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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (3)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii
- Idaho (2)
- Illinois (2)
- Indiana (1)
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
- Maryland
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan
- Minnesota
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (1)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York (4)
- North Carolina (4)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (3)
- Utah
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (2)
- Washington (2)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (1)
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (10)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (4)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

27 / 40 books. 68% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
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)


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.


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.) 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. 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)


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. 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)


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?)

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!


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
Thursday, August 17, 2017

Beyond the Books: Cleo Madison Shirt Review

Although I review mostly books, I actually receive a fair amount of requests from retailers offering up products to try.  I decline most of them,  but when it comes to clothes, well ... I have a hard time resisting!  So, when Liz—the owner of Cleo Madison, an online boutique specializing in modest clothing—offered to let me try an item from her store in exchange for a review, I jumped at the chance.

As you've probably discerned already, I chose the Betty Floral Baseball Tee pictured above (shown on a model, who's about 1000% more photogenic than I am).  I'm plus-sized, so I got an x-large, which fit just right—not too tight, not too loose.  The length, especially, is perfect.  I love the grey t-shirt fabric that makes up the sleeves and back of the shirt.  It's soft, stretchy, and super comfy.  I'm not as wild about the floral panel in front.  It's fairly sheer (I wear a cami underneath because I'm self-conscious like that) and the material is a little scratchy.  It has a tendency to bunch around the chest area, so I find myself tugging it down a lot.  Irritating, but not a huge, huge deal.  Overall, I like this shirt because of the soft t-shirt fabric (love it!), the fun print (a nice change from my usual plain Jane tops), and the length (perfect).  Despite a few annoying details, it's a piece I enjoy wearing.

Owner Liz Morgan created her shop in an effort to provide women with a convenient place to find clothes that are modest, conservative and trendy.  Cleo Madison definitely delivers.  While the Betty Floral Baseball Tee is unfortunately sold out, the store still has plenty of tops, dresses/skirts, shoes, and swimwear from which to choose.  The prices are reasonable, shipping is free in the U.S., products arrive quickly—what's not to love?  Be sure to check Cleo Madison out on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and its website.  For fun posts on fashion, food, travel, modesty, etc., don't miss Liz's blog.

To the FCC, with love:  I received a free product in exchange for an honest review.  Many thanks to Liz at Cleo Madison for her generosity!
Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Casey's YA Mysteries Just As Compelling As Her Adult Books

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Most people would be ecstatic about spending their summer holiday at the seashore.  Not 16-year-old Jess Tennant.  She doesn't have anything against the beach, it's just the odd circumstances under which she's being taken there.  Her mother—who has always been tight-lipped about her past—has suddenly decided to whisk Jess away from London to tiny Port Sentinel, the seaside town where she was reared.  They'll be staying for months with an aunt and cousins Jess has never met.  Talk about awkward.

Even more awkward is the reaction Jess receives while walking around town.  People gawp at her like they're seeing a ghost.  Which they are, kind of.  Turns out, Jess bears a remarkable resemblance to her cousin Freya, who recently died in a fall off a steep cliff.  The death has been ruled a suicide, but not everyone is convinced.  The more Jess learns about her late cousin, the more she suspects Freya didn't die by choice.  Jess wants answers, but her questions only provoke stern warnings and unsettling threats.  What really happened to Freya Leonard?  Jess is determined to find out.

I'm a big fan of Irish crime writer Jane Casey's adult novels, so I was eager to give her YA series a go.  I ended up liking it quite a bit, even more than her other books in some ways.  How to Fall, the first installment in the trilogy, introduces the intrepid Jess Tennant.  Our heroine is tenacious, brave, and independent.  With a funny, self-deprecating voice, she's easy to both like and admire.  There's plenty going on in How to Fall to keep readers engaged.  In fact, it's a fast, exciting page turner that can easily be read in one sitting.  The story takes some dark turns and the teen characters often act a lot older than they're supposed to be, but overall, I enjoyed How to Fall.  It took less than a chapter to convince me to put the next two books in the series on hold at my library.  I've already devoured them because, well, they're just that compelling.  Enough said.

(Readalikes:  the other two books in the trilogy, Bet Your Life and Hide and Seek)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, sexual innuendo, and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Thursday, August 03, 2017

Love at First Note Strikes Just the Right Chord

(Image from Deseret Book)

Violinist Emma Hill knows that moving back to Asheville, North Carolina, will mean taking a step backward in her flourishing music career.  Since the South is not exactly overrun with eligible Mormon bachelors, the 25-year-old's dating life will likely take a hit as well.  Family's worth it, though, and Emma's is struggling.  The effects of her mother's MS are taking a toll on her parents, while her younger sister—also a talented violinist—is threatening to quit music altogether.  Emma wants to be there to help, even if her folks insist they're fine. Emma's surprise, Asheville is not as RM deficient as she thought it would be.  In fact, a very good-looking specimen has just moved into the apartment next door.  Not only is Elliott Hart hot, but he's also humble and kind.  And a musician to boot.  With a large YouTube following, the 26-year-old pianist is a minor celebrity—minus the inflated ego.  In fact, he could not be more perfect.  With all she and Elliott have in common, Emma expects their hearts to fall into perfect harmony.  

