Five Stars, Four Stars, Heidi Kimball, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Melanie Cellier, Moderate Romance, Moderate Violence, Sian Ann Bessey

Genuine Reality

image1 (1)

Weekly Reading Round-up

A Man Worth Shaving For by Michelle Pennington 52215585._SY475_

Fun and flirty in a refreshing kind of way, but also honest. Tessa is a delightfully relatable character and the plot made me smile from the first page. Logan’s “data analysis” was an adorable addition.  The whole story is a pretty fantastic romantic comedy.

***** low language, moderate romance, low violence, low religion

The Heart of The Rebellion by Sian Ann Bessey pro_pbid_4457231

My favorite historical fictions are ones that prompt me to learn more outside of the book, and this one definitely did that! I found myself googling all sorts of welsh history the more I was pulled into the fascinating plot. The characters, even the minor ones, were well developed and I found myself interested in every little thing going on. The author balanced the medieval history with romance and rebellion to make for a well rounded, fascinating read.

**** low language, low romance, moderate violence, low religion

Where The Stars Meet the Sea by Heidi Kimball pro_pbid_4542127

This book has so much heart, there are so many powerful emotions you feel every one right to your core. Juliet is what every heroine should be and Halstead is her well written foil. Their romance brings out the best in each character. The author balances the tension and the humor very well. I think my favorite part is their counterparts, both Robert and Lady Margaret, aren’t “villains”. Neither character is malicious or catty, all the characters are flawed and all have some redeeming characteristics giving the novel a genuine feeling that I loved. I must admit I was pulled out of the story every so often because I never felt it was clear what Juliet’s mother’s standing in society had been before she married her husband. I might have missed it, but it was alluded to so often I wished for more than “a gentleman’s daughter”. Obviously the minor curiosity didn’t deter the five star rating, it was that good.

***** low language, low romance, low violence, low religion

A Princess of Wind and Wave by Melanie Cellier 51nfuIzMkWL

Aimee was the last one of the three of us to read this cute retelling of The Little Mermaid and we all loved it. There was a lot of it that kept us guessing. The author always weaves in important parts of the original while making the story so unique. The other thing that I love about her writing is how subtly she pulls in messages that uplift and inspire. She’s one of our favorite young adult fairy tale writers.

**** low language, low romance, low violence, low religion

Anneka Walker, Five Stars, Four Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Low Violence, Moderate Language, Moderate Violence, Rebecca Connolly, Three Stars

Trying something new…

Weekly Reading Round-up

IMG_0630

Melanie… 

The Masked Baron by Anneka Walker  

Beauty and the Beast is one of my all time favorite fairy tales so I’m super skeptical of re-tellings. At first I wasn’t sure if I loved where this one was going. The more I got into the story, the more I loved what she did with it. The story is a little more fantastical, a lot of high drama, so keep that in mind going in. I especially loved how she ended it. (releases March 2nd!)

**** Low Language, Low Violence, Low Romance, Low Religion

Fall From Trace by Rebecca Connolly

This book has been built up since the beginning of The London League. All the intrigue has been building for four books, and it did not disappoint!  Rebecca Connolly is an expert at romance and her attention to detail in that category makes every scene swoon worthy. She has excellent character development and I came away loving the story and it’s characters. I feel like her actions scenes are sometimes missing that attention to detail, a little rushed maybe, but it doesn’t make me love her stories any less.

***** Low Language, Low Violence, Low Romance, Low Religion

Nikki…

Most of my reading this week was taken up with my local book club’s book

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I loved this book! I loved how it reminded me of my grandfather’s. Both of whom seemed a little prickly on the outside, but had hearts of gold. I loved the humor, the emotions, and the metaphors. The metaphors! Huge fan of his writing style and am now adding “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” and “Britt-Marie was Here” to my tbr list.

***** Moderate Language, Moderate Violence, Low Romance, Low Religion 

I also fit in two novellas:

Lady Mary Contrary by Anneka Walker

I really liked the plot idea. I have a soft spot for friends to lovers books. I however had a hard time ever feeling completely invested in the story.  Their banter was well written, I just never connect personally to the characters.

*** Low Language, Low Violence, Low Romance, Low Religion

and, A Highlander’s Hidden Heart by Julie Coulter Bellon

This story had such a great cute meet. I loved the resolution the author provided between the heroine and her parents, but the overall story felt a little rushed, even for a Novella. I would love to see this story flushed out a little more. The characters had such great potential of both the heroic and villainous kind.

