Thursday, May 25, 2017

Life Story of "Salty" General Authority Entertaining, Uplifting (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although he served as a General Authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 46 years, devotion to the Lord is not the trait for which J. Golden Kimball is best known.  In a church that preaches purity in all things—including speech—he was infamous for his "salty" language.  Wielding sharp observational skills, a quick wit, and a penchant for profanity, Kimball remains one of the most colorful men in LDS history.  Stories about the apostle are the stuff of  Mormon legend, but who was the man behind the myth? her new book, J. Golden Kimball: The Remarkable Man Behind the Colorful Stories, Kathryn Jenkins Gordon seeks to answer that very question.  She traces Kimball's life from his birth in 1853 (he was one of 65 children born to his polygamist father, Heber C. Kimball), to his early career as a mule driver and rancher, to his remarkable "career" as a leader in the LDS Church, to his death in 1938.  Gordon's account is peppered with lively anecdotes that show Kimball in all his dichotomous glory.  Although he was often criticized for using speech unbecoming of a man of God, his devotion to the Lord and to the Church is undeniable.  Sacrificing everything in the name of the Father, he was a man not unacquainted with poverty, disappointment, and grief.  Yet, he always bore a strong testimony of the Gospel's truth.  

Although I loved learning the details of J. Golden Kimball's life, my favorite part of this book is the anecdotes sprinkled in the margins.  Highlighted are funny, "salty" things he said both person-to-person and over the pulpit.  I read the majority of them out loud to my husband and we had some great laughs together.  Gordon's voice is light and engaging, which made the text even more entertaining.  I knew I would find this biography interesting; I just didn't realize how truly delightful the read would be.  Both humorous and poignant, this is an excellent, very readable account of the life of a truly one-of-a-kind individual.  I highly recommend it if you're looking for a quick, enjoyable read that still manages to be uplifting and inspirational.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild language (no F-bombs) and brief rude humor

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of J. Golden Kimball: The Remarkable Man Behind the Colorful Stories from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!


Want more opinions of this book?  Follow along on its blog tour:

*May 24th:
*May 26th

Would you like a chance to win your own copy of J. Golden Kimball: The Remarkable Man Behind the Colorful Stories and a $25 Amazon gift card?  Enter the giveaway below:

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TTT: Moody, Broody Beach Reads

I love Tuesdays in book blogger land.  Why?  Because that's when my favorite weekly meme happens!  If you haven't participated in Top Ten Tuesday before, you really should.  It's a fun way to grow your TBR list (because you can NEVER have too many books in the queue—ha ha), find fabulous new book blogs, and spread the comment love.  To join in, click on over to The Broke and the Bookish for some easy instructions, then have a great time hopping all over the book blogosphere!

Not surprisingly, today's prompt has to do with summer reading.  In fact, it's a Summer Reads Freebie.  I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of heat and summer.  I live in a suburb of Phoenix, so I basically spend 9 months out of the year hibernating inside my house with the air conditioning cranked down as low as it can go.  I do, however, love the beach.  Not so much its bright, sunny side; it's dark, dreary beach days that I love.  My list today reflects that preference.

Top Ten Moody, Broody Beach Reads:

1. Almost anything by Peter MayMany of May's novels are set by the sea.  My favorites are Entry Island and his Lewis Trilogy.

 2. The Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths—Ruth is a forensic archaeologist who lives near the sea in Norfolk.  She solves all kinds of mysteries, most (all?) of which boast moody, broody beach settings.  Start with The Crossing Places.

3. The Jess Tennant series by Jane Casey— This YA mystery/suspense series by Irish crime writer Casey is set on the English coast, where there's plenty of blustery atmosphere to be had.  Start with How to Fall.

4.  Almost anything by Kate Morton—Morton is one of my all-time favorite authors.  Many (most?) of her novels are set near water of some kind or another.  My favorites are The Lake House and The Secret Keeper although I've loved all her books.

5.  The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz—This novel, about a newlywed couple who impulsively decide to take a job tending a lighthouse on a remote California island, is the only one on my list that is set wholly in the U.S.

