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes men like Mr. Darcy should only be in books and movies.

But still, read the book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review & Giveaway - Emma Blooms at Last by Naomi King

Romance is in the air during the fall wedding season in the Amish community of Cedar Creek. But while one loving couple prepares to tie the knot, Amanda and Wyman Brubaker’s large family faces a threat from outside their happy circle...and must learn to pull together.

Recently wed Amanda and Wyman Brubaker are thrilled that their children from previous marriages have blended together to form a strong family. But when the construction of Wyman’s new grain elevator is delayed, making the project more expensive than anticipated, Amanda’s determination to rally the kids into taking on work to improve the family’s finances comes into conflict with Wyman’s sense of responsibility as head of the household....

Meanwhile, as James Graber and Abby Lambright prepare for their long-awaited nuptials, folks gather from far and wide. Amanda’s nephew Jerome has long been smitten with James’s sister Emma and wants to seize this chance to woo her. But Emma’s been burned once and is twice shy of trusting the fun-loving, never-serious Jerome. As Emma and Jerome struggle to understand each other, and find the courage to make a leap of faith, the Brubakers face a bigger challenge than they first anticipated and begin to discover just what it means to fight...the Amish way.
Emma Blooms at Last by Naomi King, book 2 in the One Big Happy Family series, is such a lovely book. And lovely is not a word I generally use. But there's not many better ones to pick from.
I love these novels. Reading about Emma and Abby and Wyman and James and Jerome and Amanda and ALL of the Cedar Creek gang... it always makes me wish I was a part of it.

We get to visit Amanda and Wyman again, a little bit of time after they've been married now. They're settled in and pretty well adjusted to their new lives together. Except... Wyman is having trouble with the contractor he's hired to build his new grain elevator. This new contractor does NOT have the work ethic (or the morals and values) of his predecessors, and it's costing Wyman more than expected to get the job done. The more money Wyman pays, though, the less his family has to make it through the winter.

Love is definitely in the air. Abby and James are getting married and couldn't possibly be more caught up in each other. Marrying James, however, means that Abby has to quit work. And without Abby, Sam is finding the Christmas season a bit hard to handle at the store.

Emma is busy lamenting the loss of the man she thought she was made for (he married Rosemary Yutzy from Rosemary Opens Her Heart). Too busy at first to really be interested in the extremely obvious eyeballs that Jerome keeps making at her. But he is not easily deterred. And soon, Emma can't remember why she tried so hard to ignore him.

As always, I read these books and they make me want to be a better version of myself. I'm not sure how to explain that so it makes sense, so I won't try.

I love how, even though these books could work as stand-alones and it's technically a separate series from Home at Cedar Creek, all the characters are familiar. They're like friends and family come home again after a short time away. It's like the stories suck you in and sit you down in the living room of one of these families with a nice warm, hand quilted blanket and make you comfortable.

They give you a peek in to the Amish community and lifestyle in a way thats light and inviting and the romance isn't overbearing like it is in a lot of novels. Although there were some parts where I wanted to shake Emma and just yell at her to stop being so stubborn.

You really get to see how much everyone cares about everyone else. And how willing they are to change their entire lives around to accommodate and to help. They make it a point to find what someone is good at and then they help them to accomplish all that they can in that particular field or with that particular craft.

As a matter of fact, after reading this book I picked my crochet hook back up and gave crocheting hats another go. I generally stick to loom knitting, but you can only do so much with that. I'm excited about making my hats and scarves and everything again. Because there's so many new ways to do it that I NEVER would have ever tried had it not been for reading this story.

I can not say enough wonderful things about this series and all of the others by Naomi King. PLEASE do yourself a favor and read Emma Blooms at Last. I promise you won't be sorry that you did.


Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Naomi King (a.k.a. Charlotte Hubbard) writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.

Publisher: NAL (Penguin Group)
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: Inspirational Romance/Amish Romance
Length: 315 Pages
ISBN: 978-0451417886

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Review - Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

I read Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater a while ago, but after much procrastinating, am finally putting up my review. My procrastination had nothing to do with the book. The book was phenomenal. I just haven't been really in the mood to write reviews. I've been reading... just... not reviewing.

But I digress.

So I loved book one in the Raven Cycle, The Raven Boys. I was very excited to start reading this one. I was definitely not let down.

Of course, it continues Gansey's quest to find the fabled "sleeping" King and Ronan's brooding and being angry-but-sometimes-a-nice-guy, Adam's insistence that he do everything for himself, and Noah being... well, dead. Blue finds herself trying to figure out a way to tell Adam she doesn't love him while trying to decide whether or not what she's feeling for Gansey IS love. She's not sure.

Then, there is the addition of The Gray Man. A man that I wanted to hate, and for good reason. At first. But the more I read from him and the more he interacted with Blue and her mother and just everyone in her circle in general, the less I disliked him. I found myself enjoying his part in the story, even if it wasn't a happy one.

 This installment creeped me out. Severely. I mean, who wouldn't be terrified if they woke up from a nightmare having accidentally pulled their nightmare out of their sleep with them? Kind of like Nightmare on Elm Street, but way more disturbing. The pictures that the descriptions of Ronan's nightmares brought to mind was horrifying in a way that made me not want to read the book at night. But I was also fascinated at the thought that, if he tried hard enough, he could literally bring to life anything he wanted right out of his own mind.

The relationship between Noah and Blue I thought was sweet. They're like, childhood best friends. Which I think was good for Blue with the changes going on in Adam. She needed someone that didn't expect anything from her and wouldn't be able to hurt her in any way.

I liked this book because it kind of makes me wonder if there isn't some truth behind it, ya know? Don't they say that all fiction is based in reality? How awesome would it be if there really was some ancient king hidden somewhere in Virginia. Or if there really was a place like Cabeswater where you could wander through for hours and come out having only been gone for a few minutes.

However, I would STILL love to know what a Henrietta accent sounds like. I've lived in VA 99% of my life and I know what an Appalachian accent sounds like, a southern accent, no accent at all (even though people still insist that I have one), and God knows how many other accents. The Henrietta accent is mentioned so much that I would love to know what it's supposed to sound like.

Does that make me weird?

Anyways, great book. Super dark and ominous (and creepy!) but great. If you read the first installment, I suggest you give this one a go! I can't wait to read book three!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review - The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.
It's taken me a while to finish The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I started it a few times, but I'm on my 3rd copy since I first attempted to read it. It's gotten lost twice since I've moved so it kind of puts a damper on enjoyment. This says nothing about the book itself. It was fantastic. Once I was finally able to get in to it.

Blue is what I wish I could have been at 16. Heck, she's what I wish I could have been now. Personality-wise at least. She seems responsible, mature, and she doesn't really care what other people think about her. I don't think she gave Gansey an entirely fair shot when they first met, but in her defense he was kind of puffed up and egotistical. Like a guy who is rich and powerful and wants everyone to know it.

