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Tag: "Romance"

Review: Time and Again by Jack Finney

[ 1 ] August 5, 2014

imagesReviewed by Colleen Turner

When I typically think of time travel stories I think of someone sitting in some sort of machine that they manipulate to transport themselves to some other time and place. But what if all we needed was our own mind to escape to the past? What if each and every one of us, the imaginative individuals who can believe beyond belief that they are in another time, actually put ourselves into a kind of hypnotic state and then open our eyes and actually find ourselves there? And what might we do with that sort of power and the ability to change events of the past to alter the events of the future? These are the unusual and thought provoking questions answered within Jack Finney’s Time and Again, a novel written almost forty five years ago but just as intriguing and fitting for our modern times. With Si Morley as our guide, every lover of escapism can go back in time to 1882 and navigate the many joys and problems that arise from placing ourselves in a time and life we might not belong in.

Si Morley, a sort of every-man, is working as an artist in a New York city agency like every other predictable day when he receives a visit from a stranger who offers him a very peculiar but compelling offer: to join a top-secret government project, a project he has to agree to join before even knowing what it is about or what he will need to do. Agreeing to further testing of his abilities, he discovers that he is uniquely qualified to participate in a program exploring the possibility of time travel, something believed to be possible if the unique individual is able to place themselves in an environment that has gone unchanged since the time in history they wish to travel to and by completely believing they are in fact living in that past time. Si agrees to the project if he can specifically go back to 1882 New York to witness the mailing of a letter that has long been a mystery for his girlfriend’s family. With the project board’s approval Si is trained, outfitted and uniquely placed to best allow him success in transporting himself back to New York City in January 1882. And off to the past he eventually goes.

Under strict orders to be only an observer and not interact with the inhabitants of this strange yet oddly familiar New York, never to make his mark on the people or events in case his interactions could cause disastrous changes to the future, Si finds it nearly impossible to not become entangled with the very real, very captivating people he encounters. But when his feelings for one woman, connected to the mystery of the letter he originally traveled to this time and place to uncover, grows beyond mere observer, he will have to choose for himself what he will need to do to ensure her safety and happiness. And whether he should stay in this marvelous world of the past or go back to his own time.

Time and Again truly is one of the most unique and thought provoking books I have read in quite a while. The detailed and extensive time spent on how the program proposes time travel would work and the intricate and detailed training and work that goes into bringing that plan to fruition makes it seem completely plausible–and this is coming from a very rational and skeptical person like me! On the downside this very detailed and descriptive nature – not only with the details of the program but with Si’s exploration of 1882 New York, street by street – makes the story plod along in parts, slowing it down at times to the extent that my eyes began to glaze over with details.

The mystery behind Si’s girlfriend’s envelope, its cryptic note and the people and events that occurred after the envelope was sent was very fun to follow and I can honestly say I didn’t see the truth behind them coming. While I thought I had an idea where the actions were taking me and tried to account for what sort of consequences might come about from Si’s involvement in the unraveling of the mystery I enjoyed the tiny twists and shocks as they presented themselves.

Finally, the drawings and pictures dispersed throughout the story were absolutely lovely! I found they helped flesh out the story and characters for me and made for a wholly unique reading experience. While I found the romance between both Si and his modern day girlfriend and Si and the woman he falls in love with in 1882 very lukewarm, the individual character development was very detailed and the pictures attributed to each person made them feel very real and allowed me to feel more invested in their situations.

Time and Again is a love story of sorts to the imagination and to every reader’s ability to “travel” to whatever time and place their books take them. While I adored going along with Si on his adventure to the past I believe the journey’s retelling would have benefitted from some trimming. That being said, I am still very excited to read the sequel to this book and to see what other adventures Si might go on.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

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

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Review: Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

[ 3 ] August 5, 2014

JaneAustensFirstLove 100 dpiReviewed by Sara Drake

Syrie James presents us with a story of Jane Austen as a teenager. Inspired by what is known about Austen’s life, James offers a tale of first love and delightful complications. Jane travels to Kent, to meet her brother’s fiancée and her family. Love is in the air as two couples celebrate their engagement and Jane gets swept up in the mood. The handsome Edward Taylor captures her attention and stirs her emotions. Jane’s possible happiness hits obstacles, including a rival for Mr. Taylor’s affections.

Jane’s keen observation of the people around her leads her to conclude that some of the couples are mismatched. She hatches a scheme to correct the love lives of those around her–regardless of whether the people involved want her interference. Her sister, Cassandra, stands by as the voice of reason and right.

I’ve read biographies of Jane Austen and the story line in Jane Austen’s First Love could have happened–though the existing sources leave us with little to go on, especially during this period of her life. I am intrigued by the idea that these events may have taken place and shaped the books I know and love.