 6.  Broadchurch by Erin Kelly—Based on a popular English tv miniseries, this novel is all kinds of moody/broody.

7.  Shetland series by Ann Cleeves—This mystery series is set in the Shetland Islands, an unforgiving landscape that lends a dramatic air to each story.  Start with Raven Black.

8.  At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen—I loved this dreary novel about a trio of disgraced American socialites who go Lochness Monster hunting in the Scottish Highlands on a lark—and get a lot more than they bargained for.

 9.  The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne—This eerie suspense story will keep you turning pages all night long.

10.  Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton—This twisty thriller is set in the Falkland Islands, another harsh landscape that lends a dramatic backdrop to a gripping story.

So, that's my twist on this week's topic.  What's yours?  Do you have any favorite books that I should add to my list?  Leave me a comment and I'll gladly return the favor.

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!    

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Blackhearts An Engrossing, Entertaining Start to Promising YA Pirate Trilogy

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Blackbeard is a pirate legendary for his fearlessness and cunning.  But what is really known about the man behind the myth?  Not much.  Until now ...

www.whitneyawards.comIn Nicole Castroman's debut novel, Blackhearts, she imagines the famous captain as a young man, eager to take on the world.  After a year at sea, 19-year-old Edward "Teach" Drummond feels he has found his calling.  He has no use for the future that has been set before him—being grounded in Bristol, marrying a society woman he doesn't love, managing the business interests of his wealthy merchant father, and staying far away from something as uncouth as returning to the sea.  All he has to do now is convince his father—a cold, ambitious man—to allow his heir to walk away from it all.  Forever.
Anne Barrett is similarly adrift.  As the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy English merchant and his black slave, she has no real place in society.  When her father dies, leaving her without a protector or an inheritance, the 16-year-old is forced to find a way to support herself.  Although she's never worked a day in her life, she signs on as a domestic in the Drummond household.  It's only temporary, however.  As soon as she's saved enough money to sail to Curaçao, her mother's homeland, Anne will leave her grim life in England far behind.

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, sparks fly fast and furious between them.  It's a forbidden relationship, of course, one Mr. Drummond will never allow to proceed.  As the passion between them ignites, the conflicts of their daily lives intensify.  Everything stands in the couple's way.  Can they find a way to be together despite all the obstacles blocking their path?  Or will their love die before it ever has the chance to truly blossom? Blackhearts doesn't boast a lot of swashbuckling, it's an exciting beginning to what promises to be a satisfying trilogy.  The story does offer a tense, romantic story line which is also fun and well-executed.  Sure, it's predictable, but that really didn't bother me in the least.  I thoroughly enjoyed Castroman's debut; in fact, before I'd even finished it, I found myself at Amazon pre-ordering its sequel, Blacksouls (which I liked even better, by the by).  If you—or your teen—are looking for a clean read that is both engrossing and entertaining, definitely pick this one up.  I loved it.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman and a little bit of the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, scenes of peril, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

LDS Rom-Com Fun, But A Little Too Breezy (With a Giveaway!)

As a tall, athletic, bi-racial woman, Lane Bishop is used to standing out.  Which is just fine by her.  She'd rather play center field than sit on the sidelines anyway.  When she's invited to a pick-up soccer game to cheer on the Hamilton men—five gorgeous "untouchable" brothers—she quickly decides cheerleading is for the birds.  Not only does she insert some much needed girl power into the game, but she makes the winning goal, and scores a date with Jamie, the most eligible Hamilton.  Lane swore off the LDS singles scene when she moved back to North Carolina, but what can she say?  She's never been able to resist a challenge.  And the commitment-phobic Jamie is a tantalizing challenge indeed. long after winning her "prize," Lane begins to wonder if charming, spontaneous Jamie is the right man for her after all.  If only his older brother Simon weren't so grounded, so thoughtful, so observant ... so different than doesn't-think-twice Jamie.  Is it possible Lane's fallen for the wrong Hamilton?  As the situation grows more and more complicated, she knows she needs to tame her fickle heart.  And fast. 