Gansey is the kind of person you have to really get to know to appreciate. Once you get past his name and his money, he's a pretty interesting person. Searching for mythological and magical ley lines and not-dead kings. He's the kind of guy you go on adventures with. But he's also the kind of guy who can buy his way out of trouble.

Adam and Ronan were probably my favorite characters out of the 4 boys. Adam is just a small town boy (go ahead and sing that part) trying to make something of himself so that he can get out of where he is. Ronan is an angry, but super loyal, hothead who you definitely don't want to cross. If you'd put the two of them together they'd be like the perfect person. Compassionate but fierce. Loyal and looking to make his own way in life.

The story itself is absolutely magical (although, I am trying to figure out what a Virginian accent sounds like... apparently the boys all have a certain accent and being from Virginia, I'd like to know what it is... I'd always operated under the impression that Virginians don't really have accents unless you're from super south VA or you're Appalaichan, if its a cool accent then I feel left out... I want one). Hidden kings and corpse roads and clairvoyant families are just a little bit of what makes up The Raven Boys. And most of the good stuff happens after the first half of the book.

That's when we find out about Noah and his... "disability". That's when we meet the trees that can speak Latin and the teacher from Aglionby who will stop at nothing to find out everything Gansey knows and then use it to his advantage. Ok, so we met the teacher earlier, but didn't REALLY see his true colors until later on. Halfway through the book is when they travel in to the forest and through seasons and turn night in to day and time stops. It's just fantastical and it makes me wish that there truly were places like that here.

If you're a fan of Maggie Stiefvater then you need to read this book. If you like mythology and magical legends then you need to read this book. If you live in Virginia like I do, you should read this book. It's fine for all ages, although it may take an older reader to truly understand what's going on. Hopefully if you do buy the book you don't lose it as many times as I did!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review - Shadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease

Aberthol Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that had raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that could not be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, or that his mother died while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano.

Aberthol doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet, ravaged by a war of the gods, and began anew.

All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin deep within a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head.
Can you imagine waking up in a tomb, not knowing who you are, where you are, or why you're there? That's how Shadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease begins.

Aberthol is told that he is king and that this is basically his "rebirth". Everyone expects him to have all the answers. But he doesn't. What's worse is that mere moments after being presented to the city that has waited for him for hundreds of years, or at least... to an empty courtyard in the city, tragedy befalls and people are killed. With the help of the granddaughter of the man who was supposed to help Aberthol remember who he was and the history of his family, he manages to escape.

First, I would like to say that I looked back through my books read this year and noticed I haven't really read an epic-like fantasy all year. I've read paranormal books, fairytale retellings, and science fiction... but nothing with dragons and people who fly and a king who's a descendant from a Creator. It was about time I remedied that.

It was an easy enough story to get drawn in to. I mean, it starts out a complete mystery. We find out the details of Aberthol and how he began where he did right along with him. However, it lost me for a bit. From the names that looked like someone just ran their fingers across the keyboard so they were impossible to pronounce to a song Elise sang that went on for pages and pages... I was worried I wouldn't finish it.

Elise is captured, however. And who attempts a rescue? Why, Aberthol and Elise's very own dead-but-not-dead father. WITH the aid of a golden dragon that I picture MUCH larger than the one on the cover of this book. Haha. He is a handsome thing though isn't he? Moving on... in their quest to rescue Elise, Aberthol and her father discover that myths passed down from generation to generation are, in fact, truth. And that truth ends up needing to be rescued and fought for just as much as the kingdom that Aberthol has been told he's in charge of.

I think that's something everyone has dreamed of at one time or another right? That something they thought was merely fairytale or folk lore would end up being true? Aberthol allies himself with dragon and people who can fly.

The more I read this the more I picture Avatar the Last Airbender. That's how I see Aberthol. Latest in a long line of this particular type of man who is supposed to be the good in the world. Who has the power to heal and kind of journeys in to his own "spirit world" seeing visions of the past and visions of things that could have been or of people who he has never truly known but are as real to him as he is.

It's a good story. I'm glad I stuck it out. The imagery and description in this book is just absolutely amazing and almost lyrical in how it's portrayed and delivered. Things are described in such detail that I can picture them in my mind as I read them. And with fantasy stories that's always one of the best parts.

I'd have to say one of my favorite characters is the dragon, Dwairomore. He is ancient and wise and friendly. And I loved the way that he spoke.
"No one that doth achieve great things ever sets out to do them. Only when thou dost think thyself worthy of greatness will all hope be lost... Remember, thou needs only to call and I shall come."

It's extremely poetic and something I haven't seen done in any other book that I've read (the Bible aside).

If you're like me and have yet to read a true fantasy novel this year, this one is for you. If you like tales of magical and mystical things like people with wings and dragons and kings of old this is for you. If you like quests and battles and good vs. evil this book is definitely for you.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sinner Giveaway!

So, I happened to buy two copies of Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater and I have one WITH a signed book wrap up for grabs over on my FACEBOOK page! Go check it out!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review - Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant -- until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn't know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea -- a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid -- all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she's becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she's tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude's affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there's only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce. The lastest that I've read of her FairyTale Retellings. It's a retelling of The Little Mermaid... but not the redhaired teenager with the fish for a best friend and the crab for a babysitter.

It's a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen version of the story. The one where she falls for the prince, but he's fallen in love with (and marries) the woman he THINKS has saved him from the storm he almost died in. The little mermaid was permitted by the sea witch to turn her tail in to legs in exchange for her voice AND with the added awfulness of EVERY step on land being excruciating pain. Her sisters barter with the sea witch for a way out. They give their hair in return for a knife that will kill the prince and allow the little mermaid to return to the sea and just forget everything, but she can't bring herself to do it.

Lo remembers that she hasn't always been Lo. But she can't remember who she was before she was Lo. She tries desperately, but to no avail. Her "sisters" explain to her that if she were able to make a human love her she could drown them and steal their soul, turning her back in to her former self. But... who is that?

Celia can see a persons past through touch. She feels pretty useless compared to her sisters because who needs to know what they've already been through... right? Until Lo. FINALLY Celia can help SOMEONE. But at what cost?

Jude. The "prince".  A handsome guitar player who fumbles and falls in to the ocean only to be pulled to shore by Lo and subsequently "rescued" by Celia. He falls for Celia, thinking all along that it was SHE who saved him from drowning. Something Celia doesn't try to correct for a while.

So... Celia feels pointless. Her sisters always tell her that they are stronger together but she never feels like she fits in. I don't know how many of you can see the entirety of a persons past with the touch of your hand, but I think it would be a pretty interesting power to have. But I guess I can kind of see her point. In the... adventures of her sisters... the past doesn't really matter. Much. So I get that. I get the whole "Woe is me, what am I doing here. What's the point?" I do. She's looking for her purpose. And until Lo comes along, she hasn't found it.

I don't know if her eagerness to help Lo is because of her desire to actually be of some use to someone, or if she truly cares about Lo. I think after a while it may be a mixture of both. And I think that Lo got more than she bargained for. They say ignorance is bliss. Lo discovers that she is Naida (Sofia Kelly's sister from Sweetly!) and thinks that the knowledge of her past can bring her nothing but good things.

