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Tag: "Romance"

Review: Spun by Catherine McKenzie

[ 1 ] May 6, 2014

spunReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Spin was the first novel that I read written by Catherine McKenzie, and it still remains my favorite. For me, it was one of those too-few-and-far-between moments when I just didn’t want the story to end. In her novella, Spun, readers will be reconnected with character favorites Katie Sanford and Amber Sheppard.

Catherine McKenzie gives train wreck actress Amber Sheppard the spotlight in Spun. Through Amber’s first person narrative, readers are shown how Amber began a very promising acting career in a wholesome TV sitcom, and then spun out of control when she became romantically involved with Connor Parks, who introduced her to his world of partying and drugs.

Current-day Amber is doing her best to put the pieces of herself back together, but it’s a challenge when the paparazzi is constantly stretching the truth and making Amber out to be someone that she’s not. Not to mention that Connor is still trying to reel her back in, and Amber is not sure she is strong enough to say no. Even though she’s got a sort-of fiancé, Amber agrees to meet Connor on his private jet. But at the last minute, Amber changes her mind and exits the plane. Amber’s split-second decision puts her in a situation she could never have anticipated, and it will take all of the strength she can muster to save her public image and truly live out her second chance.

While I was reading Spun, I couldn’t help but think about actors and actresses who are often portrayed in a negative way in the media. What if the so-called “drunk” after-party picture wasn’t that at all? What if, instead, it was just a snap shot of a very tired, pre-makeup and styling star or starlet? Or what if the tell-all interview with the latest ex only has grains of the truth, and words have been twisted for a certain purpose?

Like nearly every other person, I get sucked into reading gossip rags about popular actors and musicians. Now after having read Spun, I think I might find myself wondering what the real story is behind the photograph or the text in the hurriedly written articles. Amber’s story felt as if it could have been real rather than fiction, and I felt a great deal of compassion for her. It’s truly sad that there is a small percent of the population that has to go through what Amber goes through.

Catherine McKenzie has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary authors, not only for her wonderful characters, but for the fresh and intriguing situations in which she places her characters. If you haven’t read any of her books yet, give her a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

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

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Blog Tour: A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

[ 1 ] May 5, 2014

A Beauty So RarePlease join Tamera Alexander, author of A Beauty So Rare, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Reviewed by Charity Lyman

I have long been a fan of Tamera Alexander so I was excited to have the opportunity to review her newest novel, A Beauty So Rare. This book is part of the Belmont Mansion series and I just have to say, after reading these, I would love to go visit the houses or mansions these are based on. If they are half as beautiful as Alexander paints them to be it would be a wonderful pleasure and something I would never forget. Anyways, back to the book!

This novel is set in 1868, a few short years after the Civil War has ended. The heroine, Eleanor, is a woman of strength and tall in stature. She also happens to be single in a time when men are few and far between. Eleanor has a lot on her plate right now: her family is losing their home and her father is struggling with his mind. Eleanor comes to the unfortunate realization that there’s nothing left to do but place her father in an asylum and move in with her aunt, owner of the famed Belmont Mansion. When she arrives, she meets Marcus Geoffrey, the man she mistakes for an under-gardener but who is actually an architect. Of course, there is even more intrigue with Marcus as we find out that he is really a member of an Austrian royal family and is in the United States on an undercover mission of sorts. Will the two of them follow their hearts and find true love? Or will they both follow the courses set before them and settle for the practical and common sense?

I thoroughly fell in love with Eleanor. She was strong, vivacious and not afraid to stand for what she believed in. When she started cooking for the widowed and the children it just made me love her more. Maybe because I wished I was more like her. Tamera Alexander wrote a character that was so fleshed out it made me both smile and shed some tears. Marcus was a good counter for Eleanor. Cautious and almost full of himself I didn’t care for him at first. Eleanor often referred to him as Adonis, so it was clear that he was handsome and knew it. He was used to the women fawning over him so Eleanor came as a surprise. But once I got to know his character better, I loved him too. His devotion to Caleb and the people at the asylum were great.