James’ tale moves at a quick pace, drawing the reader into the England of long ago. Aspects of the plot echo bits of multiple Jane Austen novels, giving the reader the sense that they might know what happens next only to be surprised by the next plot twist. The readers can see Jane Austen, the writer, begin to emerge from the young girl.

The novel contains a large cast of secondary characters–few of which get developed. That was my one frustration with this novel. The secondary characters moved around the book without enough personality to distinguish them from each other. Only Jane and Edward Taylor had any depth. Even Cassandra remained two-dimensional despite her prominent role. I wanted more of an emotional connection with the young people Jane tried to be a matchmaker for so I could feel more interest in their story. Only, they remained vague characters rather than interesting people.

However, Jane as a character delighted. Her spirit and humor resonated through the book. Edward Taylor, while interesting, was not my “type” of man, so I found him less interesting than many fictional romantic interests. I did like the tales of his early life and I imagine the real world Mr. Taylor would have been fascinating to talk to over a cup of coffee (or tea).

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read on a stormy evening! I recommend it for historical romance fans and Jane Austen readers. There is plenty in the book to enjoy and a few chuckles along the way.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.

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

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Review: The Heir by Deborah Hill

[ 1 ] August 1, 2014

cover-the-heirReviewed by Amanda Farmer

The Heir is the third and final book in Deborah Hill’s Kingsland Series. The series has focused on Elijah and Molly Merrick’s legacy and their descendants throughout the years. The Heir is about Emily Merrick and her son, Steven, and their ongoing family feud with the Bradleys. This is the story of how Steven rises above his step-father’s cruel and controlling ways and gets even with him, and becomes a true Merrick. He inherits Kingsland from his grandmother and begins to make his own way without his step-father having any say in his life. He brings his family to live at Kingsland when he is once again passed by for another promotion. They easily adapt to the Cape Cod way of life and rent out rooms of Kingland to vacationers for extra money. Steven finds himself drawn to the sea and goes in with several men, and together they purchase a vessel to take out vacationers during the summer. Steven has liked being out on the sea since he was a child. He does what all Merricks do and has an affair and leaves his wife. Steven also comes to terms with Alice Bradley and her part in the Merrick family history. At least Steven wasn’t afraid of hard work unlike some of his earlier descendants, although he was still afraid of what society would think of him.

I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters in this story. I found them to be selfish and self absorbed. The Heir is just like the first two in the series; at least Ms. Hill was consistent with her writing and the story lines. There was a good deal more history in this book than the other two but I did not find that it added to the story or characters. The story seemed to drag on for me unfortunately. I had to keep forcing myself to keep reading to finish the story, and I hate to do that.

I have a hard time recommending this series to others to read.

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

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Review: The Revealed by Jessica Hickam

[ 3 ] July 29, 2014

The_Revealed-Jessica_HickamReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

I do enjoy it when a young adult book has a well executed kidnapping in the plot. That probably makes me sound sadistic, but what I mean is it’s hard to find one where the kidnapping itself doesn’t take over the whole plot of the book. The difference with The Revealed is that the victim knew her kidnapping was coming. This is in large part why I decided to read this book. How can you hide from something and someone that you know is coming, but don’t have any idea how to stop?

Unfortunately, the actual kidnapping scene in this book was anticlimactic, and so many other negative issues overshadowed the plot that I barely got through to the end.

The main character, Lily Atwood is the eighteen year old daughter of a presidential candidate. The elections are the first that are scheduled to happen since a huge war changed the world several years ago. (I’m not trying to be vague on purpose–this is literally all the information the book gives on why this is supposed to be set in a dystopian America.) While the country is on the verge of electing a new leader, the world is also worried because eighteen year olds have been disappearing without a trace, and those to blame are called The Revealed.

The common people don’t know much about The Revealed–just that they seem to have secret powers and are able to do whatever they want to do without anyone being able to stop them. Since Lily turned eighteen, she has been under house arrest, her parents’ attempt to keep her from being the next one kidnapped. But that doesn’t stop the threatening notes she receives, and Lily basically does everything she can to defy her parents’ wishes–including becoming involved with the son of the opposing presidential candidate, Kai Westerfield.

Right from the beginning, Lily Atwood rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because I’m older and a parent myself, but I found her to be very whiny and immature. After all, her parents, while not the warmest, are just doing what they can to keep her safe. But Lily time and time again escapes the house and puts herself in harm’s way, and The Revealed are not the only ones she has to worry about hurting her. With a highly emotional election about to happen, isn’t it not the smartest idea for the daughter of a candidate to be out in public, unprotected?

