Monday, September 18, 2017

Second YA Blackbeard Adventure a Wild, Nail-Biter of a Boat Ride

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Blacksouls, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Blackhearts.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlAlthough it tells the imagined origin story of one of the most famous pirates of all time, Nicole Castroman's Blackhearts trilogy actually begins with very little swashbuckling.  For those of you who found the first installment a little lacking in yo-ho-ho, don't despair!  Blacksouls, the second book, will cheer your inner Jack Sparrow right up.  Packed with high-seas action, it will keep you riveted in a way that maybe Blackhearts didn't.  I found the first novel engrossing, but Blacksouls definitely edges out its predecessor in terms of tension, adventure, and excitement.  
When Blacksouls begins, both Edward "Teach" Drummond and Anne Barrett are making their way across the sea to Nassau, where they hope to reunite.  While a romance between the son of a wealthy British merchant and the bi-racial daughter of a black slave has little chance of thriving in rigid English society, perhaps it might flourish in the Bahamas.  But first, the couple has to find each other.  

Teach is happy to be first mate of the Deliverance until a disagreement with the captain causes him to question whether his superior really has the crew's best interest in mind.  There's only one way to keep himself and his mates safe from attacking Spanish ships—mutiny.  Teach doesn't want to risk his neck only to find himself hanging by it back in England, but there's no other solution.  Will he survive long enough to reach his love in Nassau?  

Although Anne has arrived in Nassau mostly unscathed, it quickly becomes apparent that safety is a relative term.  On an island already teeming with discord and danger, stirring up trouble is a very, very bad idea.  Especially when the man in charge might be the most treacherous of them all.  All Anne wants is a long, peaceful reunion with Teach, a dream which grows more unlikely every day ...
Chock-full of tense action, Blacksouls is engaging from the get-go.  The intensity never lets up, guaranteeing a wild, nail-biter of a boat ride.  The novel is a page turner that demands to be read in one sitting—you won't be able to put it down anyway.  It's not a super original pirate story, but who cares?  Blacksouls is fun, exciting, and peopled with lovable characters brimming with bravery, loyalty, and determination.  I, for one, have thoroughly enjoyed this series.  I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how Castroman wraps up the story in the final installment.

(Readalikes: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


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

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Blacksouls from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Middle Grade Ghost Story More Cute Than Creepy

(Image from Barnes & Noble

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlThere's only one thing 12-year-old Tiffany Hart wants—to be president of her 7th grade class.  She's well on her way to achieving that goal when the unthinkable happens.  After almost dying in an abandoned slaughterhouse, she develops the ability to see ghosts.  This unexpected "gift" is so not what she needs right now.  If her classmates find out what a complete freak she is, there's no way they will elect her president.  Cue a shattered heart and crushed dreams.  Tiffany is not going to let that happen to herself.  No way, no how.

With no one she can really talk to about her sudden supernatural ability, Tiffany is forced to rely on the person with whom she least wants to associate.  Justin Henderson has been claiming to see spirits since he was nine, meaning he's been a total outcast for three long years.  With her dream of being class president on the line, Tiffany can't afford to be seen with Justin, but who else can understand what she's going through?  No one.

Against all odds, the unlikely pair teams up to solve a puzzling, ghoulish mystery.  With plenty of lives—and afterlives—on the line, they must work together to banish the evil presence that haunts their small town.  Can they defeat a powerful, vengeful spirit?  Can they save themselves and their home?  More importantly, will Tiffany ever fulfill her dream of becoming class president?  

whitneyawards.comGhostsitter by Shelly Brown is a fun middle grade read perfect for Halloween consumption.  With plenty of action to keep kids turning pages, it's an exciting story that's more cute than creepy.  The characters are likable, the plot's exciting, and the overall vibe is hopeful and upbeat.  Poor copy editing definitely marred my enjoyment of the book, as did out-of-date cultural references (What 12-year-old knows who Betty White is?).  Kids might be put off by that as well as the juvenile book jacket.  Overall, though, this is an entertaining, easy read that will definitely appeal to ghost-loving middle graders.  Despite the irritants I mentioned, I'd still recommend Ghostsitter to interested readers.