Alexander really makes you enter the world of high society where the ladies think of nothing more than the newest outfits and who will marry who. And yet, I also had the opportunity to read about the unfortunate and the homeless who went without food and shelter. There was one scene where a young girl cried over a bowl of spilled soup and the way Alexander penned this just made the tears come to my eyes. This was definitely a five star book. I wish I could give it more!!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

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

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Review: The Savages by Matt Whyman

[ 2 ] April 30, 2014

the-savagesReviewed by Amanda Farmer

The Savages was the first book I have read by Mr. Whyman and it will not be the last. I have to say I devoured this book. I absolutely loved it.

We are introduced to the Savages and on the outside they appear to be your typical close knit family who love their food. The Savages include Titus (father), Angelica (mother), Sasha (teenage daughter), Ivan (not quite teenage son), Katya (not quite two), and Oleg (grandfather). Everything seems to be going well for them until Ivan has a prank go bad and kills an actress in their home, causing the family to cover up the death. Now, a private investigator is following Titus because of his ruthless corporate takeovers but what he uncovers is far more dangerous than he ever thought to find. Angelica has to rent out their house to pay for her credit card debt; and Sasha has decided to go vegetarian all due to her boyfriend, Jack. The only one who doesn’t have any drama is little Katya who’s favorite word happens to be “ribs”. Needless to say, the family is in for a long and bumpy road ahead of them.Titus is at odds with Sasha for her not partaking in meat anymore, but Sasha holds to her bargain with Jack and doesn’t eat meat for a month. What happens at the end of the month? Well, you will just have to read the book to find out. Luckily for Sasha that Oleg is supportive of her, and tells her that no matter what she eats, she is family and family sticks together. One thing that no one in the town knows about the Savages is that they are in fact cannibals, but they only eat a carefully chosen person and consume everything, leaving nothing to waste.

Overall the book was well written and flowed nicely. It will leave the reader wanting a second helping and feeling a little disturbed at the same time. I am looking forward to reading more about the Savages. I found this book to be a little preachy when it came to Jack and all of his talk about vegetarianism and vegan-ism but it fit with the story and how it ended. I highly recommend The Savages–you won’t be disappointed. The Savages are just a close family that loves each other and their food literally.

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 Overlook. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

[ 1 ] April 22, 2014

BOOK2_500x800px_72dpi-p18m7ilic3it91huh2da1p11n9i (2)Reviewed by Nina Longfield

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger begins with a perfect day. The narrator and main character, Charlotte (Charley) Lambert, is in control of her life and most everything associated with her life. She is a driven communications executive at a pharmaceutical corporation about to release a world altering breakthrough medication. She volunteers at a local animal shelter. She is learning a new language to further her career. She eats only healthy foods and jogs daily. She celebrates her friends’ achievements into the wee hours then forgoes sleep to plan. Her life revolves around her ability to plan. Charlotte is the quintessential planner. She is, as she calls herself, “Charley Lambert, the Scottish Amazon” and is capable of accomplishing any challenge she attempts.

In her novel, A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger, Lucy Robinson has created a surprisingly sympathetic character in Charlotte Lambert. Charlotte likes control. The one area she seems to lack control is in her personal relationships with men. After an accident, Charlotte has to adjust her life to her new circumstances. In her vulnerability, Charlotte opens up and accepts the help of her family and friends. She takes on her friend’s suggestion and begins a new business as an internet dating aide for the hapless communicators; this is temporary until she is able to take on her former life again.

Charlotte is funny, smart and, as her friend Hailey likes to remind her, sometimes mental. Hailey and Charlotte’s twin sister Ness prove to be voices of reason as Charlotte falls deeper into love with a man she only knows from an online dating service. It was Hailey who suggested Charlotte start the business. Charlotte was responsible for introductions between Hailey and her boyfriend; Hailey sees Charlotte’s unique ability to read a person’s inner character and communicate for that person. Charlotte’s surprising business aid is her flatmate, Sam Bowes, who only works temporary jobs to keep his acting options open. It is this odd group, plus parents, an artist younger sister and Granny Helen, who assists Charlotte in an effort to help her mend both her bones and her broken heart over the recent engagement of her boss to another woman.