But it doesn't. She puts herself through excruciating pain on a regular basis to uncover more of her past, and again, I get that part. But unless she can get someone to love her to the point where she can steal her soul, what good is it? She knows that Jude doesn't love her. And even if he did she couldn't bring herself to kill him.

I like that there are different points of view in this story. Sometimes we read from Celia, sometimes we read from Lo. And sometimes, we even get to read from Naida when she remembers who she is enough to narrate. I can't remember how many times I've read a book where I wished I could get in to another characters head but it was only told through the point of view of one person. This book switches between the 3 seamlessly and effortlessly. I never got confused as to who I was reading. Not even when Lo and Naida switched between herself? each other? Anyways.

The more I think about the original story, the more parallels I can see between it and Fathomless. I think that for the most part, this follows it's original much more closely than the other two retellings. Not that that's what makes it better, just something I noticed. However, in tying together with Sweetly in that we find out where Sofia's missing sister went, it also brings in the werewolves from Sisters Red and from Sweetly.

Like before, I was kind of disappointed to find that there was no actual sea witch. And that the "angels" all of the "old ones" spoke of were, in fact, the werewolves from the previous two stories. But I suppose for the sake of bringing the plots full circle it was necessary. It is interesting to see what a different role the "bad guys" played in stories that don't seem like they'd be related in any way.

I love retellings. and I loved this one a lot. I suppose you could read it as a stand alone, but it's more impressive if you've read the other two. Once you find out who is who and what is what it's one of those "OOOOh!" things. I definitely recommend giving it a read!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review - Stone of Destiny by Laura Howard

Allison thought it was crazy enough when she found out her father, Liam, wasn't entirely human. But now she has to join his magical allies to unravel his former mistress's plans. Aoife wants to keep Allison's parents apart forever.

Despite Allison's efforts to keep Ethan, the only guy she's ever cared about, out of this supernatural mess, fate keeps throwing him back into the mix.

Will Allison be able to find the amulet that holds the enchantment Aoife placed on Liam and destroy it? Are Ethan' s feelings for Allison strong enough to endure the magic of the Tuatha De Danaan?
Stone of Destiny by Laura Howard is book 2 in The Danaan Trilogy.

First of all, I want to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for putting a pronunciation guide in the beginning of the book. It was EXTREMELY helpful (even though I still pronounced some of them wrong, haha). I don't like when I have to stumble through words or names that I don't understand or can't pronounce because they're in a different language. So having the key in the front was awesome.

Second, I am just going to say that every time I see the words Tuatha de Danaan I just picture Liv Tyler as Arwen from Lord of the Rings saying them. It just sounds like something she'd say. Is that weird? Oh well. Too late now.

Ok, so book 2. Aoife has escaped the fey globe, Allison's mother is starting to write music again, Ethan hates Allison, and it looks like Allison is going to have to travel back to Tir na Nog.

Aoife has plans for Liam though. She wants to perform a binding ceremony to keep him away from Allison's mother and Allison is terrified to lose her mother (and now her father) forever. Deaghlan is intent on messing with people, it seems just to irritate Allison. He's the all powerful fairy king and can pretty much do whatever he wants to whomever he wants whenever he wants. Allison has to constantly remind herself not to look him in the eye or else she's entirely held captive in his gaze. Liam is tired and worn out and comes to find out he has ANOTHER daughter that's been more or less hidden from him and just wants to stop Aoife before she ruins him (and as a result everyone he loves) forever.

Allison seems to have adapted well to her knew knowledge of all things magical and fantastical in this book. She's torn, though, between the fairy world and being there for the people she loves in the... real?... world. She's a daughter completely dedicated to the well being of her mother and she does what she can to be considerate to the people around her. Except the Danaan are making it difficult for her. Deaghlan has made Ethan hate her. Aoife is trying to steal her father. And now she has a sister she never knew who thought she was hated by Allison and Liam.

Ethan does come around though, thanks to Niamh. And Allison FINALLY stops trying to save him from her life and her goings on with the Danaan and lets him decide for himself whether or not he wants to be a part of it. THANK YOU. SO much. Ethan is there for Allison every step of the way, like he should have been able to be from the beginning. Dangit Allison.

I loved that I got to see the relationship between Niamh and Aodhan. They are both fiercely loyal and protective of the people who they call friends and are doing everything that they can to make right what Aoife has obliterated. In our world and in Tir na Nog.

Allison's new sister was an interesting new addition. She was like Allison's complete opposite. From personality to the way she dressed to how she grew up and how much of the Danaan was in her. But, she also grew up never knowing her real father. Or her mother for that matter. Although her mother didn't go crazy. At least, not in the way Allison's did. And she's more Danaan than Allison. Since Aoife is her mother. She can read minds which I totally wish I could do sometimes. She definitely becomes an asset to the group at the end.

These books always end with a cliff hanger and I'm SOOOOO not patient. I want to know what happens NOW! I can't stand waiting. And it figures, it ends RIGHT when I didn't want it to. If you read the first book go grab this one and give it a go. You won't be disappointed. If you love all things Fairy and fantasy go grab it and give it a go. If you like Irish Mythology give it a go! This book will appeal to so many different types of readers it's hard to say no.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review - Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

The forest invites you in . . . but will never let you go.

As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear too. Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic, and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past -- until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone -- it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival each year, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet, the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.

Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.
I love Jackson Pearce's Fairy Tale Retellings. Sweetly is a retelling of the classic Hansel & Gretel. It comes complete with the candy house, "witch", and the "fattening up" of the brother while the sister wants to leave. Sort of.

There are enough similarities in the two stories to consider it a re-telling. But it is definitely a modern, YA uptake on the children's story. Gretchen had a twin sister who was taken by a "witch" in the forest when they were little. I don't believe we learn her name until almost the end of the story (if I'm even remembering correctly). Ansel falls in love with the owner of the "candy house", Chocolatier Sofia Kelly. Now, her house is not literally made of candy, but there is definitely plenty of it to go around. And... he falls in love with her.

Now, she doesn't stuff him in the oven and try to eat him, but she does plan to offer up Gretchen to the "witches" we find out from Samuel are actually werewolves. I was a tad disappointed in that. BUT, there was an actual tie in with Sisters Red so it was easy to overlook the fact that there weren't ACTUAL yellow eyed old-lady witches in the story.

The small town seems typical of small (read: TINY) towns where everyone knows everyone and they all know your business. It's also an old town with a lot of old people who, once they're pissed at you they stay that way. Which is unfortunate for Sofia Kelly.

That part did bother me, however. She seems genuinely hurt that the towns people dislike her... because they believe she had something to do with the disappearance of their daughters after her Chocolate Festival for the last few years. She's upset when there aren't as many RSVPs as she was hoping for.

