Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Lost Heiress - Roseanna White

In "The Lost Heiress," book one in the Ladies of the Manor series by Roseanna M. White, Brook Eden finds her long lost biological family with the help of her close friend - and duke - Justin.  It is a classic romantic novel with suspense and mystery intertwined throughout.  The author did a fantastic job with research.  She gets bonus points for incorporating Cockney slang into the book.  I would wager that few readers will recognize the slang as being an excellent time stamp for the setting of the novel.  Most authors tend to shy away from such minutia, but used here it really highlights the excellent detailing done by the author.
As I do when I love a book, I immediately pre-ordered the next in this series "The Reluctant Duchess," which is due for release in spring of 2016.  This book stars Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham.  I became attached to his likable, flirtatious character in the first novel.  The characters performed a handoff in the final chapter indicating to the reader that Brice will be the main protagonist of the next novel.  I couldn't have chosen better!  I am very much looking forward to meeting the woman able to tame this ladies' man.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Noble Masquerade - Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter's "A Noble Masquerade" is the first in her Hawthorn House series.  The plot is similar to the movie You've Got Mail, but is instead set in the Golden Age.  I kept waiting for the main character to say "I wanted it to be you.  I wanted it to be you so badly."
Don't misunderstand me; this is not a copycat plot.  The plot was brilliantly well-crafted and enjoyable.  As a reader, I got plenty of time with the two main characters, which is a must in order for me to love a book.  Thank you, Kristi Ann!  Nicely done.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly (given that this is a romance novel) the magnetic pull between the two main characters is almost tangible.  Their attraction starts at the beginning of the book and doesn't stop.  The author pulled this off seamlessly and tastefully in a way that other authors could only dream of.
I promptly visited my Amazon Prime account as I always do when I read and fall in love with a new author.  Alas, it is not yet time to pre-order the next novel in this series.  I will stay tuned, though, as I hope you will be doing.
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not by Sight - Kate Breslin

"Not by Sight" was the first book I have ever read by Kate Breslin.  It was so amazingly good that before I had even finished it I had ordered "For Such a Time" through Amazon Prime.  I did this so that there would be no lag between finishing one book and starting the next.  I am grateful I did!
Kate Breslin does a fantastic job of developing her characters.  I grew very attached to the main characters in both books.  Generous details were given regarding the supporting characters as well.
"Not by Sight" was an excellent read - and I heartily recommend it - but it doesn't hold a candle to her debut novel, "For Such a Time."  There are some differences worth noting.  In the debut novel, the plot was far more complex and detailed.  Being set in the middle of the Holocaust, it was also considerably more somber.  The historical research evidenced in "For Such a Time" was memorable.  There were moments in the book that I grew deeply grieved by the situations depicted by the author.  In "Not by Sight" there was a lighter atmosphere.  There are still some serious parts, but overall the novel follows a more traditional romantic path.
I chalk these differences up to time constraints.  The author released her second book almost exactly one year after the release of her debut novel.  There is no doubt that the debut took longer to research and write.  Nevertheless, I highly recommend both books.  I recommend starting with "Not by Sight" and enjoy it as the Christian women's romance that it is, then open "For Such a Time" and enjoy it as well.  Afterwards, you will want to do as I did and make a mental note to pre-order Breslin's next novel.  She is easily one of the best authors that I have read in a long time.  I rank "For Such a Time" as being the best novel I have read in at least three years.  I promptly loaned it to my mom, who loaned it to my dad (true!).  These two books are definitely worth getting your hands on.
"Not by Sight" was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest - Melanie Dickerson

Pros: The language used throughout the book places the reader in the time period.  Well done.  I appreciated the age of the main characters.  I LOVE the medieval time period, and I send a shout out to the publisher that as a reader, I crave more medieval books.  The plot has fine detailing and is exquisite.  There is a message of redemption throughout the book that everyone can relate to.  Also, the author does a very good job of setting up supporting characters for future novels.  I identified four possible future main characters (Margrave Thornbeck, Mathis P, Rutger, and Kathryn).  If the author intends a trilogy, rather than a longer series, one of these main characters may be paired with Kathryn.  I look very much forward to reading her next novel "The Beautiful Pretender," which, as I hoped, stars Margrave Thornbeck front and center!  Finally, the cover art is a winner.  This book stood out to me among hundreds of other books on the same shelf in the bookstore.