What actually irritated me the most about this book was the so-called romance between Lily and Kai. Lily mentions that she and Kai have known each other since childhood, but once they got to high school he ignored her existence. However, once he comes back into her life, only one short year after high school, she immediately falls for him. As in, she is literally saying, “I hate him. I’ve never hated anyone more in my life.” in one chapter, and in the next, “I can’t stop thinking about Kai.” It’s not exactly insta-love since they have known each other for so long, but the feeling of an underdeveloped, out of nowhere relationship is there anyway.

I really only kept reading because I wanted to find out what The Revealed were all about and why they were doing the kidnappings. I suppose what I found out was supposed to be a shocking twist, but it felt forced to me. I can’t share too much because I don’t want to spoil the book, but I will say that the X-Men comparisons I have seen in other reviews seem like a very, very far reach.

When the sort of love triangle got wedged in as well, I knew this book wasn’t going to get a good rating from me. It felt as if the author was trying to cram in as many YA stereotypes as she could into one plot without it falling apart. Well, it didn’t fall apart…but it didn’t make for very good reading, at least for this no longer young adult.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

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

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Review: A Reason to Love by Alexis Morgan

[ 3 ] July 25, 2014

18660365Reviewed by Amanda Schafer

Melanie Wolfe is back in Snowberry Creek dealing with the after-effects of her father passing away and the mess he left the business in when she sees someone from her high school days. Spencer Lang. But, Spence died overseas serving his country…or did he? The whole town had mourned for him. Yet, there he was…standing in the cemetery at his own grave. After getting over the shock of seeing him, she invites him to the wedding of their dear friends, Nick and Callie.

Spence can’t believe that Nick and Callie are getting married! It’s like he never existed or meant anything to either of them! Running away to deal with his own emotions, Melanie follows him and finds him at a bar. Knowing that he needs help to process everything he’s been through, she gives him the space he needs but also offers her renewed friendship to help him. Before long, Melanie and Spence are more than friends and yet have also determined to just “have fun” and not set any limitations on each other regarding their future. When they both realize there is more to their relationship than being friends, Spence gets spooked because he still has so much emotional baggage to deal with regarding his imprisonment overseas.

The second in the Snowberry Creek series, A Reason to Love is a good continuation of the story started by Alexis Morgan. The story picks up and continues almost where the first one left off so the reader feels like they miss nothing, yet you really don’t have to have read the first one to fully understand and appreciate the second. The only thing that really bothered me about the story was that Spence seemed to move on to Melanie awfully fast. The first few pages are him making quite the ruckus over Callie and Nick getting married and how she must have forgotten him and yet it doesn’t take long for him to hop in bed with Mel. Seems like there could have been a bit more time spent with him dealing with that or not having such a horrible reaction to the wedding in the first place.

A Reason to Love is a good, quick novel for someone who enjoys romance novels set in small towns with well-loved characters.

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 Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Reborn by C.C. Hunter

[ 0 ] July 25, 2014

RebornReviewed by Sarah Lelonek

To say I was excited to hear that my beloved Shadow Falls series wasn’t quite over would be a complete understatement. When I heard that Reborn (Shadow Falls: After Dark) by C.C. Hunter was being released, I literally shrieked like a teenager waiting for One Direction to come on stage and proceeded to check my e-mail every five minutes, waiting for my advanced copy to arrive. After reading the novel, I must say, I was not disappointed.

The story branches off from Kylie Galen and her chameleon ways and focuses on Della Tsang, Kylie’s spunky vampire best friend who has just as many problems as Kylie had, if not more. From the previous books, I knew that Della had a rough home life. Ever since she caught V1 (the virus which turns humans into vampires), Della has had to deal with her parents’ accusations of being a drug addict on top of keeping her vampirism a secret from her entire family. When Della finds out that there may be another vampire in her family besides her estranged cousin Chan, Della must decide if the truth is worth the risk. Along with family problems, Della must also deal with a new crime spree within her supernatural boarding school of Shadow Falls as well as a shape-shifter and a vampire boy who have taken quite a liking to Della’s rough edges.

I enjoyed hearing about Shadow Falls from another character’s point of view. I was impressed with how seamlessly I fell into Della’s story. I can honestly say I didn’t miss Kylie, which I was really concerned about in the beginning. My main criticism with the book was that it may have been a little too much like the other Shadow Falls books. While Della has a different personality than Kylie, I felt like the writing didn’t bring forth any new emotions. I didn’t feel the growth of the author like I have felt with other authors who have written spin-offs.

Regardless of the writing, I really enjoyed the story. I read the book in three nights while I ignored my ever-growing mountain of homework from my graduate studies. It was fun to sit back and relax into a book with a familiar setting. I thought that the story flowed at just the right pace; I was never bored. I would definitely recommend this book to any who has read any of the Shadow Falls novels, as well as to anyone who enjoys an easy read about a girl trying to fit in inside a crazy, supernatural world.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is planning on attending Graduate School for English Rhetoric and Composition. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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