But I mean... can you blame the people? She really DID have something to do with their disappearances. And in a WAY worse way than the towns people can even fathom. So, while I can kind of understand her motives behind her actions (her sister Naida who was taken before hand and is being held captive by the "witches"), I do NOT understand her butt-hurtedness at the fact that some of the people in Live Oak can't STAND her. They really do have every right to their feelings and are, in fact, justified in them.

Ansel... love sick puppy. A rock for his sister, but a drooling love sick puppy. You've got to hand it to him though... he is definitely a "Knight in Shining Armor". He wants to save Sofia and he's been saving his sister their entire lives. Almost without regard to himself. But, the fact that he's a love sick puppy blinds him to the fact that there's something not right with his precious Chocolatier.

Gretchen. She's the oldest teenager I've ever read. Forced to grow up way beyond her years with the disappearance of her sister, the death of her father, and the subsequent disowning of her step-mother. I guess you could say Ansel was too, but when I read him I just picture him falling all over Sofia. Oy. Anyways. Gretchen has PTSD and rightly so. Even being near trees gives her anxiety like you wouldn't believe. She doesn't want to disappear (metaphorically and literally). She doesn't want to feel like she doesn't exist. But she's tired of being scared all the time. So she finds Samuel and decides to take her fate in to her own hands. She starts making things happen rather than being terrified of things happening TO her. Good for Gretchen.

And Samuel. Kind of the actual hero of the story in my opinion. The one who opened Gretchen's eyes to the reality of her "witches" and helped her overcome her fear of the forest to the point where she was able to take care of herself AND make the decision to try and protect the other girls of Live Oak.

It was a good book. Again, kind of disappointed about the werewolf thing but I liked the tie-in to the other novel. If you like retellings or contemporary fantasy (whether you know Hansel & Gretel or not), I definitely suggest you give this one a read.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Review - Rosemary Opens Her Heart by Naomi King

Another spring reminds the Amish of Cedar Creek, Missouri, that for everything there is a season.

Zanna Lambright is finally marrying Jonny Ropp, and friends and family have come from far and wide to celebrate. Among them is young widow Rosemary Yutzy, mother of toddler Katie, whose husband was tragically killed last fall. With a willing heart Rosemary has taken over care of her in-law’s family and continued to run a baked goods business from home, but privately she still mourns her lost Joe...and is unprepared for the changes that are coming...

Rosemary’s father-in-law wants to merge his lamb-raising business with Matt Lambright’s—a move that will require the Yutzys to relocate from their nearby town to Cedar Creek. Moreover, it will bring Rosemary into constant contact with Matt, who is making no secret of his romantic interest in her. The challenges of contemplating a future unlike any she expected are overwhelming for Rosemary. And although Matt is strong and kind, his courtship is so persistent, she often wants to run the other way. As Rosemary struggles to see beyond her immediate joys and sorrows, will she embrace the outpouring of welcome and support from the people of Cedar Creek...and accept this new chance to open her heart to a more abundant life?
I love Naomi King's novels. Rosemary Opens Her Heart is no exception. I love her portrayal of the Amish communities and culture and the way that she spins her stories together with romance are just fantastic.

Rosemary was a bit frustrating at first. Here is this handsome kind-hearted man who is interested in her and is incredibly kind to her little girl. And here is this town full of kind-spirited Amish folk who are more than happy to welcome her into the fold. Why is she so hesitant to let people love her? Why is she so hesitant to accept that maybe, just maybe, it doesn't matter to everyone that she has a child to take care of so courting her and eventually marrying her would mean that they would accept the responsibility of a child as well?

She was frustrating... at first. But then when you remember that it's been just about a year since her husband died, you forgive her a bit. I can't imagine losing a spouse that way and if I did... I don't expect I'd really be interested in receiving affection from anyone either. I probably wouldn't be interested in moving away from the only home we'd had together and leaving behind everything that reminded me of him either. Not for a long while at least.

But Matt is persistent. And gracious. And he's full of love and has such an amazing heart that eventually he could win over even the most stubborn of women if you ask me. He's a little in your face, but I think it's just because he's young and enthusiastic. Matt knows when to appear patient (even if he's anything but) and to lay off no matter how hard it is. And in the end, persistence pays off.

Abby is the kind of person I would want as a best friend. She's so sure of everything and always seems to have an answer for everything... She's quick to offer advice to anyone who needs it or she can point you in the direction of someone who can help you if she can't do it herself. She's sweet and loyal and just seems to me like an amazing person. Silly James Graber for taking such a long time to get his act together.

Abby is the perfect friend for lonely Rosemary. She reminds Rosemary that there are people who are kind and compassionate. And she reminds her that, while she may be mourning now, there is a time to mourn and then a time to let go and let the light shine again. She goes out of her way to make sure that the Yutzys feel at home in Cedar Creek.

The book was wonderful. The characters, as always, are just lovely. Reading Naomi King's novels always makes me want to start baking pies and cookies and they make me want to figure out how to sew and make clothing. Haha. They also make me wish I knew more about the Amish lifestyle and the people in the Amish communities.

Like I said, I love her novels. Every one of them I've read. The characters become like friends and family and when you read a new book with old characters, it's like coming home. I highly suggest you read them!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
I'm going to be honest, I've had The Absoltely True Diary of a Part - Time Indian by Sherman Alexie for an incredibly long time but hadn't actually picked it up to read it yet. I DID so recently almost solely because of the most recent controversies surrounding the book being banned from certain schools due to content. It was banned for it's language, reference to masturbation, and "anti-Christian" ideas.

Junior is ostracized by the entirety of the population of the Reservation he lives on (save his own family) when he decides to go to school off the Reservation. Add that to the myriad of health problems he's faced since infancy and you've got a pretty good crap sandwich. He knows getting off the Reservation is the only way to make something of himself but he still has to go home to it every day after school and face the ridicule and the possible beatings that come with being a traitor.

I admire Junior. With all of his health issues and social issues you would think he would be rather weak. The courage it took him to leave his school on the Reservation and transfer to a school 20 miles away makes him so incredibly strong. In essence, he turned his back on his people. His friends. Well... friend. And in some opinions, his family. But they (his family) were all so incredibly supportive of him. I think that may have been the only reason he didn't collapse under the pressure of being only a "part-time Indian".

This book seemed so raw and honest and I think that scared some adults in to thinking it was not suitable reading for their students. Yes, Junior mentions masturbating, but the references are so fleeting they're negligible. And honestly, what teenage boy doesn't EVER think about it? Yes, he cusses, but again, it's nothing worse that what's heard on a regular basis in public, in some homes, and on television.

Junior feels like he's got nothing. He feels like his Reservation is a prison. You live there, you die there. You spend your life in poverty and with violence and without any expectation that you're going to become more than you are that very second. He loses more loved ones in such a short period of time than most adults can handle and come through on the other end ok. But he makes it. His family is poor, his dad is a drunk, and his sister runs away... but he makes it. He's put through the proverbial ringer and even though he's beaten and bruised he's more confident and sure of himself than he was beforehand.

The book kind of slaps you in the face with how honest it is. Junior questions things and hates things and cares about things... and the emotions that he feels just smack you in the face with how raw they are. It feels real. The look you get in to the life that he lives along with so many other people is incredibly eye-opening and sad.

