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Review – Long Way Home – Neve Cottrell

long way homeLong Way Home
Author: Neve Cottrell
Series: #1 in the Mangrove Island series

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Tyler Barnes can’t believe his eyes when Alexis MacAdams walks back into his life. His high school crush left Mangrove Island seventeen years ago and never looked back. He’s held on to the memory of her, even though she never gave him a second glance. Now Alexis is back for the holidays and Tyler is determined to make a lasting impression before she slips away again. He soon learns, however, that her broken heart needs to heal before he has a chance to win it. Can Tyler convince her to risk her heart for a second time?

Review:
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a sucker for childhood crush/reunited romance/second chance romance type stories (i’m throwing them all in together, because in general, at least 2of those elements are normally represented somehow). so when Ms Cottrell sent me an email requesting a review for her debut novel, I was intrigued. The cover immediately caught my eye, you could tell that time and effort had been put into the design and it looked suitable for a book set on an island with lots of beach scenes.

Unfortunately, after I started reading, I hit a bit of a snag – I don’t know what it was exactly, but I really struggled with the writing style for probably the first 20% or so. In fact, I actually debated putting it down and not finishing the book. But then, I got stuck on a bus in traffic with only my phone to keep me entertained for a couple of hours and I picked up Long Way Home and started reading again. And this time, it worked. I don’t know what it was when I first tried to read it, compared to the second time, but it just worked for me.

Overall, I thought the author did a good job of developing her characters – there were a few places where I felt like some of the actions of the characters were a bit disconnected with how I imagined them, based on previous descriptions. There were also a few places where the dialogue between the characters seemed overly formal, compared to how people really talk (like the use of contractions). But I think that is something that will develop more fully overtime.

I am interested to see where she goes next with the series, as there were many secondary characters in Long Way Home that I would like to see more of. Overall, I gave Long Way Home a solid 3 stars.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Hollywood on Tap – Avery Flynn

hollywood on tapHollywood on Tap
Author: Avery Flynn
Series: #2 in the Sweet Salvation Brewery series

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
For years, Sean O’Dell has hidden his past as a Hollywood heartthrob from everyone at the Sweet Salvation Brewery. However, the arrival of nosey efficiency expert Natalie Sweet threatens the status quo. It doesn’t help that with her glasses, buttoned-up sweaters and always pulled-back hair that she’s uncovered one secret already: His attraction for hot librarian types.

Natalie has had enough of the strong-and-silent Sean submarining her efforts to change the brewery for the better. She’s ready to do whatever it takes to make her vision a reality, even if that means taking down the pig-headed and too-hot-for-his-own-good brewmaster.

Sizzling attraction battles stubborn determination as Natalie and Sean go head to head in a battle that’s anything but business as usual.

Review:
Why is it that books I really enjoy, I have a hard time writing reviews of? Case in point, I’ve been staring at the computer screen for this one for at least an hour – so i guess i’m just going to start writing and hopefully something that resembles a good review (because the book was good) will result. But anyways, I remember after I finished reading Enemies on Tap (the first book in the series), that I pretty much sent the author a twitter msg asking when Sean was going to get his book – and of course, I got the very coy response, don’t worry he’ll get his. So when I saw the description for Hollywood on Tap and saw it was his book, there were immediate jumps of joy. I mean, who doesn’t love a curmudgeon (and isn’t that an awesome word) who finds his happy ever after?

Hollywood on Tap picks up a few months after Enemies on Tap. While EoT (since i’m too lazy to write out the whole title) occurred during a time of upheaval in the brewing company, Hollywood on Tap, finds things mostly settled down and a normal rhythm being established. I say mostly settled down because there were some events that occurred in the previous book that had some influence in how Hollywood on Tap played out.