*** Low Language, Low Violence, Low Romance, Low Religion

Aimee…

My little one has been sick for what seems like days on end so my days have been filled with reading Little Blue Truck Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, and Dear Zoo which are fantastic, if you’re a one year old 😉

 

 

4 1/2 stars, Five Stars, Four Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Moderate Violence

We’re Family

Last night we had our monthly family dinner with my side of the family. My family is big and loud and I love them! Family dynamics are complicated and messy. That’s one of the reasons they’re so compelling in books. I love it when a romance author takes that into account and weaves just as much familial relationships into their stories. I’ve read three books recently that did that very well.

Promised by debut author Leah Garriott releases tomorrow!

41eFQVYENAL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

This novel was adorable. The few predictable plot points were handled so uniquely I was captivated the whole way through.

The romance was swoon worthy and developed expertly. My favorite relationship however was between the siblings. Their support and teasing and understanding of each other really connected me to the story.

I was enchanted by this debut author and can’t wait to see what she does next!

**Five Stars – Low Violence, Low Language, Low Romance, Low Religion

 

Lakeshire Park by new author Megan Walker releases April 7th, and can be preordered now!

51TtTXq6ovL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

This is a beautiful regency romance. The author’s words are emotionally driven in the best way, with compelling descriptions.

The author expertly pitted romantic love against familial love. In so many ways the two most important relationships were butted up against each other. It made for a very compelling read and gave depth to the story as a whole.

I was absolutely delighted with the book from start to finish and am crossing my fingers for more from the side characters. Please tell me Georgiana gets her own story!

**Four and 1/2 Stars – Low Violence, Low Language, Low Romance, Low Religion

 

Kit and Elizabeth by well known romance author Karen Tuft just came out in December.

51xyxqSO8uL

As tender as this romance story was, I felt like the real beauty of the book shone in Lady Elizabeth’s transformation. The back and forth emotions of someone trying to break out of neglectful abuse was very well done. Lady Elizabeth was a complex well written character who I was rooting for all the way.

Kit was an equally well written foil for Elizabeth. The author had a very good balance between strong characters and captivating plot. The whole book was a beautiful example of the necessity of both placing and pushing boundaries in our relationships.

The one plot point I struggled with was the letter Elizabeth wrote to the Duke of Aylesham. I kept expecting it to shift something, and when it didn’t I felt like it was just distracting from the more important things going on. However, taking this unnecessarily plot point and giving it life in the Duke’s own story could be a delightful little twist, just saying.

**Four Stars – Low Language, Low Romance, Low Religion, Moderate Violence

 

3 1/2 Stars, Low Language, Low Romance, Moderate Religion, Moderate Violence

Faith and Suspense

Working in a quiet cubicle at the Library all through college meant I would often grab an audio book on my way up to work. It was every book lovers dream to work with books while listening to books. My senior year I grabbed an audiobook on the new release display entitled, The Negotiator by Dee Henderson. I fell in love with the series.

This past week my sister was telling me about a book she had recently read and I was transported back 15 years. Mistaken Reality by Traci Hunter Abramson has all the government agency, suspense, romance, and faith of the O’Malley Series.

41D1NXa+AQL

“Hadley Baker can’t believe her boyfriend finally invited her on a fancy hotel dinner date only to break up with her in public. Even more unbelievable is the moment FBI Agent JD Byers finds her crying in the women’s restroom and demands she evacuate. Seconds after JD ushers Hadley outside, an explosion shatters the building. 

JD didn’t anticipate seeing Hadley, the beautiful schoolteacher, again after he saved her from the hotel attack. But soon after her ex-boyfriend became a lead suspect of the hotel bombing, the man turned up dead—and now it seems that Hadley herself is a target. Determined to keep her safe, JD shelters Hadley as they join forces to put together the pieces of the perplexing case. When they discover the horrifying truth behind her ex-boyfriend’s nefarious work, Hadley realizes her life is far from the only one being threatened. Countless others are in danger, and she and JD may hold the key to saving them.”

– – Unlike the O’Malley Series which though faith filled, didn’t specify any one denomination, many of the main characters from “Mistaken Reality” are specifically part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their faith doesn’t play a major role, it is a more subtle part of the book, and not always prevalent. There were two moments were I felt religion broke up the flow of the book and pulled me out of the story, but overall I liked how it gave the characters strength.

The plot was a little predictable in places, but those were smaller details, the overall story arch caught me by surprise, I love being surprised. The story does deal with human trafficking, and is a little intense so be aware of that going in.

The multiple person point of view took awhile to keep the characters straight. I think if I had read Safe House and Deep Cover first it might have been easier to follow the head hopping. That just means I have more books to add to my TBR pile. –A.B.

 

Five Stars, Heather B. Moore, Low Language, Low Romance, Moderate Religion, Moderate Violence

Empowerment

Last night I had the privilege of being in the same room as some pretty incredible women. I felt slightly intimidated most of the night, but came away from the evening feeling empowered. Women have the potential to do such good in the world.