It's definitely a book that will stay with me for a while. I don't think I'll be able to forget this one. You should take a look at it if you've been sitting on the fence about it. You won't be disappointed. I would, however, recommend it probably for 14 and up as there IS some bad language and mature ideas. Not because it's offensive and shouldn't be read, but simply because I don't think that anyone too young could even begin to comprehend what Junior Spirit goes through in his story.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review - Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer's Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she's not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world's sweetest boyfriend, behind.

But when Cryer's Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn't get close to... the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she's always loved, Kendall keeps up the search--and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can't stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried....
Thanks to my husband for buying Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann for me. I'd seen a lot about it, but it was one of those books I hadn't gotten around to buying yet.

Kendall has OCD. And a best friend named Nico. And goes to school in a one room school-house with the rest of the highschool students in her tiny town. Only, one of the students disappears without a trace. Never to be seen from again. It shakes the town to their core and ruin's Kendall's routine which causes her OCD to go in to overdrive.

Along come Jacián Obregon and his sister Marlena. Marlena is friendly and likeable, but Jacián seems pissed at the world and doesn't want to let anyone close to him. That's fine with Kendall until her best friend in the entire world, her beau Nico disappears... again... without a trace. Just like months before when Tiffany Quinn vanished.

Kendall is beside herself and doesn't know what to do. She starts to befriend Marlena and spends a lot of time at Marlena's grandfather's house, where they're living to help him out. But because of new town rules, no one under the age of 18 is allowed out alone. Not to walk to school or to a friends house or to the store. So going to visit Marlena and her grandfather means getting rides with Jacián. It also means she gets to ride to school with him too. The pair become friendly if not necessarily friends and Jacián seems understand of Kendall's OCD and the rituals she feels compelled to perform.

The world sucks for Kendall. At least that's how she sees it when Nico disappears. And I don't doubt that it's horrible. Her best friend, the only one she just KNOWS she can count on 100% is gone and wont ever come back. She just wants to know where he is and until she does.... but then she starts having feelings for Jacián. Ones that she never felt with Nico and she feels guilty, like she's betraying Nico's memory. She's grieving and scared and can't stop the jumble of thoughts racing through her head at a mile a minute. And it's exhausting her.

Marlena was the kind of friend Kendall needed after Nico's disappearance. Kind and sympathetic and enthusiastic about the friendship. She became a shoulder when Kendall needed it.

Jacián was not someone I wanted to like right away. But it soon became clear where his relationship with Kendall was going and even when she didn't want to feel the things she was feeling around him, I knew eventually she'd be okay with them. Whether or not they found Nico. He was stand-offish at first, but who wouldn't be. Torn away from the place you've lived and loved forever. Having to leave behind friends and girlfriends and a soccer team where you're a star. Anyone would be angry. It's totally understandable. But he has a soft side. One that I liked almost as instantly as I had disliked him in the beginning.

The story was good. It was eerie and the kind you'd expect to find in the horror section of a video store. But I think I was just expecting a LITTLE more build up to the finale. The story had this... crescendo up until Kendall was "taken" and then just kind of stayed on that line without the big grand finale I was hoping for. I wanted more OOMPH in the back story and the scary bit of things that I just didn't get. I mean, I could ALMOST picture Nico when she found him. And Tiffany. But that wasn't enough to be ENOUGH for me, do you know what I mean? It was pretty awesome that the OCD, which had been the bane of her existence up until that point, ended up being what saved her in the end. But I still felt kind of let down. It was like so much effort had been put in to building up the story that the end had to be hastily thrown together because there was nothing left to tell.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story. Interesting twists and completely weird plot. I'd recommend this for anyone who loves the paranormal. While the end was a bit of a let down, it did tie everything together and I think the rest of the book makes up for it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review - Emily's Chance (The Callahans of Texas #2) by Sharon Gillenwater

Emily Rose may be in the tiny West Texas town of Callahan Crossing for the moment, but it's just a rung on her ladder to success. Her work at the Callahan Crossing historical society will look good on her ever-growing resume as she attempts to break into the prestigious world of a big city museum curator. Little does she know cowboy and contractor Chance Callahan has decided that he can convince her to stay--both with the town and with him. As he helps Emily restore the town's history after a devastating fire, he also helps her uncover her own hidden worth and the value of love.

The second book in THE CALLAHANS OF TEXAS series, Emily's Chance is a heartwarming story of letting love take the lead. Readers will come away wishing they lived in Callahan Crossing.
Emily's Chance by Sharon Gillenwater was a gift given to me by the Easter Bunny this year (thanks mom!). I think I was overdue for a cowboy romance novel. This was a good one.

Much of the town has been ravaged by fire and Emily's trying to figure out what the point in staying is. Since her purpose of vising Callahan Crossing was to help get its small museum off the ground. Chance is hoping to give her a reason to stay, perhaps permanently. He fell in love with her the moment he saw her and it would just break his heart if she left so quickly.

Chance donates a building to the historical society to use for their museum and Emily and Chance's family/friends get on the ball finding donations for the museum since much was lost in the fire. Emily finds that the more time she spends with Chance and the people he loves the more she doesn't want to leave them. Sure, her DREAM job is head curator in a large museum, but what if her dream job comes at the expense of the man she doesn't want to admit she's falling for?

Chance. ::sigh:: Christian. Gallant and chivalrous and kind and gentle and.... I could probably go on and on about him. He's a loving son and a doting uncle. He works hard and does everything he possibly can to help everyone in need. He cares fiercely for his family and is bound and determined to sweep Emily off of her feet and have her join the family.

Emily is lovely and kind and stubborn as an ox. I guess the same could be said about Chance as well... they make a great pair. She's a new-ish Christian with a somewhat questionable past and definitely questionable people as parents. She thinks her life is leading her on one specific path and refuses to believe that maybe her path can change. At first. But she grows to love Callahan Crossing and the people in it. She starts to see them as family, not just a town she's working for. This little country town is a breath of fresh air compared to the big city life she's known before, and she comes to find out that maybe she doesn't really want to go back. The fact that one of the most eligible bachelors is in love with her doesn't hurt her decision making process. But she takes her sweet time realizing she loves him back.

This was a great story. I loved the history of the town and Chance's family. I loved their strong Christian roots and the way everyone was family to them, even out of town yuppies like Emily. I loved that they were all so amazing to each other in spite of struggles that they faced and that the whole community was so close-knit. It was great to see that everyone banded together to rebuild the town after a completely devastating fire that big wigs in the city thought they'd never recover from.

Books like this make me long for small town life like that. Where everyone knows everyone and even if you're different, and sometimes nosey, you're friends. Or at least cordial and able to get along. It makes me long for the country and the fresh air and the kind of community where you have spaghetti dinners and everyone shows up. Or if you need a place to stay no one is uncomfortable offering a couch or a room for as long as you need it. It's the kind of place where you make friends when you're little and they're still friends 30-40 years down the line.

