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Review: Hippie Boy by Ingrid Ricks

[ 1 ] August 24, 2014

HippieBoy-683x1024Reviewed by Melanie Kline

Ingrid Ricks lives with her mother and “[yearns] to escape the poverty and the suffocating brand of Mormon religion that oppressed her at home.” This is a huge understatement of Ingrid’s life and I was emotionally distressed to find that Hippie Boy was a memoir.

Ingrid’s mother is so desperate to find a husband that she refuses to listen to or believe things that her children tell her. She is one of the many women who fall for the “but I’ve changed” line from con-men and abusers. Ingrid finds herself with a new step-father who is cruel and tyrannical and her mother does exactly as he tells her she should do. Ingrid’s only saving grace is the time she gets to spend with her father, whom she worships and believes to represent freedom and a better life.

Hippie Boy demonstrates just how awful life can treat you and how no matter how much you love and want someone to be perfect they usually fall very far from the mark. The story also shows you exactly how dysfunctional a family can be and that religion can sometimes not be a saving grace, but instead a borderline torture.

If you can read this book without shedding a tear for Ingrid, I salute you. Hippie Boy was so emotionally charged that I felt as if I were riding a lightning bolt and am sure that I was just as pained and disappointed as Ingrid when some of the situations befell her.

Hippie Boy would have been a much easier read had it been fiction as opposed to a memoir, although the story is everything one looks for in a book–love and happiness, despair and sadness, adventure and feelings of being trapped. I don’t believe there wasn’t an emotion that I didn’t feel and I only wish that I could know what happened after the book wrapped up.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Dreams of Lilacs by Lynn Kurland

[ 2 ] August 22, 2014

18667833Reviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Lynn Kurland’s Dreams of Lilacs brings readers to eleventh-century France and England for a love story set amongst mystery and suspense within castle walls and the French court. This novel is a moderate read good for more than just a summer romance but not so heavy that the plot or language dizzy a reader into confusion. With all the elements essential to a delicious romance novel, Dreams of Lilacs delves a bit further into literary techniques to satisfy even the most voracious readers.

Kurland, in all of her historical and paranormal novels, exemplifies her knowledge of content applicable to time periods, settings, and language. Dreams of Lilacs is no exception to this fact and will bring readers exactly where they hope to be when choosing a historical romance. Readers who enjoy Kurland’s de Piaget family will be happy to note that the author returns to the family’s ancestral home and brings back a host of characters from her previous novels. Dreams of Lilacs is the sixteenth novel within the de Piaget series but works well as either a stand-alone novel or within the order of the other books. The only aspect readers will miss if reading Dreams of Lilacs as a stand-alone novel is the enjoyment of knowing other characters’ stories. What a way for Kurland to ensure the success of the series!

Dreams of Lilacs is a story about Isabelle de Piaget and Gervase de Seger’s relationship: how their relationship came to be, the struggles the two characters overcame, and the adventures they undertook to protect their families. Kurland’s side story of a potentially murderous and nefarious unnamed character out to rid the de Piaget and de Seger families of their loved ones completes Dreams of Lilacs with suspenseful and humorous scenes.

The novel begins explaining Isabelle’s and Gervase’s present circumstances—he with a broken-down body after a manor fire, she with a threatening letter. Isabelle and Gervase are impulsive, obstinate characters who vow to protect those in their care, so naturally both of them take risks that put themselves in peril. Isabelle eventually finds herself alone in France under Gervase’s care; the Lord de Seger finds himself surrounded by numerous family members, guests, and servants who could be the unnamed character attempting to murder him. The rest of the novel, as in all historical romances, covers Isabelle and Gervase’s growing attraction—and eventually love—for each other, along with dialog and descriptions of smaller interactions and adventures that provide backstories for the characters. Swordplay is a particular favorite activity of Kurland’s characters—male and female—in Dreams of Lilacs.

A cast of characters who range from unpleasant to comical, protective to dangerous, silent to chatty, and needy to independent leaves readers with many names to remember but nothing short of entertainment in wondering who the manly nun in the corner could possibly be and if the youngest de Seger brother will ever have a loving mother (amongst many other storylines). Kurland excels in creating characters that readers care about; her characterization is strongest in her creation of strong-willed females and obstinate gentlemen who need to be humbled. Regardless of the character’s flaws, all of them are wholesome in heart and mind and fully human, to the point that no matter those flaws readers will love them for exactly who they are. In fact, through those flaws Kurland often writes her most humorous and compassionate scenes through witty dialog and descriptive actions.