I will admit that I had a hard time connecting with Natalie as a character because I am likely the complete antithesis of her – i’m not organized, I attempted to color-code something (which lasted all of about 5 minutes) and my office (as my mother will attest) resembles Sean’s in organizational level. And of course, I loved Sean from when he was introduced as a character – that being said, I’m also not a huge fan of the secret identity trope – I get why people may do it (I mean, heck, I just participated in a blog hop about pseudonym’s in blogging) – but it just felt like something was missing.

Don’t get me wrong, Hollywood on Tap was filed with Avery flynn’s spunky characters and whitty reparte (oh why can’t I write like that) – and I loved seeing Logan/Miranda from book 1 again (albiet only briefly) – but I wanted a bit more. The mystery element was nice, even though I kind of had it figure out how it was (even with the twist). i think my favorite part of the story is seeing the town and how people interact with others – those who step up to support the Sweet’s and those that continue to hold grudges against them (cough, like the local law enforcement, cough). I do feel like the story could have had a little bit more at the end – everything turned out a bit too pretty and tied up in a bow (for lack of a better term) for me.

Overall, I gave Hollywood on Tap 3.5 stars (rounding it up to 4 on Goodreads/amazon) – a solid story, hot in places which made for an entertaining read. I’ll be interested to see where the next book in the series takes me.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Keeping Corner – Kashmira Sheth

keeping cornerKeeping Corner
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
“Pretty as a peacock, twelve-year-old Leela had been spoiled all her life. She doesn’t care for school and barely marks the growing unrest between the British colonists and her own countrymen. Why should she? Her future has been planned since her engagement at two and marriage at nine.
Leela’s whole life changes, though, when her husband dies. She’s now expected to behave like a proper widow: shaving her head and trading her jewel-toned saris for rough, earth-colored ones. Leela is considered unlucky now, and will have to stay confined to her house for a year—keep corner—in preparation for a life of mourning for a boy she barely knew.

When her schoolteacher hears of her fate, she offers Leela lessons at home. For the first time, despite her confinement, Leela opens her eyes to the changing world around her. India is suffering from a severe drought, and farmers are unable to pay taxes to the British. She learns about a new leader of the people, a man named Gandhi, who starts a political movement and practices satyagraha—non-violent protest against the colonists as well as the caste system. The quiet strength ofsatyagraha may liberate her country. Could she use the same path to liberate herself?

Review:
One of my favorite things to do at the library, if I have a bit of time, is to randomly pick a shelf and then browse the books on it for something that looks interesting. In this case, I was wandering through the YA section and looked at the Fiction, R-T authors (my library has YA divided up into general fiction, genre fiction and then series). Something about Keeping Corner caught my eye and I am so glad that I picked it up to read. It is probably one of the more intriguing books that I have read in the last year.

I’ll admit that my knowledge of India’s history is rather lacking – I know very little about it, because it never really intrigued me to study it. Of course, everyone knows who Ghandi was (or at least the vast majority of us do). Keeping Corner takes place as he was starting his long-journey of activism – he wasn’t too widely known in the more rural areas of India (where Leela and her family lived), but was in the cities (where Leela’s brother lived). But while Ghandi is mentioned frequently through-out, Keeping Corner is more the story of Leela.

A young girl and soon to be child-bride, Leela is living her life as expected – waiting for her marriage to occur, so she can move in with her new husband’s family. But that all changes drastically when her soon to be husband is bitten by a snake and dies. Now she is expected to mourn for a year, in a tradition known as “keeping corner” – isolated from the world she has grown up in, not allowed to express joy, limited in interactions. I don’t know if I would have had the strength to survive what Leela did for a year – it took mental acuity that I don’t know that I possess (or many people today may possess). She faced the loss with bravery, and while at times she acted like the young girl she was (only 12) – she also displayed at times, the maturity of someone far older.