I loved this book. I'd recommend it to anyone. The Easter Bunny definitely did a good job picking this one out for me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review - The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff is different kind of book than I'm used to reading.

Mackie is a changeling. Or a Replacement. Whatever you call it he's not really human. He replaced something human a long time ago and it seems the only one who's ever truly loved him is his "sister". She's more or less what's kept him alive up until the point that the book really takes off, and the one person willing to sacrifice everything to make sure he stays that way for as long as she can keep him. His parents know what he is and while they've done their best to take care of him, he feels like he's never really fit in with the family. But really, who can blame them? Some monster came and took their TRUE son out of his crib when he was tiny and helpless and replaced him with something that looked similar, but was dying... and NOT their son.

He has managed to make a few good friends during his years as Mackie Doyle but when he starts crushing on Tate it kind of sends his world spinning. She indirectly and sort of directly almost brings about his downfall. Something his friends are trying to help him prevent.

Mackie is an interesting character. Kind of a typical stupid guy, in a way. Always going for the pretty girl with no personality instead of the girl with personality to spare but who may be a little bit of a hard shell to crack. He came around though. But it sure took him a long time to get with the program. You don't always see that. A guy who is reluctant to play the hero, even when it means he gets the girl. But Mackie doesn't want to be the hero. He doesn't want to be noticed at all. Even if it means disappointing Tate. Eventually he screws his brain back on the right way though. So he redeems himself.

Poor Tate. We first meet her after her sister's been taken and after the thing that replaced her has died. So she didn't get much of a chance to establish herself as anything but depressed and moody (and rightly so). But I did feel it was kind of unfair of her to expect Mackie to just automatically save the day when he's just as clueless as she is.

Roswell is a perfect best friend. And a seemingly unlikely one. He's popular and outgoing and fun loving. A complete contrast to Mackie. Which, I suppose, is part of what makes him perfect. With Roswell around no one really pays too much attention to Mackie. On top of the fact that he kind of lets Mackie hide in his shadow, he's loyal and understanding and would really do anything for Mackie. Despite the fact that Mackie's different.

When Mackie ventures down in to the Slag Heap it gets a little weird and disturbing. And kind of confusing. But they help him, in their own way. It was kind of hard to tell at some points if The Morrigan (sort of like the ruler of the "otherworldy" and "undead" who lived under the Slag Heap) was really supposed to be a GOOD character or a BAD one. At some points she helps, but then at others she really doesn't care what happens. She has something to gain with Mackie and if he fails to deliver then it seems she washes her hands of him.

It's a weird story, I will give it that. But it was a good one. A quick one. And different enough to keep me interested even when it moved kind of slow. I'd recommend it to anyone (probably 16 and above) who loves paranormal things or dark and creepy things. It fits the bill quite nicely if you're in to that stuff. Go check it out!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review - Breath of Spring by Charlotte Hubbard

As a bright season brings a fresh start to Willow Ridge, Annie Mae Knepp feels she can never make peace with the past. Her disgraced ex-bishop father is furious she has taken her five siblings to live with her. She's never been truly at home in her faith. . .or believing in herself. And Annie Mae fears no man will want to take on the responsibilities she's gladly shouldered. True, her quiet neighbor Adam Wagler has been steadfast and unshakeable helping her through her trials, but he surely couldn't think of someone so lost as more than a friend. Believing she is unworthy because of her doubts, Annie Mae will find in a moment of surprising revelation that God can work impossible miracles--and that love makes all things new.
Breath of Spring by Charlotte Hubbard is the... 4th book by this author that I've read. Like the others, it's an absolutely delightful story. Absolutely wonderful.

Annie Mae feels out of place. With her father gone and her littlest brothers and sisters with him she's broken hearted. But the people of Willow Ridge have rallied around her and her sister to help give them a home and a way to take care of themselves until they can get things together and out on to their own two feet. A few in particular. And one specifically that she can't quite figure out her feelings for. She isn't sure what to do with herself and her confidence and self esteem have taken a nose dive, she doesn't believe she's worthy of the help she's received from everyone or the affections of a certain man who seems to be falling for her but doesn't really know it yet.

I loved this story. It was sweet and it was lovely and it was definitely the perfect break from all of the gory zombie novels I've been reading. As I said earlier, this is not the first Charlotte Hubbard novel I've read, but there are tons of familiar faces. It's like going home to old friends. When I got the book in the mail I couldn't wait to sit down and start reading.

Annie Mae is unsure of herself and kind of lost. Her dad is gone, her siblings are gone, she's not allowed in the only home she's ever known... She's working at the Sweet Season's bakery so that she can support herself and her younger sister who chose not to go with Hiram to Higher Ground, the Amish Community he decided to develop after he came in to some money after the accident with his boys in Winter of Wishes. She doesn't realize how strong she is, that much is obvious. It makes me sad how unworthy of love she feels and how completely she lacks any self esteem. She's an incredible person.

Adam is a knight in shining armor, even if he doesn't realize it. And even if Annie Mae doesn't realize that she needs one, or wants one for that matter. He's protective and sweet but is down on himself. You KNOW though.... it's like a rule... that once someone decides they're NOT going to fall in love or they DON'T want to marry... that's when they find the one they can't live without. He's very selfless and extremely loving and just an amazing person.

I loved getting to go back to Willow Ridge and see everyone. It's like getting more of their story without necessarily getting more of their story. It was amazing to see how they rallied around Annie Mae and her brothers and sisters to help them and take care of them. They're less of a community and more of this gigantic family who is just so incredible. They (or most of them) would do anything to help those in need and when Hiram left and 2 of his daughters stayed behind that's exactly what they did. I would give anything to have friends like that.

Reading these books always makes me wish I was more like the women I read about. And the way I figure it, if a book can make me feel that way it's a book I should recommend that everyone reads. I finish reading and I want to go clean my house or bake pies and bread. It makes me want to be a better kind of person. I don't know how else to put it.

But you should all read it. Fantastic series, fantastic stories. They're enjoyable and they portray love stories without having to make it all about sex. As a rule, the people in these stories are kind and gentle and just amazing and they're just so refreshing to read about. I recommend these books (and ALL books Charlotte Hubbard/Naomi King writes to everyone). Beautiful stories. And, as always, delicious sounding recipes follow at the end of the book!

Meet The Author:

I’ve called Missouri home for most of my life, and most folks don’t realize that several Old Older Amish and Mennonite communities make their home here, as well. The rolling pastureland, woods, and small towns along county highways make a wonderful setting for Plain populations—and for stories about them, too! While Jamesport, Missouri is the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, other communities have also found the affordable farm land ideal for raising crops, livestock, and running the small family-owned businesses that support their families.

Like my heroine, Miriam Lantz, of my Seasons of the Heart series, I love to feed people—to share my hearth and home. I bake bread and goodies and I love to try new recipes. I put up jars and jars of green beans, tomatoes, beets and other veggies every summer. All my adult life, I’ve been a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and we hosted a potluck group in our home for more than twenty years.