If the plot summary for Wrong For You, a new LDS rom-com by Jenny Proctor, seems a little thin ... well, it is.  Besides the love triangle at the center of the novel, there's not a whole lot going on with this story.  It's meant to be a light-hearted romance, sure, but that doesn't mean the novel can't have some depth.  Wrong For You is fun and upbeat, with a strong female lead and yet, it just gets a little too silly for me.  I'm not a big fan of love triangles as the only source of conflict in a book in the first place.  I also didn't care much for Lane, who seemed like a big, fat hypocrite to me.  So, while Wrong For You is a light, fun While You Were Sleeping-ish novel, I didn't love it.  It made for easy, breezy reading during a week where my overtaxed brain couldn't have handled much more, but still ... Proctor's got a great storytelling voice; I'd just love a little more depth from her books.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of Love at First Note by Jenny Proctor and LDS rom-coms by Melanie Jacobson)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Wrong For You from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you! 


Want more opinions about Wrong For You?  Follow along on the book's blog tour:

Want a chance to win your own copy of Wrong For You plus a $25 Amazon gift card?  Enter the giveaway below:

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Unique and Lovely, Dolssa Is Another Julie Berry Gem

(Image from Barnes & Noble) her reputation as a prophetess becomes a threat to the Catholic Church, Dolssa de Stigata—an 18-year-old noblewoman—is sentenced to death by hanging.  Although she manages to escape her grisly fate, she's hardly free.  An inquisitor stalks her through the countryside, hunting for his prey with a determination dark and dangerous.  Devoted to her beloved Jhesus, Dolssa prays for deliverance. 
Like Dolssa, Botille Flasucra harbors a special gift.  With an almost supernatural talent for matchmaking, the 17-year-old's services are much requested in the small town of Bajas.  Botille uses her skills to supplement the money she and her sisters make from running the Three Pigeons tavern. fates of the two women intertwine when Botille discovers Dolssa lying half-dead by an isolated lagoon.  Although no one wants to borrow trouble, Botille and her sisters rescue the delirious mystic.  Hiding her in the tavern, they nurse Dolssa back to health.  When they learn who she truly is, the sisters vow to protect her.  As danger creeps ever closer to Bajas, the Flasucras begin to realize just how much they are risking, not just their own lives but those of everyone in the village.  Is it worth it to shelter Dolssa and her outrageous claims?  When the vengeful friar comes calling, what will happen to Botille and her sisters?  To peaceful Bajas?  Only one thing remains certain—no one will escape unscathed.

With only three books to her credit, Julie Berry is not a prolific writer (Edit: Turns out this statement is totally false. You can see all the books she's written listed on her website.  I apologize for the error.).  Which is a real bummer because I'm a huge fan.  I've loved all her novels, her newest being just as unique and lovely as all the rest.  While I can't see teens flocking to check out The Passion of Dolssa, I adored it.  The rich, sophisticated story is told in gorgeous prose.  Short vignettes narrated by various everymen and -women break up the narrative, adding interest, local color, and originality to the tale.  Dolssa and Botille are intriguing narrators in their own right, but it's all the different voices that really plump this book up, making it stand out from its fellows.  The recipient of numerous awards (including a Printz Honor designation and a recent Whitney Award for best YA novel by an LDS author), it's a gem that I can't stop recommending.

(Readalikes:  I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Passion of Dolssa from Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Southern YA Debut Novel Disappointing Despite Intriguing Set Up

(Image from Barnes & Noble Early has never fit in in tiny Forrestville, Tennessee.  And that was before his father went to prison.  The dynamic Dill Early, Sr., is the pastor of the snake-handling Church of Christ's Disciples with Signs of Belief.  Even with the leader incarcerated on charges of possessing child pornography, he has his devout followers.  His son is no longer one of them.  Humiliated by his father's sins, baffled by his mother's blind faith, and bullied by his classmates, Dill wants one thing—to escape Forrestville for good.  He dreams of going to college, a goal neither of his parents support.  In the meantime, he escapes by playing his guitar, writing songs, and leaning on his two best friends and fellow misfits, Lydia and Travis.

