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Tag: "Romance"

Review: Naomi’s Gift by Amy Clipston

[ 0 ] December 23, 2013

Naomi's_GiftReviewed by Meg Massey

Naomi King is a young Amish woman that has been burned by love twice. When we meet her in Naomi’s Gift, she’s decided that she will most likely never marry, and immerses herself in helping her parents care for her eight siblings.

But one day while she’s working, she meets Caleb, a young widower with a 7-year-old daughter named Susie. But despite her instant feeling of connection with Caleb, the two seem to face innumerable obstacles, including the meddling of Caleb’s sister Sadie. Will the two find a way to make a romance work, or will they go their separate ways?

If you love author Amy Clipston’s Amish Bakery Series, you’ll love this stand-alone tale about lost and found love. Clipston’s novel provides a delightful look into Amish life in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. You’re sure to love Naomi, a kind young woman who’s experienced her share of heartache, and sympathize with Caleb, a man who’s lost his young wife all too soon. I think it’s also worth noting that Clipston’s provision of a glossary of Amish words is helpful to those who are new to Amish fiction.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between on her blog.

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

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Review: How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer

[ 0 ] December 22, 2013

16248148Reviewed by Sarah Horwath

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True is a story of Zoe and her friend Jess who both land their dreams jobs of working at Fairyland Kingdom. Set in the amusement park of Fairytown in New Jersey, Zoe and her cousin Jess are interning along with a bunch of other teens in the hopes of winning a 25,000 dollar grant from the amusement park. However, Jess and Zoe don’t end up with the positions they originally wanted, and soon everything’s a crazy mess of things.

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True also features great romantic relationships. Sarah Strohmeyer writes really compelling romances and this one is no exception. The relationship between Zoe and Ian didn’t take up the entire novel, but it played a major part in how the plot played out. While there’s romance there is also betrayal and this book had some of that as well. There is always another person willing to stoop low to come out on top and get what they want and Zoe has to learn how to deal with those certain circumstances. The setting of the book was probably its strongest feature; I have never been to Disney Land but if I had to imagine it I would picture Fairyland. I was gushing about all the romance in this book and at the very end there is a shocker that will make your jaw drop.

What I liked most about this book was the writing style and the characters. Zoe and Ian were very cute together and I just loved seeing the chemistry between them. Zoe’s character was very easygoing and easy to relate to; I would sometimes laugh out loud at the situations she got herself into. I would recommend this book to anyone who’s tired of all the paranormal books and wants a light, funny and fluffy read that will melt their heart. I really enjoyed this book–it was a great read that kept me interested and was beautiful written.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sarah is a college student studying English. One day, she hopes to become an author. For her, reading is much more than just a hobby.

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

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Review: Dear. Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

[ 1 ] December 18, 2013

17657649Reviewed by Meg Massey

Samantha Moore has coped with a difficult childhood by quoting her favorite authors, and distancing herself from anyone that could hurt her. So when an anonymous benefactor offers to fund her education at Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism, it all feels too good to be true. But Sam agrees to the arrangement, and the only stipulation – that she must write letters about her time in graduate school to the donor, addressing them to Mr. Knightley.

Sam soon finds herself struggling in school. A popular but brutally honest professor tells her that she is not connecting with her work, and that if can’t learn to, she might as well leave the program. An unlikely source, a fellow foster child, Kyle, may be able to give her the push she needs to face her past and embrace her future. And author Alex Powell begins to inspire feelings that Sam’s never felt before. Will she be able to accept love, or will a secret force Sam to push Alex away forever?

There are not many books that I have a hard time putting down, but Dear Mr. Knightley was one of them. Katherine Reay’s debut novel is stunning to say the least. This epistolary novel feels fresh. In Samantha, Reay creates a complex character that is battling a number of demons and fears that have never left her, but that she has struggled to suppress by retreating into a world of fiction, using the words of her favorite authors to avoid having to speak true words of her own.

Though I loved every part of this novel (and devoured it in less than two days) I believe my favorite moment was when her professor challenged her to connect to her work, essentially urging her to make connections with the people around her. Having avoided relationships all her life in hopes of not being hurt, this is certainly a challenge for Sam. I was particularly moved by Sam’s relationship with Kyle. Their conversations, as relayed in Sam’s letters to Mr. Knightley, are unforgettable, deeply personal and so meaningful to Sam’s development as a writer, and a person.

I was a bit surprised by the ending, which says something, as I’m usually able to predict these sort of novels. But despite my surprise, I enjoyed the way Reay wrapped up this tale, and I hope to see more books from her in the future. If you’re a Jane Austen fan, you’re sure to love this book!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between on her blog.