(Readalikes:  Apparently I don't read a lot of middle grade ghost stories because nothing is coming to mind.  Suggestions?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for scary images

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished e-copy of Ghostsitter for contest judging purposes from the generous folks at Future House Publishing via those on the Whitney Awards Committee.  Thank you!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Imagine That!: The Story Behind The Cat in the Hat

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Everyone's heard of The Cat in the Hat, but have you ever wondered about the book's history?  The beloved tale turned 60 this year—what better time could there be to learn more about this enduring children's classic?  It's a great time to ask questions like:  How did Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) come up with the idea for the story?  Why does the book contain only 236 words, all of which are perfectly ordinary, not made-up ones like oobleck and yerka and wumbus?  And why did Dr. Seuss write about a cat when he liked dogs better?  

Wonder no more.

Imagine That!, a new picture book by Judy Sierra (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes), answers all those questions and more.  In spirited, engaging prose Sierra explains why and how Geisel wrote The Cat in the Hat.  She throws in lots of interesting tidbits about the author's writing process, all of which highlight how fun, creative, and clever he was.  With bright, Seuss-ish pictures to enhance the text, Imagine That! is a playful, easy-to-read, story-behind-the-story tale.  Adults and children alike will enjoy learning more about The Cat in the Hat through this delightful book.

P.S. If you want to learn even more about Dr. Seuss, be sure to visit Judy Sierra's blog, where she's been posting all the fascinating Theodore Geisel facts she couldn't fit into Imagine That! 

(Readalikes:  The Cat in the Hat and other books by Dr. Seuss)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Imagine That! from the generous folks at Random House Children's Books.  Thank you!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Highlands Romance a Swift, Swoony Read (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble

During the ten years he spent in foreign lands fighting for the Crown, Color Sergeant Conall Stewart dreamed of one thing: home.  Now that he's back in Scotland, he's devastated by what he sees.  While the Highlands are as beautiful as he remembers, his childhood house has been burned to the ground, his ancestral lands charred by the greed of his own countrymen.  With his family run off their land, maybe even killed, Conall has no idea what to do now. 

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlWhile he sends out inquiries, hoping to discover his family's fate, Conall rents a farm in a nearby town.  His home is one of the nicest in the village, naturally attractive to thieves.  When Conall discovers one such trespasser, he hauls the young boy home to his mother, sure the wee burglar will receive a sufficient scolding.  The soldier is shocked by Aileen Leslie's indignant response to his accusations.  Taken aback by the woman's negligent parenting and unwillingness to face the reality of Jaime's obvious criminal behavior, Conall washes his hands of the family altogether.

It's not long, though, before Conall finds himself coming to the aid of the widow and her son.  Before he knows it, he's developed a fondness for the boy.  His feelings for Jaime's mother have grown, well, far beyond fondness.  Before the relationship has a chance to go anywhere, though, Aileen's past comes calling.  With everything he cares about on the line, Conall must decide how far he's willing to go to save the people he loves.  

I've never been a big fan of romance novels, but I do enjoy a sweet Regency love story every so often.  Author Jennifer Moore is one of my go-to authors in this genre.  Having read most of her books, I know I can count on Moore to deliver an exciting, engaging tale featuring a brave, likable heroine; a courageous, dashing hero; a rich, exotic setting; and a positive, uplifting tone.  Moore's newest novel, Miss Leslie's Secret, is no exception.  It offers everything I love in a Regency romance—and more.  Although I've enjoyed all the books I've read by Moore, I think this one is my favorite.  I adored the setting, the characters, and the sweet romance between Conall and Aileen.  If you are in the mood for a swift, swoony read set in the always enchanting Scottish Highlands, I definitely recommend Miss Leslie's Secret.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and some disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Miss Leslie's Secret from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!