Like Abby Lambright, heroine of my Home at Cedar Creek series, I consider it a personal mission to be a listener and a peacemaker—to heal broken hearts and wounded souls. Faith and family, farming and frugality matter to me: like Abby, I sew and enjoy fabric arts—I made my wedding dress and the one Mom wore, too, when I married into an Iowa farm family more than thirty-five years ago! When I’m not writing, I crochet and sew, and I love to travel.

I recently moved to Minnesota when my husband got a wonderful new job, so now he and I and our border collie, Ramona, are exploring our new state and making new friends.
Connect With Charlotte:
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review - Burn Me by Shelley Watters

When Katrina Hale's brother dies in a house fire, she's determined to prove she's stronger than everyone thinks she is. But grief can do strange things to a person and Katrina knows all too well how the death of a loved one can change a person. As the romance in her current relationship fizzles, she focuses on her work and fights the undeniable attraction she has for Greyson Neal.

Firefighter Greyson Neal is the type of guy girls dream about. But Greyson isn't interested in other girls. He wants the one woman he can never have: Katrina. As the two struggle with their feelings, Kat must choose between her career and her heart, and fight to keep them both when an arsonist threatens to take it all away

This is the third time I've read Burn Me by Shelley Watters. I had the privilege of being a beta reader for this particular project many moons ago and I will say it's only gotten better with each read (and come on, who doesn't love the cover?).

Kat is a firefighter who thinks she has something to prove and she's dating Eric, a not so wonderful boyfriend but oh-so-gorgeous. It just so happens that Eric is the brother of Greyson, who may just be that-much-more-gorgeous and who totally has a thing for Kat. It doesn't hurt that he's the tall dark and handsome type. But it DOES irritate Kat that he seems to feel the need to protect her. She's perfectly capable of taking care of herself thank you very much. Most of the time, anyway.

Being that this is a brand new book, I can't really go in to detail on the plot without giving SO much away. So I will leave it with what I have and let you read it and figure the rest out.

I totally dig that Kat is a firefighter. She's strong, independent, and doesn't expect anyone to protect her or fight her battles for her. She worked hard to make it to where she is and she's not going to let anyone or anything stop her from staying right there.

Greyson is the poster boy for hot and sexy and absolutely fantastic. Sure, he may have what Kat calls "Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome", but at some point in almost every woman's life, there has to have been some (even if just teeny-tiny-itty-bitty-miniscule-fleeting) part of them that wished for such a man to just sweep them off their feet and ride off in to the sunset with them. It bothers Kat, but to the reader it shows that he's got a good heart and that he wants to protect the ones that he loves. Noble right?

The story was exciting. And as I said before, it's gotten better each time I've read it. The tension between Greyson and Kat at times was so thick you could cut it with a knife. There were moments when I wanted to shake Kat and scream at her to stop trying to rationalize and for the love of God to use her heart instead of her thick skull to think with, but she was fantastic. Greyson was equally as pigheaded and stubborn at certain points, but both characters were pretty endearing.

Though there were definitely some moments in the firehouse that would have warranted some sexual harassment awareness training, for the most part the chemistry between the firefighters Kat worked with were great friends. I'm not sure if they all saw her as an equal, but even if they didn't, they treated her that way.

We are not wanting for action with this story. I don't see how you could be with a novel about firefighting badasses. Know what I mean? From car accidents to steamy shower scenes to burning buildings to stolen kisses to stalkers... there's always something to keep you on your toes with this book. I can guarantee that if you read it, at some point you'll think you have it all figured out. But you're wrong. Very, very wrong. Loved the twist at the end. I don't think Kat and Greyson did, but I did.

If you're in to steamy romances or books with strong female leads or hot sweaty firemen.... this is the book for you. I'd recommend adult only since this has some very VERY mature instances in it, but ladies (and hey, maybe some gents too), I think this will end up being one you can't put down.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review - Blackout by Mira Grant

Rise up while you can. -Georgia Mason

The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.

The year was 2039. The world didn't end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. The uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.

Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there's one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it's this:

Things can always get worse.

I read Blackout by Mira Grant so quickly after reading Deadline that it's still a little fuzzy where one book ended and the other began. I'm still not 100% certain I didn't add some details from book 3 in my review for book 2. Oops.

I will say that I have never been so obsessed with a series of books in a LONG time. I literally could not put these down. I'd read at red lights while I was driving (ONLY at the red lights), took it to my daughter's gymnastics class to pass the hour and 15 minutes I had to wait, read until I fell asleep at night, took it to read while I waited for my kids to finish with Girl Scouts.

Fantastic series.

Shaun is still a little crazy, but his team is there for him. George v.2 is lucky to have people working in the ranks of the CDC to remove her and return her to her brother. Or... not return her I guess since technically she's a clone and she's never ACTUALLY met him before. But she remembers him. She remembers him because, more or less, George v.1's brain was scanned and implanted in to George v.2. She is 97% actual Georgia Mason.

So in this particular installment there are, as the blurb states, zombie bears, infected mosquitos, backstabbing doctors, hostage presidents, tropical storms, foxes, cats, monkeys (read it and you'll know what I mean)... It's a lot of action and not everyone comes out of it unscathed. Maggie is injured and Becks... well... she was a hero in the end.

Like I said before, I was totally obsessed with this series. It didn't matter that a lot of the information on the scientific aspect of things didn't really stick with me, I caught the general idea of what was being said during those parts. That's what mattered.

How often does your favorite character die, or does the main character/hero of the story die and you just WISH the author would write a new one and bring them back some how? How often do you watch movies and someone dies and you just sit there stunned with your mouth hanging open going "Well that can't possibly have actually happened.... they'll be back in another episode... RIGHT?!?" Well, a big round of applause to Mira Grant because she found a way to bring George back. Sure it may not sit well with some reviewers, but honestly... how many of you didn't at least say "Wow, that sucks" just once after she died in Feed? I think I admitted that I cried. Just a little. ::cough::

And how many of you weren't totally heartbroken that Shaun was just going completely off the deep end?

I didn't really know what to do when I finished this book. It's one of those stories that just kind of leaves you breathless after not giving you a chance to sit still the entire time you're reading it. The whole series I mean. Not just this book in particular.

Normally I would say I wish there were more books following Blackout. And in a way, I do. I would love to see more of this highly technological post-apocalyptic world. But I think that Shaun and George deserve some time off.

I would highly recommend this series. To ages 16 and above, if I haven't said it before as there are some mature situations (aside from all the dying and stuff). It's quite an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse story and one that I think is absolutely fantastic. Just once, the world doesn't completely fold in on itself and die. It ADVANCES! How cool is that? There are also some really interesting tidbits at the end of the stories that sort of add to them or perhaps help you to understand them better. So, if you've been on the fence about reading the Newsflesh Trilogy, hop off and go open it up!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review - Deadline by Mira Grant

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn't seem as fun when you've lost as much as he has.

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a newfound interest in life. Because she brings news-he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.
I admit it... I cried at the end of Feed by Mira Grant. The beginning, middle, and most of the end of Deadline did nothing to help the heartbreak leftover from the first book.