Cons: Although I purchased this from the adult Christian fiction aisle of our local bookstore, it struck me as juvenile fiction from the very first page.  I checked the back of the book for the genre, but there was nothing on the back to indicate that it was for teens.  The content is squeaky (read: unrealistically) clean - even for Christian fiction.  Physical attraction is an important component of romance fiction, and I believe it can be done realistically without compromising Christian values.  My main concern with this novel is the question "Who is the intended audience?"  The G-rated content points to teen, but the intricate plot points to adult.  I left the book feeling confused as to whether I should recommend it to other adult women.  If the author worked in more of a physical relationship between the characters, the story would come to life more for adults (think PG or PG-13 rating) .  If the writing style matured just a hair, I would consider that a bonus.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fatal Trauma - Richard L. Mabry

This thrilling book by Richard Mabry is a good read for anyone who loves books with danger, excitement, and action.  I chose to review this book because I am in nursing school, and I was hoping to enjoy the medical aspect of the book.  It was absolutely fantastic!
Now that I have Fatal Trauma, I need to read Mabry's Prescription for Trouble series, Stress Test, Heart Failure, Rx: Murder, and Critical Condition.  All these books are available on Amazon.com.
This book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Thrilling New Read from Richard Mabry | ‘Fatal Trauma’ and the Perfect Prescription Giveaway

Can Mark find out who the shooter is before he becomes the next victim? You won't want to miss the suspense in Richard Mabry's new book, Fatal Trauma. Facing an adversary whose desires are dark and efforts are ruthless, Mark finds himself under suspicion as a killer, yet still a potential victim. When he turns to his high school sweetheart, attorney Gwen Woodruff, for help, Kelly helplessly looks on, as she hides her own feelings for the good doctor.

Richard is celebrating the release of Fatal Trauma by giving away The Perfect Prescription Prize Pack!

fatal trauma - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 20th. The winner will be announced June 22nd on Richard's blog.

fatal trauma-enterbanner

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Love Like Ours - Becky Wade

This is the first book by Becky Wade that I have ever read.  A few of you are probably surprised, given that this is the third book in the Porter Family Novels series.  I normally start every series on book one, no exceptions.  This time, I had no idea that I was reading a series until about three-quarters through the book when I happened to see on the inside cover the other books by Becky Wade.  Here are my pros and cons:
Pros: The author did a fabulous job.  She took her time crafting an attraction between the main characters, then cranked up the heat.  I absolutely love her style of writing.  I felt the desperation of both characters as they dealt with the issues separating them.  The plot wasn't complex, but it was enjoyable.  The attraction between the characters was almost tangible at times.  The writing is 5-star.
Cons: I couldn't get past the cover design for the longest time.  The main characters are 30 and 32.  The models on the book cover look 17.  When I first saw the cover I wondered if it was juvenile fiction.  The main model is beautiful, but overall I found the cover a bit hokey.  It isn't something I would have been drawn to in a bookstore.
In a nutshell, I would absolutely recommend this book.  I look forward to reading the others in this series!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dauntless - Dina Sleiman

Dauntless is the first novel in a new series, Valiant Hearts, by Dina Sleiman.  I feel thrilled and privileged to get my hands on this copy.  I couldn't read fast enough - I finished the thick book within 2 days.  Thank goodness I started on a Friday or it would have disrupted the productiveness of my week!  This was the best kind of disruption, though.
I started reading the book not realizing that it was a teen fiction.  If I had known that before I started, I may not have read it at all.  As it stands now, it was so good that I pre-ordered #2 before I even finished with #1.
The book is set in medieval times, which is very refreshing from the Victorian age that the market is saturated with.  The author did a tremendous amount of historical research, and she explained her plot choices at the end of the book.  I was fascinated with how much work she put into making this historically accurate.  The author even carefully chose which type of English she would use for readability, since it would be impossible for us to understand an English-speaking peasant if the text were a perfect match to the era it is set in.  I was beyond impressed.
To the author: If I really love a book, I will try to include a suggestion to the author.  For this one, I had to think hard.  I would say that the style in the beginning of the novel tipped me off to the fact that it was possibly a teen book.  That changed very quickly, and I soon forgot I was reading juvenile fiction.  I'm biased (so take this for what it's worth), but I preferred the more adult writing style evidenced later in the book as opposed to the first chapter or two.  You rocked the historical angle. The uniqueness of the medieval setting instantly sets your book apart from every other book on the shelf, which is a very coveted. Writing a book set in medieval times must be very difficult, since there isn't much available to look to for inspiration.  The caveat is that writing and editing could take quite a bit longer.  My prayer for you is that after this book, you will be able to write and edit quickly so that readers won't have to wait too terribly long.
FYI, this book was a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Kingsbury Collection - Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury never fails!  She has the golden touch when it comes to storytelling.  With this all-in-one collection, I didn't have to wait between books.  It was awesome!  As soon as I finished one, I could start right then on the next book in the series.  The story was on par with all of Kingsbury's work - excellent.  The characters are well-defined and the plot is multi-dimensional.   I highly recommend this series for the avid reader. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Secret of Pembrooke Park - Julie Klassen