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Would you like more opinions on Miss Leslie's Secret?  Follow along on the book's blog tour:
*Sept. 8th: http://readingismysuperpower.org/ , http://minreadsandreviews.blogspot.com/, http://gettingyourreadonaimeebrown.blogspot.com/, http://whynotbecauseisaidso.blogspot.com/, http://literarytimeout.blogspot.com/, http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/

Would you like your own copy of Miss Leslie's Secret?  Enter to win a copy of the book plus a $25 Amazon gift card below.  Good luck!

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Friday, September 01, 2017

The Talented Ribkins Deeper, More Contemplative Than It Appears (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The Ribkins Family has always been a "blessed" lot, even if their particular talents aren't all that impressive.  During the Civil Rights Movement, members of the African-American clan tried to use their skills to save the world.  That endeavor didn't go so well, so Johnny Ribkins and Franklin, his much younger half-brother, turned their sights on more practical matters—making money.  With Johnny's ability to map anything and Franklin's Spiderman-like climbing skills, they formed a successful burglary venture.

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/baby-steps-to-understanding.htmlWith the glory days behind him, 72-year-old Johnny Ribkins runs an inherited antique shop, where he sells the spoils from his former exploits.  He's not making enough, however, to pay off the $20,000 debt he owes a formidable "businessman."  Johnny's got a week to pay off the debt or he'll be sleeping with the fishes.  With two henchmen following his every move, the thief sets out on a road trip to dig up the treasures he's buried all over northern Florida.  Along the way, he acquires an unexpected passenger—not Franklin, who's since died of a drug overdose, but his brother's 13-year-old daughter, Eloise.

Eloise never knew her father, so it's up to Johnny to show her the Ribkins' dubious legacy.  As the duo drive from hidey hole to hidey hole, visiting family along the way, Johnny encourages his niece to embrace her own talents and use them to do good.  Realizing the irony of his advice, the elder Ribkins must take a hard look at his own behavior.  How far has the great Johnny Ribkins fallen?  Very far, indeed. 

As his deadline quickly approaches, Johnny has to decide if he's got the guts to take one last, desperate shot at redemption.  With armed thugs hot on his tail, a young girl to protect, and his reputation as a Ribkins to uphold, it's time for Johnny to put his money where his mouth is in order to save himself, his family, and the last shred of his dignity.

The plot summary for The Talented Ribkins, a debut novel by Ladee Hubbard, makes the book sound like a zany comedy about a road trip gone hilariously wrong.  Not so.  The story's a much more thoughtful one than its premise implies.  There are some funny parts, sure, but overall, The Talented Ribkins is a serious, contemplative tale about retrieval and reparation.  It's about remembering who you are at your core.  It's about acceptance, loyalty, and love.  It's about making things right, even if it's too little, too late.  While I found the novel to have surprising depth, in the end, it was just an okay read for me.  I didn't adore it, but I did find it a compelling, satisfying read.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything, although the jacket copy says the book is inspired by an essay called "The Talented Tenth" by W.E.B. Du Bois.)

Grade:

 

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Talented Ribkins from the generous folks at Melville House via those at TLC Book Tours. Thank you!

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If you'd like more opinions on The Talented Ribkins, please visit the following stops on the book's blog tour:

Tuesday, August 8th: Lovely Bookshelf
www.tlcbooktours.comWednesday, August 9th: Wildmoo Books
Friday, August 11th: 5 Minutes for Books
Monday, August 14th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, August 16th: Lit and Life
Friday, August 18th: Book Lover Book Reviews
Monday, August 21st: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, August 23rd: Too Fond
Friday, August 25th: Broken Teepee
Monday, August 28th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, August 30th: Must Read Faster
Thursday, August 31st: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, September 1st: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Tuesday, September 5thAll Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Wednesday, September 6thBook Nerd
Thursday, September 7thRead in Colour
Monday, September 11thSuzy Approved
Wednesday, September 13thPatricia’s Wisdom
Friday, September 15thThoughts on This ‘n That

Would you like a chance to win your own copy of The Talented Ribkins?  If you live in the U.S. or Canada, use the Rafflecopter form below to toss your name into the giveaway hat.  Good luck!
    