The author wrote Leela’s story in a way that would be engaging to both Young-Adults and adults who were reading the book. It has made me want to explore and read more about India’s customs, when it comes to death, weddings, births etc. although I haven’t found any books yet that I can recommend. Overall, I gave Keeping Corner 4 stars and I can’t wait to find more books by the author.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Winning Love – Abby Niles

winning loveWinning Love
Author: Abby Niles
Series: #3 in the Love to the Extreme (but can be read stand-alone)
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

Review Copy Provided By Publisher

Description:
Mac “The Snake” Hannon has spent years throwing himself into cage fighting as a way to lash back at the natural disaster that destroyed his future. A call for help has Mac returning to the one place he swore never to return: Kansas—in the height of tornado season.

There he meets free-spirited Gayle Andrews. At first he wants nothing to do with the infuriatingly, persistent woman, but the crazy challenges she tosses his way are impossible to resist. As she thaws years of bitterness, bringing back the Mac he believed long gone, he starts to make peace with the past and see the future again. Until he learns she chases his worst nightmare, then he can’t get away fast enough.

Meteorologist and storm chaser, Gayle Andrews is no stranger to being left behind and now believes in living in the moment. She wants to do just that with the handsome extreme fighter with the achingly sad eyes. As she works to replace the sorrow with desire, she finds herself breaking her one rule: have fun, but don’t fall in love. When he suddenly pushes her away and she discovers the horrifying reason why, she issues one more challenge: face his fear and come on a chase with her.

Will squaring off with the past lead to a victory for heartache or love?

Review:
It has been a while since i’ve read anything by Abby Niles, but after I started Winning Love, I remembered why I enjoyed her stuff. One of the things that I enjoy the most about her books is that the conflict that exists between the hero and heroine seems real, and not manufactured like other conflicts appear to be. In this instance, it was conflict between the survivor of a natural disaster and a researcher of said natural disaster (specifically tornado’s). I also loved that Gayle wasn’t the weak TSTL heroine that so many authors seem to rely on for their storyline to advance – in fact, I think at times, she was almost a stronger character than Mac.

I also liked the Mac being a MMA fighter didn’t take over the story and that the way the story was developed, it allowed the reader to see his weaknesses as a human. But I will say, that his motivations for going that route weren’t really explored – why MMA from his previous life? And then he basically takes a leave of absence to help his friend out (not saying there is anything wrong with that, just that part of the story needed more development).

The ending had a slightly sappy quality to it, but when taken in relation to the whole story, I could deal with that. I thought that it was well-researched – you could tell the author had done a lot of reading/studying on storm chasers. I think the biggest weakness (to me) was that I wanted more of Lance’s story – it seemed like he started off as a strong character and then kind of fizzled out as the story progressed – maybe he’ll be featured in a later book – who knows…

Overall, I gave Winning Love a solid 3.5 stars (but rounded it up to 4 on Goodreads). I’m intrigued enough that I want to go back and read the previous 2 books in the series – since those characters appeared briefly in Winning Love (but it can function as a stand-alone as well).

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – A Forbidden Rumspringa – Keira Andrews

forbidden rumspringaA Forbidden Rumspringa
Author: Keira Andrews
Series: #1 in Gay Amish Romance series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
In a world where every detail of life—down to the width of a hat brim—is dictated by God and the all-powerful rules of the community, two men dare to imagine a different way. At 18, Isaac Byler knows little outside the strict Amish settlement of Zebulon, Minnesota, where there is no rumspringa for exploration beyond the boundaries of their insular world. Isaac knows he’ll have to officially join the church and find a wife before too long, but he yearns for something else—something he can’t name.

Dark tragedy has left carpenter David Lantz alone to support his mother and sisters, and he can’t put off joining the church any longer. But when he takes on Isaac as an apprentice, their attraction grows amid the sweat and sawdust. David shares his sinful secrets, and he and Isaac struggle to reconcile their shocking desires with their commitment to faith, family and community.

Now that they’ve found each other, are they willing to lose it all?

Review:

POSSIBLE SPOILERS

I’ll be the first to admit that ever seen I saw The Witness with Harrison Ford as a kid the Amish culture has intrigued me. Reading Amish inspirational romances as a teen was a standard and even now they still catch my eye (plus I get really interesting Amazon recommendations when you mix Anish romance and GLBT searches together). So when I saw Keira Andrews was writing an Amish M/M romance I was like – got to read!