To kick off the blog tour for The Secret of Pembrooke Park, Bethany House made a behind-the-scenes trivia video (available of YouTube), a book trailer (also available on YouTube!), and a link to a printable regency-era paper doll with clothes perfect for any little girl that needs an activity during the winter months!  If you

Price of Privilege series - Jessica Dotta

These could be the last books you ever read, because nothing else can measure up to them! About two-thirds of the way through the first book I bought the second book so that I would receive it in time for me to start on it immediately after I finished book one.  At the same time I pre-ordered book 3, and it is scheduled for delivery in about six weeks!  In addition to all that, I mailed my sister book 1 and am getting ready to mail to her book 2 as well.  That is how much I love this series!
So, here's the skinny on the first two books in the Price of Privilege series... this is an extraordinarily well-thought out, detailed plot in which the main character, Julia, gets caught up as the wife of a mobster while she pines for the love of her young sweetheart and simultaneously courts Lord Dalry.  She is thrust from a horrid, poor existence to the most elite royalty and the most dangerous crime syndicate in England.  The story is told from a first-person perspective, so the reader is living this as Julia the whole time.
I've only read the first two books so far, because at the time that I am writing this the third book has not yet been released.  Sometimes, as a blogger, I will speak to the author specifically -- usually only when I am exceptionally caught up in a book.  Now is such a time.
*******************SPOILER ALERT!!!!*******************
I love Julia.  I love the way she was drawn to Mr. Macy in the first book.  I appreciate her relationship with Edward, but I see it as a juvenile romance only.  She doesn't always make good decisions, but that's okay.  From what I can tell, everything about Julia checks out.  She thinks like an 18-year old would, and I love that she cannot resist Mr. Macy.  That is consistent with her age and his description.
I'm not a fan of Edward.  In the first book his actions communicate that he isn't as enamored with her as she is with him, and I dismissed him immediately.  He seems aimless, and I see his place in Julia's life as a childhood friend and someone who guides her spiritually.  Past that, I see him as a distraction to Julia.  I was disappointed with the ending of book two.
Mr. Macy I am crazy about.  As the head of the largest crime syndicate, he has a bad boy image.  His tender care and wooing of Julia grab me from the very beginning.  He has patience and love for her through her immaturity.  From book one we know she has a weakness for him, and I kept hoping she would fall back into his arms at any minute in book two.  The only time that I felt somewhat satisfied with her relationship with him in book two was after her incident with Erasamus.  At this point, I am finished with book two, and I am still holding out hope that in the end it will be Mr. Macy that Julia ends up with.  Julia and Mr. Macy have a unique relationship, and I do see the potential for marriage between them.  He has pledged honesty to her regarding his past and his present.  So far, I haven't seen any indication that he was lying to her.  He seems to consider her his greatest, most special treasure.  If Julia would give in and love Mr. Macy despite all his flaws, this series would be perfect.
Lord Dalry is the fourth person in this love-square.  Everything about Lord Dalry is good, right, and respectful.  I wouldn't be too disappointed if Julia ends up with Lord Dalry in the end.  It would be a much better choice than Edward.
I've already pre-ordered book 3.  I can't wait to see what is in store for Julia!
*******************UPDATE AFTER FINISHING BOOK 3*******************
I finished the Price of Privilege Series, and without giving too much away, I can say that this series is about so much more than a Victorian soap opera romance.  In fact, after I finished the series completely, I can see that it has much more value, depth, and meaning that I ever imagined it would when I started.  The final book in this saga is highly emotional.  I recommend sequestering yourself for a time in order to focus on it fully.  
I can give you a heads up that Lord Dalry plays a much bigger part in this drama moving into the third book than he did previously.  You will get to know him well, and love every second of it.  Julie continues to be Julia, Edward wizens up a bit, and Mr. Macy doesn't play as big a role. 
After finishing book three, I called my sister to chat about what she thought about the series.  She picked up many more details than I did.  This particular book series begs to be re-read so that I can go back and view it through a more holistic lens.  I would probably see hundreds of details that I missed the first time through.  
My question to the author is this: Did you write all four books before sending book one to print?  If not, how did you manage to incorporate the depth and detail in books one and two in such a way that it all came together cohesively in book three?  And finally... You.  Are.  A.  Genius!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Easy Slow-cooker Vegetable Beef Stew for a Crowd

I deem a recipe a hit when everyone - from the youngest to the oldest - loves it.  In this case, it was a home run!  My entire family loved it - even the kids!  What made it even better is that the prep time was pretty much limited to cooking up the ground beef.  All the other ingredients were purchased pre-prepped.  This serves 7 adults.

3.5 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 stalk celery, sliced
(4) 1 lb. bags frozen vegetable medley
1 bottle V8 Original
salt & pepper to taste
  1. Cook ground beef with onion, salt, and pepper.
  2. Throw everything in the Crock-Pot and set on high for 4 hours.
  3. Done.