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:
Click HERE to Order From Amazon

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.


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