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bet Your Life A Satisfying Second in Engrossing YA Mystery Trilogy

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Bet Your Life, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, How to Fall.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

After three months in Port Sentinel, 16-year-old Jess Tennant is starting to feel at home in the little Devon town by the sea.  She's missing Will Henderson, who's been sent off to boarding school in order to keep him from getting too close to Jess, but there's some solace to be found in Ryan's eager arms.  Before she can become too comfortable in her new living situation, though, another mystery unfolds to shake up her world.

When Sebastian Dawson is left for dead on the side of the road one night, Jess is as shocked as anyone else.  She doesn't care much for Seb, but that doesn't mean he deserves to be in a coma after being beaten almost to death.  The police don't seem too concerned about finding the assailant.  Jess, however, wants to know exactly what happened to Seb and why.  As she starts delving into her classmates' secrets, she finds plenty of compelling motives.  But who actually tried to kill Seb?  Jess is determined to find out.

Bet Your Life, the second installment in the Jess Tennant series by Irish crime writer Jane Casey, is just as absorbing as the first.  Maybe more so.  Fearless Jess is an easy heroine to like.  Not only is she brave, but she's also funny, self-deprecating, and loyal (most of the time).  The plot sprints along at a good clip, making the book difficult to put down.  Sure, you'll have to suspend your belief a little bit to swallow the fact that Jess always seems to solve cases trained coppers can't, but overall, this is a satisfying read in an engrossing trilogy.  I enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  How to Fall and Hide and Seek by Jane Casey)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

TTT: Under-the-Radar Post-Apocalyptic Fiction Gets Its (Tues)Day

Top Ten Tuesday is back after a short hiatus (Congratulations on the new baby, Jamie!) and today's topic is a fun one: Top Ten Hidden Gems in X Genre.  I'm always excited to find a great book that has somehow slid under the radar.  I easily thought of 10+ fitting post-apocalyptic novels which I'll be sharing with you in just a sec. 

First, though, you need to click on over to The Broke and the Bookish so you can join in the fun, too.  Just read over the TTT guidelines, make your own list, use the linky to add your post to the master list, and have fun visiting other TTT posts.  It's a great way to get to know others in the book blogging community while learning about awesome reads you're going to want to add to your TBR pile.  Be there or be square.  For reals.  TTT is always a good time—I promise!

Here we go with my list of Top Ten Hidden Gems in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction:


1.  The Tomorrow series (Tomorrow, When the War Began; The Dead of Night; A Killing Frost; Darkness, Be My Friend; Burning for Revenge; The Night is for Hunting; The Other Side of Dawn) by John Marsden—I'm in the middle of this YA series written in the 90s by an Australian author and I'm still enjoying it.  The story revolves around a group of teens who are camping in the bush when an unknown enemy takes over their town.  They return to discover that their families and friends have been rounded up at gunpoint.  Not knowing how widespread the invasion is or what they can do to stop it, the group has to figure out how to survive in a world that has literally changed overnight.


2.  The Wool trilogy (Wool; Shift; Dust) by Hugh Howey—This trilogy of very chunky books looks intimidating, but in fact, tells a very absorbing story set in a unique dystopian world.  Okay, I've only read Wool, the first installment, but I imagine its sequels are just as good.


 3.  Orleans by Sherri L. Smith—Set in a Gulf Coast that is half-drowned after repeatedly being hit by devastating hurricanes, this novel seems especially apropos right now.  It's a chilling, atmospheric tale about a teenager with highly-prized blood who's trying to keep herself and a newborn baby alive in a ruined, ruthless world.  I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for a sequel to Orleans, but so far I haven't seen one.  Pity.


4.  The Hallowed Ones and The Outside by Laura Bickle—When the world is overrun by a dangerous menace, Katie's isolated Amish village is the last to know about it.  To protect their people, the elders close off the community—no one is allowed out or in.  It's only when a handsome, injured Canadian comes begging for help that Katie dares defy her religious leaders.  Will her rash decision to shelter him prove fatal for everyone she loves?


