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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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Review – Searching for Grace – Juliann Rich

searching for graceSearching for Grace
Author: Juliann Rich
Series: #2 in the Crossfire Trilogy
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided By Author

Description:
Camp is over and Jonathan Cooper returns home—to life with his mother whose silence is worse than anything she could say, to his varsity soccer teammates at East Bay Christian Academy, to the growing rumors about what he did with a boy last summer at Bible camp.

All the important lines blur. Between truth and lies. Between friends and enemies. Between reality and illusion.

Just when Jonathan feels the most alone, help arrives from the unlikeliest of sources: Frances “Sketch” Mallory, the weird girl from his art class, and her equally eccentric friend, Mason. For a short while, thanks to Sketch and Mason, life is almost survivable. Then Ian McGuire comes to town on the night of the homecoming dance and tensions explode. Fists fly, blood flows, and Jonathan—powerless to stop it—does the only thing he believes might save them all: he prays for God’s grace.

Review:
When I finished Caught in the Crossfire a couple of months ago, I was intrigued to see how Ms Rich was going to continue Jonathan’s story and with Searching for Grace, she didn’t disappoint. Searching for Grace picks up almost immediately following the conclusion of Caught in the Crossfire, when Jonathan returns home from summer camp, away from Ian and struggling with thoughts and feelings in direct conflict with how he was raised in his chuch (as a note, I’m not acknowledging that it is right or wrong, but that is how it is presented).

I will admit that I was a little bit confused at the beginning with how the story was being told because it appeared to be in a flashback format but it wasn’t easy to identify. And it was weird/ hard for me in trying to figure out who Grace was, but about halfway through, it clicked for me and I liked how the author continued to address the conflict between religion and feelings/love.

The cast of secondary characters in Searching for Grace were much more well-developed to me than the ones in Caught in the Crossfire (not saying that they were bad but I just enjoyed the SfG ones more). I loved that the author worked Simon from CitC into this story because I felt like he was one of the stronger characters in the first one, along with Jonathan. But for me, the duo of Sketch and Mason were the top. They kind of reminded me of Janis and Damien from Mean Girls (if you haven’t seen it, they are the duo that take Cady under their collective wing before she becomes entangled with the mean girls). I loved how they lived their lives and didn’t really seem to care how they were the odd-balls (for lack of a better word).

There was much more conflict within this book than the previous one, but I don’t feel like it was overly done – it felt like it would feel, if this went down in a small town – the people talking behind backs, the rumors, the feeling that everyone is talking about you and that was just the beginning. That being said, I kind of felt the Ian storyline was bordering a bit too much on the angst storyline, I know why everything went how it did, but I don’t know – it just felt a bit too forced for me – but then as a character he just felt too different from how he appeared in the first book that it felt weird. I will be interested to see where the author goes in the last book in the trilogy as she ties up all the threads.

Overall I gave Searching for Grace 3.5 stars, although it was very nearly a 4 star read for me – there were just a few things that niggled me enough that I went down half a star. I’m looking forwarding to reading the third book when it comes out.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Husband Games – Jamie Farrell

the husband gamesThe Husband Games
Author: Jamie Farrell
Series: #1 of the Misfit Brides of Bliss series
Rating: ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩

Review Copy Provided By Author

Description:
After Natalie Castellano’s marriage imploded on the field of the Husband Games in Bliss, Illinois, the Most Married-est Town on Earth, the last job she expected to inherit was planning the fiftieth anniversary of her hometown’s unique Games. But with her mother’s unexpected passing, that’s exactly what Natalie’s doing. And the position demands that she play nice with CJ Blue, the man who ultimately caused Natalie’s marital demise.

Winning Bliss’s Husband Games and being crowned Husband of the Year was the brightest spot in CJ’s short marriage. Since his wife’s untimely death, he’s taken himself around the world, hiding from his grief. But now, family obligations have him trapped in Bliss, where he’s been invited to participate in the Games and humiliate himself in the name of closure. The whole town wants him to play. The whole town, except one. And he can’t decide what bothers him more—that Natalie doesn’t think he belongs in the Games, or that she’s right.

These two would make great enemies. But all games aside, the more they find themselves in close quarters, the harder it is to deny their mutual attraction. She’s battled Bliss’s bridal brigade, and he’s jumped out of airplanes and soared over waterfalls, but now they’re both facing the biggest risk of all: taking another chance on love.

Review
So as a reader I love finding new authors to read and I thank my friend Jen every day for introducing me to Jamie Farrell. From reading her first book just over a year ago, I’ve been an avid fan (probably almost bordering on fan girl) – so when I got a special delivery in my email of my ARC of Husband Games, yeah, there was definately some happy dancing going on (figuratively, if not literally). I’d been lucky enough to see the cover long before it was released and I fell in love with it (I mean, look at it, who wouldn’t) – so I knew the book was going to be awesome. And thank god, Jamie delivered.

I will admit, I wasn’t sure about the whole weddings being a predominant role of the story – I mean, a town described as the most wedding-est town in the US, but juxtapose that with a main character who is divorced and well, there may be something there. I loved Natalie – from the first introduction of her until the end, she is probably one of my favorite female characters recently – although I will admit that she did have a few dumb moments where I wanted to shake her. But at the same time, I could see how much that was self-protection from the shenanigans from town-persons.

And then there is CJ – oh CJ, CJ, CJ – former winner of the Husband Games, now a widower and newly returned to town. Words can’t describe my thoughts on CJ – he is the perfect guy – I mean, down to his ability to distinguish his SO by the perfume she wears (or can he?). But Natalie and CJ have a history, one that she vividly remembers, but he has no idea about.

But even though the story was a romance, my favorite (and at the same time) most hated character was the Queen General – the woman who basically controlled Bliss – I know I was supposed to hate her, and I did truely – but oh my god, how she was developed as a character, I couldn’t help but also like her as well (yeah, I’m weird I know). Especially how it all came together in the end.

I loved the idea of the husband games – I mean, a competition based solely around the idea of which husband is the best at various tasks – doing laundry (ha); cooking a romantic dinner (anyone have the fire dept on auto-dial), or just all around-awesomeness. The secondary cast of characters (including CJ’s family – which consists of too many siblings for me to recount); Natalie’s sister who is going to get her own book in the future (if my RUMINT is to be believed), made the story all the more enjoyable.

I will admit that I was surprised by how hard this review was for me to write, considering how much I enjoyed the book. I don’t know what it was, maybe, that there is so much I wanted to say, but I couldn’t without going too far into spoiler territory. Either way, I loved Husband Games, a solid 4 stars and can’t wait to see what Jamie comes up with in the future.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Book Review

 

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