Dreams of Lilacs is strongly recommended for readers who love romance set amongst a historical background. Note that this novel, and possibly many other of Kurland’s novels based upon other reviews, is “clean.” Kurland’s characters behave in a chaste manner and advocate for the same. Some readers may find this behavior unrealistic; however, in Dreams of Lilacs it makes the characters all the more endearing for their propriety and, quite frankly, a welcome change from novels that are filled with many bedroom scenes.

The language is flowery and long-winded; sometimes it can be challenging to remember the content of the beginning of a sentence because of its length. Often the same phrase is utilized multiple times with the same paragraph—these phrases become tiring to read and take away from otherwise well-written prose. However, neither of these issues are reason enough to find serious fault with novel. Overall, Kurland’s Dreams of Lilacs is a worthy read for any historical-romance fan.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Jove. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match by Sonya Rhodes

[ 1 ] August 21, 2014

Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

Are you alpha or beta? Figure it out here.

Everyone knows the definition of an Alpha male, but an Alpha woman has been misidentified as the B-word—or at least sorely misunderstood—for decades. This elusive Alpha woman is actually competent, confident, careful, career-oriented, calculating, cool and collected… up until she gets with a man. Then, she shrinks back to her base comfort level, which may put her at a disadvantage emotionally, sexually, and otherwise in a relationship with the opposite sex.

The new Alpha woman is able to shine even in her relationships. The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match guides Alphas and Alphas-to-be in how to love themselves, identify strengths, and date and marry well. Author Sonya Rhodes also gives them advice on how to survive a divorce (if it comes to that) and more. She gives real-life-story examples of Alpha women in crisis and on top of their game. Every reader will find something to relate to in this book. There are pull-out sections, tips, surveys, and frequently-asked-questions on the topic of Alpha females.

I enjoyed the section on managing a secret affair (don’t judge). With examples of Alpha men and women who have to project manage their relationships, there are real-life tips on how to negotiate a couple’s needs again with intensive therapy after one partner has had an affair. Alphas need lovin’ too, so if a Beta partner is not living up to expectations in the relationship or marriage, of course problems will crop up over time. But with a heavy dose of self-awareness, Alpha women can find new ways to share their needs with their partner so those needs can be met, if not today then soon. I found this to be interesting and enlightening reading.

The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match is a good read for girl-power without the usual up-in-your-grill feminist angst. Alpha women are not angry, but they are powerful–so the world needs to look the heck out. The book is recommended for any woman and for any young man wanting to know how to pick well for a lifetime partner.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Homecoming by Robyn Carr

[ 1 ] August 21, 2014

51+7R46eRLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Reviewed by Amanda Schaefer

A man with a broken past and reputation to salvage returns to his hometown changed and humbled to prove his worth and win back the woman he loves.

Seth Sileski had everything at age nineteen: handsome looks, athleticism, popularity, and intelligence. Destined for greatness, his hometown of Thunder Point had high expectations for this rising star. But a tragic accident changed everything for Seth, and suddenly those expectations altered just as his professional football career should have been beginning. Years later he returns to Thunder Point at peace with the direction his life has taken. On the surface Seth comes home as a policeman to patrol the streets and keep residents safe. He also plans to get back into the good graces of his childhood friend, Iris. Something happened during their senior year of high school and she withdrew from him; Seth wants to reclaim their friendship and see where else it can go. Having so much to prove to himself, his father, his town, and now Iris, Seth finds himself slowly coming back and being able to live up to the superstar legend from long ago.

Iris McKinley grew up in Thunder Point and is now a counselor at the high school, a job she loves. Iris’ mom, Rose, owned the local florist shop for years, and after she passed away Iris sold it to her now-best-friend, Grace. Iris just wants to focus on her job and her students, and be able to make a difference in the lives she touches. When Seth comes back into town, emotions flood Iris as the memories come back and remind her of the humiliation she felt over her experience with Seth in high school. Determined not to allow him back into her life, she continues on with her work and becomes aware of a situation involving a young girl at school. But in order to protect the girl, Iris has to work closely with Seth…and working closely with Seth can only lead to another broken heart.