 5.  The Horse trilogy (White Horse; Red Horse; Pale Horse) by Alex Adams—I've only read the first installment of this gritty, gory series about a woman trying to find the man she loves in a Europe ravaged and ruined by a vicious plague.  It's grim and graphic, but addictive.  Adams writes in raw, beautiful prose that makes the book impossible to put down.


 6.  The Ashes trilogy (Ashes; Shadows; Monsters) by Ilsa J. Bick—I'm not sure why I haven't finished this absorbing YA series yet because it's tense, twisty, and thrilling.


 7.  Wayward Pines trilogy (Pines; Wayward; The Last Town) by Blake Crouch—I loved this enthralling trilogy about a secret service agent who wakes up in a strange, secret-filled town after a car accident.  The less you know going into it, the better, but be aware of this: you won't be able to stop reading until you know every one of Wayward Pines' tantalizing secrets.


 8.  The Gone series (Gone; Hunger; Lies; Plague; Fear; Light; Monster) by Michael Grant—This series has a lot of different elements (sci fi, romance, dystopian, survival, supernatural, etc.) that combine to make for always-compelling reading.  I'm stoked that, four years after the series ended, Grant is publishing a new installment.


9.  The Forgetting and The Knowing by Sharon Cameron—Cameron introduces us to an interesting society where memories are wiped out every 12 years.  Unbeknownst to anyone else, Nadia is immune to whatever causes the phenomenon.  Thus, she becomes privy to the shocking secrets of her walled community.  A haunting, hopeful series (I believe it will be a trilogy), these books are not to be missed.


10.  The Ship Breaker Trilogy (Ship Breaker; The Drowned Cities; Tool of War) by Paolo Bacigalupi—I read—and loved—Ship Breaker back in 2010.  It's a watery dystopian about Nailer Lopez, a salvager looking for treasures to sell, who comes across a half-dead woman draped in enough gold to feed him for the rest of his life.  As Nailer sets about rescuing snooty Nadia, the pair find themselves in a frenzied race for survival.  Bacigalupi is a skilled writer, who offers up a story rich in character, setting, and plot.  I need to re-read Ship Breaker and continue with its sequels.

--

As a bonus, I discovered five other hidden post-apocalyptic gems that I just added to my TBR list on Goodreads:

1.  The Last One (2016) by Alexandra Oliva—Contestants on a reality show must survive in a real emergency.
2.  Zone One (2010) by Colson Whitehead—described as "literary zombie fiction"
3.  The Quiet Earth (1981) by Craig Harrison—A man wakes up and finds himself all alone in a world gone wrong.
4.  Icequake (1979) and Tsunami (1983) by Crawford Kilian—Devastating natural disasters create chaos and fear.
5.  Down to a Sunless Sea (1979) by David Graham—An airplane full of passengers escaping the apocalypse runs head-on into a nuclear holocaust.
6.  Emergence (1984) by David Palmer—A young girl with a unique genetic makeup sets off through a wasted world to find others like her.

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Phew!  So, there you have it ... some hidden post-apocalyptic gems for you to try.  What do you think of the list?  What am I missing?  What's on YOUR list today?  I'd love to know.  Leave me a comment and I'll gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Reincarnation Romance Sequel Better Than Its Predecessor

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Love's Shadow, it may inadvertently spoil plot surprises from Gladly Beyond, its predecessor. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.) 

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlThe D'Angelo Family has long been blessed (or cursed, depending on who you ask) with the ability to discern people's past lives.  When triplets Dante, Branwell, and Tennyson were born 31 years ago, their inherited "gift" fractured three ways.  Now, each of the brothers has a different supernatural talent that he uses to support the family art appraisal/authentication business.  Their special skills aren't always helpful, though.  Sometimes they're confusing, sometimes they're overwhelming, and sometimes, they're just plain dangerous ...
Branwell D'Angelo has clairaudience, the ability to hear the sounds that surrounded an object at its last manipulation.  While the skill has helped tremendously with the family business, it hasn't been useful in getting Branwell the one thing he really wants in life—Lucy Snow.  Falling in love with his brother's girlfriend was a mistake he made six years ago.  Branwell refused to betray Tennyson then and he won't do it now, even though Tennyson and Lucy are no longer together.  Keeping his heart safe is easier when Lucy is a continent away, but now that she's in Florence, Branwell knows he's in trouble. 

http://whitneyawards.com/The last person Lucy wants to bother while in Italy is her former boyfriend.  When her niece mysteriously disappears in a case that has the local police scratching their heads, however, Lucy knows she needs Tennyson's special skills if there's any chance of finding the missing child.  Going through Branwell to appeal to his reclusive sibling, she finds herself spending time with the brother who got away.  Is now finally their time?  Lucy won't betray Tennyson again, but boy, how she wants to ... 