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

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Review: Isabel’s Skin by Peter Benson

[ 2 ] December 17, 2013

isabels-skin_thumb[1]Reviewed by Cal Cleary

David Morris is satisfied with his quiet life. A book valuer based out of London, Morris is incredibly passionate about his work, and when he’s given the opportunity to visit and value the famed personal library of a recently deceased nobleman, he leaps at the opportunity. But something is deeply wrong in Somerset. The housekeeper is jumpy and judgmental, strictly enforcing odd, inexplicable rules. The townsfolk are reluctant to approach, and won’t go anywhere near the house once night falls. And in a small cottage owned by a visiting academic, David sometimes hears the piercing, shrieking cries of a woman in pain.

The first half of Isabel’s Skin – basically, everything up to the cottage – is fantastic. Moody, evocative, and undeniably memorable, the book’s atmosphere is heavy, pulsing with inhuman life. Benson’s prose contributes a lot to that, creating and maintaining a lot of the tension that drives the early, less overtly exciting chapters. Because, indeed, not a lot happens in the book’s opening chapters, but Benson does a fantastic job of making it feel alive, feel real and as visceral as your fear of the dark. More than real; portentous.

Which is why it’s a shame that the book becomes such a typical potboiler in its back half, dropping its atmosphere of creeping dread and becoming a far less engaging thriller. Its characters remain compelling, but it is a disappointing conclusion to a book that starts as strong as Isabel’s Skin does. The world shrinks, much of the (already small) cast disappears, and any lingering darkness dissipates as Benson shines a light in every dark corner of the book.

Despite Benson’s vivid prose and the book’s strong narrative voice, the further it slipped from its weird, chilling origins, the less I found it holding my attention. In its best moments, Isabel’s Skin is a thoroughly realized recreation of gothic horror storytelling. But its chilly foreshadowing soon gives way to something more predictable, and it follows that path to the end.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Cal Cleary is a librarian, critic and writer in rural Ohio. You can find more of his work at read/RANT and Comics Crux.

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

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Review: Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund

[ 1 ] December 17, 2013

Rebellious-HeartReviewed by Amanda Farmer

I found Rebellious Heart to be a great quick read about two young people who fall in love despite hardship and different social circles. We are introduced to Susanna Smith, who is a well off member of Braintree, Massachusetts, and who has never quite conformed to the social norms despite her mother’s many attempts. Susanna believes all should be treated equally no matter their social standing, and this is demonstrated when she helps a runaway slave girl no matter the risks to herself. She also starts to see how England is trying to keep the colonists from growing by charging them more taxes.

When Susanna seeks help in some legal matters, she meets and gets to know Benjamin Ross. Benjamin is a lawyer but also a farmer, putting him squarely outside of Susanna’s social circles. The two form a friendship that soon develops into something more. The two have to face many trials in their quest to be together and have to overcome the prejudices of many in town who believe that Ross has no business courting someone like Susanna. This is the story of their journey.

I enjoyed reading Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund and look forward to her other books. I found Rebellious Heart to be a sweet romance that had conflict, friendship, family, murder and personal growth all tied into one story. The pre-Civil War setting added an interesting layer to plot; through her characters, Hedlund showed that it takes just one person to make a difference.

I highly recommend this story to all who love Christian historical fiction with a romantic twist. You will not be disappointed with this one. I also want to note that Hedlund wrote this novel as a tribute to John and Abigail Adams.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

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

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Review: Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

[ 2 ] December 16, 2013

51xiAX+yN5LReviewed by A.D. Cole

Starry Night is a sweet, holiday romance from bestselling author Debbie Macomber. Carrie Slayton is the society columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. But she doesn’t want to be. Like most romance heroines in the print media industry, Carrie dreams of being a real journalist. She receives what she considers to be a legitimate chance at this when her boss offers to give her any position she wants if she can obtain an interview with the bestselling survivalist author, Finn Dalton.

It turns out she doesn’t actually have much of a chance at this, considering nobody even knows where he lives or if Finn Dalton is his real name. Carrie takes on the challenge, however, and manages to find him. She ends up stranded in a remote, Alaskan cabin with him for two days. When the two of them fall in love, Finn asks Carrie to choose between him and her career by requesting that she not write the article. Carrie does the only thing she can do. She goes back to the society column and tells everyone at work that she wasn’t able to get the interview.

What proceeds thereafter is the further development of the long-distance relationship between Finn and Carrie with a mish-mash of trust and communication issues thrown in. And the requisite happy ending. Don’t get me wrong, I like happy endings. I’m not averse to cliché plot lines. After all, how many different ways can you do boy-meets-girl? But I was disappointed in the lack of character development.

It felt more like I was told what to believe about Carrie: she’s a determined journalist who’ll stop at nothing to get the job of her dreams. And yet I didn’t really see any evidence of this. I’m told to believe of Finn that he’s deeply distrusting of women due to his parent’s divorce. And yet, he falls for and pursues Carrie, even stepping way outside of his comfort zone, with seemingly little internal conflict. Ultimately, I just didn’t find the characters convincing or really even very interesting.

I’m far from losing my faith in Ms. Macomber as a storyteller, but she has definitely written better books. For an extremely light, sweet read, this may still be the book for you. Just don’t expect too much depth from the story or characters.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

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

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