Lydia Blankenship is the kind of girl who intimidates all boys.  She's smart, confident, and successful.  Dill longs to tell her that he'd like to be more than friends, but he can't work up the courage.  What's the point, anyway?  The minute she graduates, Lydia will fly off to New York City, leaving him far behind.

As the three friends navigate their way through their senior year of high school, they will face unimaginable heartbreak and strife.  Can the trio survive intact?  Will their individual dreams and ambitions come to fruition?  Or will they remain stuck in the mud that's already dragging them down? Serpent King, a debut novel by musician Jeff Zentner, is—as you can tell—a bit short on plot.  Its focus is Dill, Lydia, and Travis, and their friendship.  Which is great, except when the story drags because little is actually happening.  I was drawn to The Serpent King because I found its title intriguing and the idea of a cult-like, snake-handling sect fascinating.  Unfortunately, the things I found most beguiling about the novel weren't explored much, leaving me a bit disappointed.  Add in a here, there, and everywhere plot and a loosely constructed story line and yeah, I just didn't end up loving this one.  The book does explore some important ideas about the power of true friendship, not allowing yourself to be defined by the sins of your parents, and finding oneself even in the worst possible situations.  Overall, though, I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as I wanted to.  I'm in the minority here, though, as The Serpent King has received a number of awards including the William C. Morris YA Debut Award and a Whitney Award for Best Debut Novel of 2016.  If you've read it, what did you think?

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little of A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Monday, May 08, 2017

Sense & Sensibility With a Modern, LDS Twist? Okay, I'll Bite ... (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been almost a year since Emily Carter's parents died in a small plane crash.  Still feeling adrift, the marketing guru is trying her best to care for her younger siblings, manage her sister's acting career, and keep their finances in the black.  It's not easy.  To make things worse, Emily's half-brother is reclaiming the home he inherited, kicking his "half-family" to the curb.  With few options left, Emily turns her eye toward her own inheritance—the dilapidated ranch in Park City, Utah, that her father always intended to turn into an eco-friendly resort.  She's reluctant to leave L.A., especially when she's finally met the (almost) perfect guy, but she's left with little choice in the matter.

Soon, Emily is struggling to save the ranch, sort out her feelings for Joel Rickman, and keep her manic-depressive sister from going completely off the rails.  Emily's always been a sensible person, but now she's being pulled in so many different directions she feels as if she's going insane.  Joel has been her saving grace, but he's Jewish and she's Mormon.  Can two such different people possibly have a future together?  Especially when Emily's present is already so chaotic?  

Like Brittany Larsen's first novel, Pride & Politics, her newest takes a classic Jane Austen tale and gives it a modern, LDS spin.  The result is Sense & Second Chances, a romantic story about two sisters finding love in unexpected places.  Like the original, Larsen's version is full of conspiring characters, thorny complications, and insurmountable-seeming obstacles that keep love from coming seamlessly together.  The plot gets silly at times, with contrived twists and melodramatic turns.  Emily drove me a little crazy, too, with her rigidity and fickleness (despite a bad case of insta-love).  Still, Sense & Second Chances is an easy, fun book that is clean, upbeat, and swoony.  I liked Pride & Politics much better, but overall, I enjoyed this one.

(Readalikes:  Pride & Politics by Brittany Larsen as well as contemporary LDS romances by Melanie Jacobson and Jenny Proctor)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Sense & Second Chances from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!


Want more opinions on Sense & Second Chances?  Check out all the stops on the book's blog tour:

* May 12th
Want a chance to win your own copy of Sense & Second Chances as well as a $25 Amazon gift card?  Fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Disturbing But Compelling, Second Novel in Crime Series As Thrilling As The First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Reckoning, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, The Burning.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

As a woman on London's elite murder squad, DC Maeve Kerrigan feels the need to prove herself to her male colleagues—again and again and again.  Even still, the 28-year-old would rather stay away from the high-profile case her department just picked up in Brixton.  Some call the city's newest serial killer a hero; after all, the murderer's victims are sexual offenders whom no one will mourn.  Most coppers would consider this kind of street justice, however savage, to be fair play.  Not Maeve.  Determined to stop a vicious killer, despite the crimes of his victims, she's committed to solve the case.