With an age-old curse, a missing child, and the possibility of a second chance romance, things in Florence are heating up fast.

As you may remember, I wasn't wild about Gladly Beyond, the first book in the Brothers Maledetti trilogy by Nichole Van.  The only reason I picked up Love's Shadow, the second installment, is because it was nominated for a Whitney Award.  After the long, dull slog that was Gladly Beyond, I wasn't looking forward to reading its sequel.  At all.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself almost enjoying Love's Shadow!  Although it's only slightly shorter than its long-winded predecessor, Love's Shadow is a much tighter, more focused novel.  It's still wordy, but not as excessively so as Gladly Beyond.  While Dante (the hero of the first book) and Branwell are fairly interchangeable, Lucy is a much, much more likable heroine than Claire (the heroine of Gladly Beyond).  That made the whole story more enjoyable for me.  I didn't love the novel's anti-climactic ending or the Branwell/Lucy match-up (which gets cheesy), but all in all, Love's Shadow turned out to be an okay read for me.  Still, I won't be snatching up the last book in the series.  Although it will focus on Tennyson, the most interesting D'Angelo by far, I'm not going to bother.  While reviewers on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble give this series excellent ratings, I just don't see the appeal.

(Readalikes:  Gladly Beyond by Nichole Van; the reincarnation thing also reminds me of Transcendence by C.J. Omololu and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger)

Grade:



If this were a movie, it would be rated:


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

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-copy of Love's Shadow from the Whitney Awards Committee for contest judging purposes.  Thank you!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Time Traveler's Wife-ish Romance a Long, Dull Slog

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Claire Raythorn is a YouTube sensation.  And not in a good way.  Having witnessed her filmed reaction to the most humiliating moment in her life, the whole world seems to be laughing at Claire.  Humiliated by the video and grieving her beloved Grammy, the 28-year-old is determined to rebuild not just her life but also her reputation.  With that goal firmly in mind, she arrives in Italy ready to take on a challenging new work project.  

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlAs emotionally draining as the past little while has been for Claire, she hasn't suffered any kind of mental breakdown.  Not that she knows of, anyway.  So why is she seeing a Mr. Darcy-like man in the background of every photo she takes in Florence?  She knows he's not really there.  What is he, then?  A ghost?  A figment of her imagination?  An obvious sign that she should check herself into the nearest mental hospital?

The last person she expects to help explain the inexplicable is Dante D'Angelo, an Italian colleague and competitor.  He might be undeniably gorgeous, but he's also a hack.  Claire wants nothing to do with him, so why is she so drawn to the enigmatic Italian?  And why does he believe her Mr. Darcy visions are not just legitimate, but also important?  Who is Dante, really?  What does he know about the strange things that are happening to Claire?  Most importantly, how does he explain the fierce—almost unearthly—attraction they feel toward one another?  Unbeknownst to Claire, theirs is a love story two hundred years in the making ...

Gladly Beyond, the first book in a new trilogy by Nichole Van, is not the sort of book I would have picked up all on my own.  Soulmates-searching-for-each-other-repeatedly-throughout-time stories are a dime a dozen and not really my bag.  However, since I needed to read the book's sequel for the Whitney Awards, I decided to give Gladly Beyond a go first.  Spoiler alert: I shouldn't have bothered.  For one thing, I didn't care at all for Claire.  I can't quite put my finger on why, but I really didn't give a fig about her.  That made it difficult to care about the story, which is looonnnggggg.  Way too long.  Melodramatic and clunky, it makes for a dull, endless slog.  If I hadn't been planning to read its sequel, I wouldn't have made it past the first couple chapters of Gladly Beyond.  It just did not capture my fancy at all.  That being said, I liked Van's voice and overall writing style.  This particular story, though, was way too loquacious, way too generic, way too forgettable.  Although I liked its sequel much better, I never would have picked it up based on Gladly Beyond.  Sad but true.