After clearing the air with Seth, Iris gives him another chance and they become best friends and lovers in rapid time! Thankfully the book doesn’t end there. We get to see how Seth and Iris work together to help this young girl. The two learn their only true home is each other. The words every woman wants to hear are the words Seth said to Iris: “I want to be the person you love the most, get mad at most often, make up with because you can’t help it. I want to be the guy you laugh with, lean on, cry on, yell at, reach for.” ~happy sigh~

Even though I’ve not read the other books in the Thunder Point series, I felt like I was a welcome visitor to this town! Robyn Carr does an excellent job of allowing each book to stand on its own, but after reading The Homecoming you will definitely want to go back to the rest of the books in this series.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian fiction, women’s fiction, and any chick-lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harlequin MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Animal Wise by Virginia Morell

[ 2 ] August 20, 2014

Animal Wise coverReviewed by Melanie Kline

I opened Animal Wise searching for something. I wasn’t sure what exactly, but as the owner of two dogs, a cat, a bearded dragon, and many other various creatures in the past, I was convinced that this book was somehow going to help me understand and communicate with them. I, however, was immensely disappointed.

Animal Wise looks and different species of animals and discusses how these animals, whether pets or wild, communicate with each other and show emotion.

I, personally, was floored that this book basically contained not one iota of information that I did not already know from simply being surrounded by pets at home. It makes perfect sense to me, for example, that when my border collie is chewing a bone and my goldendoodle barks at him, he wants the bone and is about to take it from him. I also know that when my bearded dragon climbs to the top of his “branch” and claws at the top of the tank that he wants me to take him out for a while. These things are common sense, and I certainly didn’t need two-hundred sixty-seven pages of Animal Wise for explanation. Yes, I do not own an elephant or an ape, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when a momma elephant wraps her trunk around her baby it is either expressing love or protection. The same goes with apes—obviously the bigger stronger apes eat first and “control” the younger ones, and love is expressed by sharing food and “picking” each other.

If you are expecting to learn anything from Animal Wise, you will be sorely mistaken. This is one of the few-and-far-between books that I finished and thought to myself, I can’t believe I spent so much time—that I won’t ever get back—on reading something so useless. Sadly, I don’t recommend this book to anyone who has anything better to do.

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Broadway Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews

[ 1 ] August 20, 2014

20925858Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova (Luxury Reading)

While her mother was alive, Anna never gave much thought to her birth parents or her Korean heritage. But her sudden passing made Anna wonder about her other mother that lived thousands of miles away, and drove her across the world to the orphanage that facilitated her adoption.

Anna’s visit to the orphanage takes an unexpected turn and instead of her birth mother she is approached by a woman claiming to be her grandmother. The woman asks Anna to visit her the following day. Initially hesitant, Anna visits the elderly woman and in one afternoon, learns more about her birth family than she could have ever hoped for.

In 1943, Anna’s grandmother, Ja-hee and her older sister were summoned by the Japanese to work in a boot factory. Before they left, the girls’ mother gave them her antique comb with the two-headed dragon and told them that it would protect them as long as it remained in their possession. Unbeknownst to them, the boot factory was just a ruse and they were instead sent to a comfort station to “serve” Japanese soldiers. During World War II, an estimated 200,000 Korean women were forced to be sex slaves or “comfort women” for the occupying soldiers. Fourteen-year-old Ja-Hee was raped by dozens of soldiers every day and when she was finally able to escape at the end of the war, she had to leave her dying sister – a victim of a botched abortion – behind.

In the years that followed, Ja-Hee attempted to rebuild her life but could never quite escape her past. She fell in love with a kind man who was taken away by the Communists while Ja-hee, pregnant, barely escaped to the South. In a country eager to rebuild, Ja-hee found work – first at a brothel of sorts and later as a translator – but was thrown into poverty over a decade later when her past was exposed. In her darkest moments, Ja-Hee considered selling the comb that she held on to all those years and that, in her mind, failed to protect her in any way. However, when she finally learns of the comb’s true meaning and the surprising identity of her ancestors, Ja-Hee finds purpose in ensuring that the legacy of the two-headed dragon lives on.

Daughters of the Dragon is highly readable and engrossing and I flew through it in one sitting. I was instantly invested in Ja-hee’s character and found myself skipping over Anna’s commentary in order to get back to her grandmother’s story. I thought the storyline would have been just as good if not better without the “myth” of the comb but it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Daughters of the Dragon is a work of fiction but comfort stations were very much a reality for many young Korean girls during World War II. I am fairly well versed in World War II history but have never heard of the atrocious treatment of Korean women by Japanese soldiers before reading this book. I applaud William Andrews for bringing light to this difficult topic and treating it with the dignity that it deserves.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Andrews. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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