There are complications, of course.  One of them is Maeve's new partner, a misogynistic new DI named Josh Derwent.  Office politics make things even more difficult.  Not sure who she can trust even on her own team, Maeve must be extra-cautious with a case that gets more disturbing by the minute.  She can bring down a violent serial killer?  Or will he find her first?

While The Reckoning—the second book in Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan series—is more disturbing than its predecessor, it's just as compelling.  The plot races along, making for a tense, pulse-pounding thrill ride.  It's our heroine, however, that keeps me reading.  Maeve is an understated, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of character.  She's competent but fallible, tough but compassionate, brave but vulnerable.  I love her.  Even though Casey's mysteries aren't as twisty as some, I have found them very difficult to put down.  After racing through The Burning, I binge-read the whole Maeve Kerrigan series to date and I can tell you that it just keeps getting better.  The stories aren't for the faint of heart, but if you like British/Irish crime novels, you'll definitely want to give this series a go.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of the Dublin Murder Squad series [In the Woods; The Likneness; Faithful Place; Broken Harbour; The Secret Place; and The Trespasser] by Tana French as well as other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series [Left for Dead (novella); The Burning; The Last Girl; The Stranger You Know; The Kill; After the Fire; and Let the Dead Speak] by Jane Casey)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

TTT: Fall/Winter, I've Got You Covered

If you like books and you dig lists, then you're going to love Top Ten Tuesday, my favorite bookish meme.  If you've never participated, what are you waiting for?  All you have to do is click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read the instructions, make your own list, share it on your blog, and click around the book blogosphere to find new blogs, get great reading recommendations, and just have fun.

Each week, we're given a topic on which to base our list.  Our topic du jour is a freebie about book covers.  You can interpret it any way you like and be as creative as you please.  I couldn't think of anything clever, so I'm going to share the covers of the Top Ten Books I'm Excited to Read When They Come Out in Fall/Winter 2017 (I'm not a summer person; I'd willingly skip right over June - August if I could):

1.  Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson—I loved the first two books in this trilogy, so this final installment is a must-read for me.

2.  The Good People by Hannah Kent—This story, about three women who come together in 19th Century Ireland to save a special child from a superstitious community, sounds intriguing.  Available September 19.
3.  Friend Request by Laura Marshall—This tagline is pretty darn irresistible: "Maria Weston wants to be friends with you on Facebook.  But Maria died twenty-five years ago.  Didn't she?"  Available September 5.

 4.  There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins—A teen slasher tale sounds like perfect Halloween reading, doesn't it?  Available September 26. 

5.  The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittal—This novel about a beloved teacher who's accused of a heinous crime against a student and the effects of the impending investigation on his family and community looks compelling.  Available September 19.

6.  If You Knew My Sister by Michelle Adams—A debut psychological thriller, this one is about a woman who was placed for adoption as a young child, while her twin sister was kept by their biological parents.  When the adoptee returns to her family home, she and her sister are reunited, but it's not a happy reunion ... Sounds good, no?  Available October 3.

7.  All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater—I don't know a lot about this one, but it's by Maggie Stiefvater, so it's got to be good, right?  Available October 10.

8.  The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman—Did you love the book Practical Magic?  I did, so I'm excited for this prequel.  Available October 10.

9.  Renegades by Marissa Meyer—I'm not big on teens-with-superpowers books, but I'll read anything by Meyer.  Maybe she'll change my mind about the genre?  BTW: I'm cheating on this cover.  The above is only a temporary version.  Available November 7.

10.  This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis—I've enjoyed other books by this author, so I'm excited for this one—another evil twin story.  Available October 10. 

So, there you go, my take on this week's topic.  What was yours?  Leave me a comment and I'll happily return the favor.

Happy TTT!   

*I discovered most of these upcoming books from the ultimate list of 2017 books at Reading Like a Boss.
**Book images from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and authors' websites.
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