Except, they don't.

Why is Elliott rebuffing Emma's every (admittedly clumsy) move?  How can she convince him she's serious Eternal Companion material and not just another star struck fan?  Will the two ever make beautiful music together?  Or has Emma struck too many wrong notes with the man she's coming to love most desperately?

www.whitneyawards.comI don't read a lot of them, but I do love me a fun, swoony rom com.  It has to be done right, though, and Love at First Note by Jenny Proctor definitely struck a chord.  Yes, it skims on plot.  Still, the novel is light, sweet, and humorous, just as it should be.  As a bonus, the characters have depth to them; the story is engaging; and the tone is upbeat.  It's a cute, clean romance.  Easy to read, easy to love.  Which I did.  This is the first book I've read by Proctor, but Love at First Note convinced me that it won't be the last.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of LDS romances by Melanie Jacobson and Brittany Larsen)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-copy of Love at First Note from the generous folks at Covenant via those on the Whitney Awards Committee for contest judging purposes.  Thank you!
Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Cancun Rom Com Just ... Ridiculous

(Image from Amazon) years ago, the man of Belle Lind's dreams married her college roommate.  So what if Marco Dawson barely knew Belle existed?  She knows the two of them are meant to be together.  When Belle learns that Marco is now divorced and vacationing with his family at a posh Cancun resort, it seems like fate.  The 25-year-old fashion designer isn't afraid to take this chance to finally make Marco hers.  And what more romantic setting could there possibly be than sultry Cancun?

Enter Flynn Dawson, Marco's identical twin.  Flynn's determined to help Marco glue his marriage back together.  And he's not about to let Belle stand in the estranged couple's way.  'Course, Belle has no idea Marco even has a twin brother ... Cue chaos, confusion, and canoodling on a Cancun beach that's getting hotter by the second.'m not a big romance reader as you well know, but I don't mind the occasional rom com—as long as it's more cute than silly.  Sadly, How I Met Your Brother by Janette Rallison is just plain ole ridiculous.  I hate to rag on Rallison, as she is a wonderful, generous person who has written some novels that I've really loved (check out her very fun My Fair Godmother series), but this novel is definitely not up to par.  It is a clean, lighthearted, easy read that will not tax your brain (like, at all), so there's that.  On the other hand, we have a childish, manipulative, fickle heroine; shallow, one-dimensional minor characters; a plot that gets more absurd as it goes; and dull, tell-y prose.  So, yeah.  If it hadn't been required reading for the Whitney category I was judging, I wouldn't have made it past the novel's first page.  At least it was a quick read.

(Readalikes: The book has been promoted as Sabrina meets While You Were Sleeping, which I guess I can kinda sorta see ...)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-copy of How I Met Your Brother from the Whitney Awards Committee for judging purposes.  Thank you! 
Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Sweet, Small-Town Romance an Entertaining, Inspiring Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Noah Mitchell never believed in love at first sight—until he met Josephine Dupree.  Despite the rumors swirling about the beautiful new girl in town, Noah is immediately smitten.  Josie is kind, beautiful, tenacious, and fun.  So she doesn't talk much about her past.  So he's only known her for a few months.  So what?  When it's right, it's right.  Noah can't wait to make her his bride. forward two years.  After a stinging betrayal, Noah and Josephine are divorced and pursuing separate lives in little Copper Creek, Georgia.  Noah lives on a remote ranch, preferring solitude to ever seeing his ex-wife again.  Josie sees plenty of men at the barbershop she owns, but she vows she'll never make the mistake of giving away her heart again.

When the two discover their divorce was never finalized, they're both shocked and angry.  Thrown together in an effort to end their marriage once and for all, Noah and Josie find themselves trapped at Noah's ranch in the middle of a freak Spring snowstorm.  As circumstances get more and more dire, the couple must learn to trust and rely on each other once again.  With the secrets of Josie's past finally coming to light, there's a new honesty between them.  Will it be enough to bring the embittered pair back together?  Or will it tear them further apart?

Sweetbriar Cottage, a Christian romance by Denise Hunter, is a light, compelling novel about family, forgiveness, and faith.  Although the leading characters are not all that unique or memorable, it's easy to care about them.  While I didn't find Josie super convincing, I did like that the rekindling of her romance with Noah felt realistic.  There was definitely a slow-burning chemistry between them that kept things interesting.  I generally find Christian fiction too preachy for me, but Sweetbriar Cottage had just the right amount of religion sprinkled throughout the story.  It's nice to read about a normal, everyday Christian character who's faithful without being a raving fanatic.  Overall, then, I enjoyed this fast, romantic read turned survival story.  It's entertaining and inspiring without being over-the-top.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for disturbing subject matter (not overly graphic, but enough to merit a caution)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Sweetbriar Cottage from the generous folks at Thomas Nelson via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!
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