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger is fun, funny, sympathetic, and engaging. Lucy Robinson handles language well and has developed a group of supporting characters who are as well rounded and entertaining as Charlotte. Through the novel, the reader is involved in Charlotte’s life changes no matter how many turns those changes take. Despite a brief slowdown in pace through the second chapter after Charlotte’s accident and a little drag in email chats, the novel is fast paced and yields a satisfying read from beginning to end. There are a couple of surprises through the novel that propel the story forward and are not contrived or forced. I enjoyed Charlotte’s interaction with the other characters, but truly got pleasure from Charlotte’s internal communication with herself. I think it’s these internal insights and her friends’ unabashedly honest comments that make Charlotte a compelling character.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

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

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Review & Giveaway: A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

[ 18 ] April 11, 2014

Jacket A HUNDRED SUMMERSEnter to win a copy below! Open to US residents only.

Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova (Luxury Reading)

From the moment Lily Dane first spots quarterback Nick Greenwald at a Darmouth football game, she’s smitten, and he’s equally so. That same weekend, Nick begins making regular trips to visit Lily at Smith College. When the couple makes plans to meet each other’s parents over winter break in New York City, Lily hopes against hope that her parents – or at least her kind father – will understand how she feels about Nick and look past the fact that his father is Jewish. It is 1932; the world is slowly inching towards World War II and young women from good families only marry Jewish young men if they have few other options left – that was the case with Nicholas’ own mother.

Six years later Lily Dane is spending her summer in Seaview, Rhode Island, with her mother and young sister, Kiki, in tow when her former best friend, Budgie, blows into town. Budgie is recently married—to Nick Greenwald. Bereft of any other adequate company, Lily finds herself drawn in once again by Budgie’s charm. Kiki’s quick bond with Nick does not help matters and the girl is soon spending many afternoons building sand castles and visiting with her new friend.

There was too much left unspoken between Lily and Nick all those years ago and Lily cannot help but wonder about what brought her former best friend and the love of her life together. And as the 1938 hurricane bears down on Seaview and threatens the very lives of its inhabitants, the long held secrets that drove Lily and Nick apart are also creating a storm of their own.

I’ve heard so much about A Hundred Summers when it came out in hardcover last summer, and was thrilled to finally have the chance to read it. I must say, I absolutely loved this book. Beatriz Williams expertly navigated between past and present before bringing all the pieces together in an excellent climax to the story. It was the perfect mix of romance, history, and family drama. Lily’s and Nick’s relationship was so touching and relatable; I kept hoping they would come together despite the obstacles that life threw their way. Their romance alone would have kept me glued to the pages and the added historical aspect was the perfect icing on an already great “cake”.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter

[ 2 ] April 9, 2014

untitledPlease welcome Denise Hunter, author of Dancing with Fireflies, who is touring the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Charity Lyman

For anyone looking to read a contemporary Christian novel, Denise Hunter is one of the go-to authors. She pens a strong cast of characters that pull you in with each new page and yet leaves you wanting more at the end. Dancing with Fireflies is the second book in the Chapel Springs Romance series. It is a stand-alone novel but I would urge you to read the first one, Barefoot Summer, as the story can be confusing.

The book opens with Jade McKinley. If you have read the first book in the series Jade was introduced a little but this second book really fleshes out her character. Jade has returned from Chicago to the sweet little town of Chapel Springs, Indiana. But what brings her back has changed her life forever. While in Chicago, she is date-raped and then finds out she is pregnant. So the life she once knew will never be the same. And yet when she comes home, the first person she goes to see is Daniel. She only sees him as a big brother but in reality, he has loved her since high school and never got the courage to tell her. She tells no one of her time away from home and tries to cover her ever increasing stomach. Will Daniel get the courage this time to confront her with his love? Or will he be forever left on the sidelines looking on as Jade falls in love and marries?

As I said above, Denise Hunter is one of those authors that really writes characters who stand out. They are so realistic with normal feelings and reactions. Jade is a likable heroine who is stubborn and yet very vulnerable. She knows exactly what she wants, but not exactly what the Lord knows she needs. Daniel was my favorite though. He volunteers as a fireman, works as a mayor and still finds time to help out Jade. Totally loved this guy!! And when you read the part at the Lamaze program? You will fall in love with him too! There was nothing explicit in this book, even the part with the rape is dealt with tactfully. Another winner from Denise Hunter that gets 5 out of 5 stars from me!!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

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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