Poor Shaun is slowly going crazier and crazier by the day while his poor team watches. They do their best to ignore the fact that he talks to himself.... er... Georgia in his head, but he starts seeing her and feeling her too. Everyone's just waiting for him to take his final dive off the deep end. But he's got work to do first. The conspiracy that got George killed didn't end with Governor Tate. The good Doc blows holes right through that story when she shows up at his home. The more information is revealed the worse things look for Shaun and his team. But he wants to get to the bottom of George's death before he's either murdered himself or permanently goes off the deep end.

I felt so bad for Shaun. I've lost people, but never someone as close to me as George was to him. I don't know what that soul crushing feeling of emptiness and loss is like. Not in that way anyway. I find it interesting that the only thing keeping him relatively sane enough to do his job is the fact that he's going insane. Without his hallucinations of George I reckon he'd go insane but in a not so... user friendly way.

I understood the team's hesitation to embrace the Doc's presence but I kind of felt bad that they were so suspicious of her, almost even until the end. I think she deserved a little more credit than they gave her. Not that "hind sight is 20/20" kind. But legitimate credit for the fact that she faked her own death so that she could come and help Shaun figure out what happened to his sister and what was happening all over the United States to others with reservoir conditions.

I don't think I really got to know Alaric very well. I mean he was all over the story and I saw how he comforted Maggie and got mad at Shaun and panicked over his sister... but I don't feel like I got to see him as a person outside of those instances. Becks, I felt, I got to know a little bit better. Maybe because of her issues with Shaun, or maybe because I got to see more of how fierce she was and how loyal she was and in the end... how heroic, even if she had no other choice but to be that way.

It was kind of sad to see just how many people were willing to betray Shaun. Heck, how many people were willing to betray the government and the innocent people in it, whether for money or ratings or... just revenge. It almost mirrored real life, but I won't get in to politics here.

Maggie was a good edition to the story. A girl who could have been perfectly content to just stay home and fund things from far away, or do nothing at all. Instead of staying safe and sound and hidden away in her ninja secured house, she put her life on the line several times for the team. And I loved her poetry. It was fantastic.

There isn't much more that I can say except that the end of this book shot the end of book one in the face and then stomped on it. And I absolutely loved that.

If you haven't read Feed, you need to before reading Deadline. If you HAVE read Feed, then you HAVE to read Deadline. It's just not acceptable if you don't. I recommend it for older readers as there is some mature language and situations... but you're missing out if you don't give the series a chance. I promise.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review - The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah's world stopped that day and she's been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn't feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets -- dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah's longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah -- can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?
Ah. I finally got to The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan. I wasn't sure I'd want to read the book. I took a look at the first chapter at the end of book two and saw that it followed Annah, Elias's "sister" and was worried I wouldn't get any closure for the first two books in the series.

Always... I'm ALWAYS wrong. I'm really glad I picked this one up despite my misgivings.

It was nice to follow Annah for this one. Although I hate it when people take out their hangups about themselves on other people (Catcher included!). She finds her sister and Catcher (but she doesn't know it's him) and Elias fairly early in the story. She, Catcher, and Elias have to go and save Gabrigail (see what I did there?) from the Recruiters at the Sanctuary only to find out they're more or less bait/prisoners. Catcher is who the Recruiters want.... everyone else is either bait or collateral damage.

Ya know... I got a glimpse of just how horrible folks could be in books one and two... but in a completely different way than book three. You don't really like to think that the people still fighting to survive in this world are going to be the ones that you have to look out for the most. I always hate that. Even when people are all you have to rely on, they're still your worst enemies.

I think out of the three narrators in the series, Annah may have been my favorite. She was kind of selfish, but not in the way Mary and Gabrigail were. Hers was a more righteous emotion if you follow me (don't worry if you don't, I'm not sure I do either). There was no stupid love triangle FINALLY. Sure she thought she loved Elias, but she wasn't flip flopping back and forth between he and Catcher or any other male in the story. She was insightful and very protective over everyone she loved.

This has been my favorite of the series. Not just for the narrator but finally, as I said before, for the closure. Everything came together in one way or another by the end of the story fairly nicely. Nothing was really left open and no questions were left unanswered. And even though it is the same time frame as Gabrigail's story, the world Annah lives in couldn't be more different. It's sad. She never had a chance.

If you read the first two books I suggest you read the third. If for nothing more than to find out how it all ends. I don't think you'll be disappointed. I know that I wasn't.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Review - The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She's content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry's mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother's past in order to save herself and the one she loves.
I had a little issue with The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan. The issue being that it disappeared on me for about a week and I couldn't figure out where it had gone so I couldn't read it. I actually went out and got another copy and then lo and behold, my original was found. So now I have 2 copies. Word.

This installment of the series finds us in the beach town of Vista following Gabry who we find out is Mary's daughter (Mary from The Forest of Hands and Teeth). It starts off with action as Gabry and her friends climb the barrier separating them from an area where Mudo (zombies) roam. Several of Gabry's friends are bitten (including the boy she likes) and Gabry runs back to the safety of the lighthouse she lives in with her mother, only to find out later on that the friends who WEREN'T infected by the Mudo are being sent to the Recruiters. Something that seems to be a fate worse than a death sentence to them.

Gabry goes out in search of Catcher, the boy she likes, but meets Elias who also seems to be searching for someone. He helps her out in more ways than one and she discovers something about her friend Catcher that no one else can ever know, or else they won't ever let him go. Gabry gets herself in a lot of trouble in this book and ends up having to flee Vista, but with several people in tow. She goes out in search of her mother, who left before her, and a world away from Vista where she can be safe with her friends instead of hunted by the Recruiters.

This book seemed younger than the first in the series. Gabry seemed younger, although according to Mary she was about the same age that Mary was in the first book. Maybe it's because she was kept in a more protected area and hadn't been forced to more or less mature beyond her years the way that her mother had.

The city they were living in didn't seem like a place I would want to be. I think I'd much rather prefer the village that Mary grew up in even though it wasn't as well protected as Vista. Both places had their drawbacks though I reckon.

Oh my gosh, the love triangle. How I hate them. Why oh why must EVERY novel with promise have a stupid love triangle? First Gabry is in love with Catcher. Then she forgets Catcher when Elias is around. Then she forgets Elias when Catcher is around. Then she.... well, you get the picture. I want to pull my hair out. I like the story but not EVERY BOOK IN THE HISTORY OF BOOKS now a days has to have some stupid Edward-Bella-Jacob-esque love issue. It really doesn't. It just... it doesn't.


Ok, where was I?

If you read the first story, I suggest reading this one. They can almost be read as stand alones if you're not interesting in reading book one, but I would suggest that if you HAVEN'T read The Forest of Hands and Teeth you do so, just because it helps a bit. I enjoyed the first one MUCH more than I liked this one, but I wouldn't totally count it out. I do plan on seeing what happens in book three because I hate mysteries and unfinished stories.


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