(Readalikes:  Love's Shadow by Nichole Van; also reminds me of Transcendence by C.J. Omololu; The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; and the t.v. show DC Legends of Tomorrow)

Grade:



If this were a movie, it would be rated:




 for mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I bought an e-copy of Gladly Beyond from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Clean, Christian Family Secrets Novel Compelling ... Enough

(Image from Barnes & Noble) 

Despite the raging success of her debut novel, 29-year-old Tenley Roth finds herself paralyzed with fear.  Fear that she's a one-hit wonder who can't produce a second book.  Fear that her first has only gained notoriety because of her notable literary pedigree.  Fear that she's just not good enough to deserve anyone's attention.  She knows a lot of her insecurity comes from being abandoned by her mother as a young child.  So, when Blanche Albright begs Tenley to nurse her through a summer of chemotherapy treatments, Tenley can't say no.  The novelist hopes spending a few months in sunny Florida will help her break through a crippling bout of writer's block while allowing her to make peace with her sick, estranged mother.  

Between playing nursemaid and trying to write something—anything—to satisfy a looming deadline from her publisher, Tenley can't afford any distractions.  Especially one as appealing as handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan.  Then, there's Blanche's dusty writing desk, a piece full of old mysteries and tantalizing whispers from the past.

Just as Tenley suspects, the antique does hide a remarkable story.  One that begins with a beautiful young heiress trapped in a gilded cage, frantic for freedom and longing for love.  Desperate to change the world through the stories she pens in secret, Birdie Shehorn will do anything, risk everything, to achieve her dream of becoming a published writer.  

Witness to it all, the writing desk has kept Birdie's secrets for more than a century.  What will happen when they're finally set free?  For Tenley, it will change everything ...

I'm always up for a juicy family secrets novel told in a dual-timeline format.  Naturally, then, my interest was piqued by the premise of The Writing Desk, the newest offering from romance writer Rachel Hauck.  It sounded like a right-up-my-alley read, especially with its clean, Christian bent.  As I often find with past/present plot lines, the former captured me much more than the latter.  Birdie is a million times more sympathetic and likable than Tenley, who comes off as a spoiled, self-centered brat.  Birdie's story has more meat to it, which made it the more compelling tale for me.  While I never did warm to Tenley, I did end up enjoying The Writing Desk overall.  It's not overly original or spectacularly well-written, but it is engrossing.  It kept my attention for 400+ pages and that's no small feat.  I appreciate that it's clean, uplifting, and engaging enough.  Will I pick up another book by Hauck?  Probably not.  Still, I'm not sorry I read this one.  
(Readalikes: Although this novel reminded me of plenty others I've read, a specific title is not coming to mind.  Help?)

Grade:
If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for very mild sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Writing Desk from the generous folks at Zondervan (an imprint of HarperCollins) via those at TLC Book Tours. Thank you!

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For more opinions on The Writing Desk, follow the book's blog tour:
Monday, July 24th: A. Holland Reads
www.tlcbooktours.comWednesday, July 26th: Fiction Aficionado
Friday, July 28th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, August 1st: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, August 2nd: Just One More Chapter
Friday, August 4th: Cafinated Reads
Monday, August 7th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, August 9th: The Overweight Bookshelf
Friday, August 11th: By the Book
Monday, August 14th: Reviews from the Heart
Tuesday, August 15th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Wednesday, August 16th: A Night’s Dream of Books
Thursday, August 17th: Just Commonly
Monday, August 21st: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, August 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Wednesday, August 23rdCheryl’s Book Nook
Thursday, August 24thReading is My SuperPower
Friday, August 25thDiary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, August 28thSteph the Bookworm
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