This was my first time reading Ms Andrews (although I think I have at least one other book by her on Mt TBR). And I will admit that at first I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to get the depth of the culture in a story that was ultimately a romance but as soon as I started reading the book I was sucked in. I was sneaking reading chapters of this whenever I had a few moments to read – just a little bit more seemed to be my mantra while reading.

I had heard the term Rumspringa before- I mean, there is that horrible show on MTV (I think) about the Amish teens in New York while on Rumspringa (don’t hate me – I had a chunk of down time because of surgery earlier this year and maxed out on my normal shows). what I didn’t realized was that communities can control how/when and if even if their young people can have that experience prior to taking their vows. In this instance, I could see the logic behind why the community didn’t (very Footloose-ish) but ultimately, I didn’t feel that was a good enough reason/logic – there is only so much you can protect children, but where do you draw the line.

I felt connected to David and Issac – their story was just written in a way that you can’t help but feel for them. You could feel how they tried to battle their feelings for each other, because they believed it was wrong because of their religious teachings, but that ultimately, it came down to how they felt for each other. There was a lot of conflict between different characters – not totally over the top, but enough that I found it to be believable – between siblings, between friends, between the religious leaders and their followers. I didn’t realize that different sects (for lack of a better word) in the Amish community existed (stricter, more lenient etc – this was really highlighted in one scene with something simple like a buddy with a reflective sign on it so people in cars can see them on the road).

I will admit that I kept waiting for David and Issac to be betrayed by someone – I know that is probably very skeptical of me – but I just had this feeling – thankfully it didn’t in this book…but who knows in the later ones…I knew going in, based on the limited reviews/discussion that I had seen, that there was going to be a bit of a cliff-hanger, and normally I’m ok with that – but ugh – I can’t believe that I have to wait until JANUARY to find out what happens! (I’m doing the stamp my foot that isn’t fair action right now).

I will say wow – the level of research that went into this book was beyond what I expected – you could see how much time the author put into developing the story and community. i Overall, I gave A Forbidden Rumspringa 4 stars and recommend if you like stories where conflict between religious beliefs and love are key to the story.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Backstrokes – Dylan Madrid

backstrokesBackstrokes
Author: Dylan Madrid
Rating: ☆ ☆ 1/2

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
After almost being expelled from a prestigious Chicago music conservatory for a prank gone wrong, twenty-two-year-old pianist Crawford Paul returns home to Northern California for what he predicts will be another boring summer. Concerned his scholarship is now at risk, Crawford accepts the only job he can find: accompanying a glamorous seven-year-old named Isabella to a community swimming pool for lessons. There, Crawford is befriended by a nanny named Nina, an aspiring fashion designer who finds it difficult to hide her disdain for children.

When Crawford meets Armando Leon, a lifeguard and Isabella’s swimming instructor, he accepts Armando’s offer to help him overcome his fear of water by way of private swimming lessons. As friendship turns into a summer affair, their lust for one another turns to love. When Crawford receives a chance of a lifetime audition, he is torn between returning to Chicago or staying in California to start a new life with Armando. As the end of the summer inches closer, Crawford and Armando fear they will be separated forever.

Review:
You know when you see a dessert that you really want, but after you do, you realize that wasn’t really what you wanted? That is how Backstrokes felt for me. From reading the description, it is a book that should have fit right into my likes/dislikes -I mean, guy learning to swim, falling in love with his teacher and them finding love. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.

I think the biggest let down for me was that it wasn’t so much a romance as more a finding yourself type story. Maybe that would have influenced my perception going in, but I honestly thought that I was going to be getting more of a romance, which is where my disappointment ultimately lay. Don’t get me wrong, it was a strongly written story and I can’t fault the author for that, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

Aside from the non-romance romance that I was expecting, there were a few other issues I had with the book, personally, I never really felt like Crawford was sorry for what he did – I think/felt that he was more sorry that he got caught – since he did what he did to try and become popular, which most people know never really works the way we would hope that it works. My other issue was how the tragedy was handled in the book – I don’t know, I just felt like that part of the storyline was just not developed to the extent that it could have been. I didn’t feel any connection to the characters, it just felt like it was in there for an emotional storyline, but it just didn’t work for me – I never felt for the characters which to me, is something needed for me to be emotionally involved with a book.

I was really conflicted by the time I finished reading Backstrokes. Normally I can tell by the end of a book whether I want to try another book by the same author, but with Backstrokes, I just wasn’t sure – I didn’t mind the authors writing style, it was just the story that didn’t work for me. So we’ll have to see. Overall, I gave backstrokes 2.5 stars

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2014 in Book Review

 

Review – In Doubt – Drusilla Campbell

in doubt In Doubt
Author: Drusilla Campbell
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
EVERYONE WANTS THE BOY TO PAY FOR HIS CRIME.

ONLY ONE WOMAN WANTS TO SAVE HIM.

Defense Attorney Sophie Giraudo is about to open a new legal practice in her hometown of San Sebastian, California, when the beloved governer is shot and seriously wounded during a celebration in the town park. The only thing more shocking than the crime itself is the identity of the would-be assassin: a seemingly gentle teenager named Donny. Driven by her desire to understand what could make a person with no history of violence suddenly commit such a terrible act, Sophie reluctantly agrees to take him on as a client, knowing that, at least, it will bring her some income. But soon she realizes that she also has personal motivations for taking the case: a desire to prove to her overbearing mother that she is not the reckless and self-destructive tennager she used to be, to prove to her ex-husband, who happens to be the prosecuting attorney, that she can win her case, and to prove to herself that the traumatic events of her adolescence no longer define her.

As she digs deeper into Donny’s past, Sophie begins to suspect that he might not be the cold-blooded killer everyone thinks he is. Does Donny’s narcissistic mother really have her son’s best interest in mind? Is Donny’s mentor who runs Boys Into Men, a program for disadvantaged youths, the altruistic man he claims to be? Is Donny a deranged murderer, or a victim of his circumstances acting out of desperation? As Sophie races to uncover the truth, she is forced to come to terms with her past and to fight for what she knows is right…even if it means risking her reputation and possibly her life.

Review:
I’ve quite often come across Ms Campbell’s books in my library, but have never actually picked one up – in fact, I’ve even borrowed them at least once – but for some reason they kept getting shuffled to the bottom of the pile and then being returned unread. However, when I saw In Doubt in the automatic approval list at NetGalley, I was intrigued enough by the description that I took a chance and downloaded it. I will say that if I had seen the descriptor of Jodi Picoult meets John Grisham prior, I likely wouldn’t have downloaded it because neither of those authors are favorites of mine (in fact, I’m not a fan of the marketing method that compares one author to others, mostly because to me, they never seem to live up to the recommendation – or they far exceed it).

This book seemed to be particularly apt with the amount of public shootings that have gone on the last few years, in particular, the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona – but what if you looked at the shooter – quite often, we the public are so quick to judge the shooter, never really knowing what may have been gonig on in their background. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, anything excuses the shooting and death of people, but there may be external reasons that affected the individuals behavior (and not just mental health ones, like is automatically assumed). In Doubt attempts to do just that.

What happens when a defense lawyer decides to take on the case of a young man who shot and grievously wounded the governor. He never even denies doing it – but he also doesn’t know why. Without getting too much into a spoiler realm, Ms Campbell wove a story that was believable and made me feel sorry for Donny.

I will say that I felt some of the storyline towards the end started to bordering a bit on the over angsty side – it went a bit too far for me – but that was only enough for me to drop my original rating from 4 stars, down to 3.5.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Book Review

 

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