I’m all about girl power, however I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a feminist. At least not in the way it’s used across social platforms today. My ability to do good and be good, does not in anyway diminish my husbands ability to do and be good, and it doesn’t mean I need him any less. One of the women on the panel last night said, when you allow yourself to shine, you make those around you shine brighter.

H.B. Moore was able to do exactly that with her character Deborah in the historical fiction Deborah: Prophetess of God.

41OxX76jnNL

Deborah, a young Israelite woman, lives a quiet and isolated life with her father and brothers. As a shepherdess in the hills near her home, she knows well the perils of her work. But when faced with incredible danger, she witnesses a series of remarkable events that preserve her life. The hand of the Lord is apparent, and it is clear that hers will be no ordinary life.

Years later, Deborah is a faithful wife and mother when she learns that the Third Judge of Israel has died–and she has been called to take his place. It is a tumultuous time in history, and soon, Deborah–prophetess, judge, and military leader–faces a seemingly insurmountable task: alongside the commander of the Israelite army, Deborah must lead ten thousand soldiers in their final campaign against their Canaanite oppressors with only her faith in God to guide her.”

Heather Moore has taken a rather short story in the book of Judges and created a beautiful character and an empowering story.

Heather creates in Deborah a fascinating balance. Deborah is humble yet strong. She’s obedient, but strong willed.

The story it self is also a beautiful balance between women empowerment, family support, religious dedication and sweet romance.

I especially appreciated how she dealt with the relationship between Deborah and the men in her life. In spite of  her prestigious calling, Deborah was respectful, loving and empowering to her father, her brothers, her husband and the military commander Barak. This added not only historical accuracy, but depth to Deborah and the other characters.

The romance, the family and the connections all build a world that connects you to the heart of what the people may have been experiencing and the type of person Deborah may have been in order to lead her people to freedom.

Just a note: The author does a fantastic job of keeping this book non-denominational. Though it is a religious book, it isn’t geared to any one faith. It is a work of fiction so keep that in mind, but would be pertinent and enjoyable for anyone of any faith with a connection to this time in history.

or two: Deborah led her people into war, so though I wouldn’t label this book as violent,  it does have battles and moments of violent oppression.

 

Five Stars, Jen Geigle Johnson, Low Language, Low Religion, Moderate Romance, Moderate Violence

It’s Official

We are officially in our new place, school has officially started and I’m officially behind on my reviews. But those first two things should help with the later.
I’m also officially a history nerd. I love learning about the details of the past; what made them great and what made them hard. Jen Geigle Johnson has a way of not only making history come to life, but making it relevant to the reader.
51HsJ2Ie0KL

“Molly O’Malley, lady’s maid to the progressive Lady Amanda Halloway, is determined to continue the life’s work of her lost love, killed in the Peterloo Massacre. But when her efforts and a trip to Lady Halloway’s charitable orphanage culminate in her own abduction, Molly’s eyes are opened to the horrifying crimes transpiring in the city’s slums. Despite the risks, she broadens her mission and is drawn ever closer to the peril all around them. 

Thomas Flaherty, a footman in the Halloway household, has been with Molly from the beginning, but he fears she will never trust him with her heart. Even though her cause and happiness are of foremost importance to him, his loyal patience is tested by the fears that keep her at a distance. But with their safety on the line, Thomas is resolved to sacrifice everything for the woman he loves. 

Risking their lives and their love, Molly and Thomas and a team of nobles on their side will stop at nothing to empower the powerless, no matter the personal cost.”

I loved the juxtaposition this book created against it’s predecessor, A Nobleman’s DaughterWhere the heroine and hero in that story were bold and fearless these were quite and somewhat reluctant heroes who grew into their roles and purpose. Both kinds of people have a place in this world and I loved that representation.
There was not one, but two relationships developing in this book and both added dimension to the story. It was beautiful to see Molly’s struggle with guilt, and the realization that it is possible to love again after loss.
Overall the story kept and held my attention, I felt invested in the characters success and a desire to learn more about this time in history. I officially love Jen Johnson’s historical romances and can’t wait for more!
Five Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Moderate Violence, Nancy Campbell Allen

Dream

Nancy Campbell Allen is a master of comic relief. Though I don’t often pick the more intense books too read, I love hers because of how well she balances the tense moments with the often dry, spot on, humor.
She gave the Rapunzel story a genius twist while pulling in all the great concepts we love from various originals.
The family connection she develops in the book was brilliant. The ability she had to develop both of their characters through Hazel was great writing. I love how the two girls balanced each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The romance was beautifully written, a wonderful slow burn that leaves you anxious for more.
Loved this story! The author always does a great job of teasing the next characters so you are anxiously waiting the next book.

51yxPN577RL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Hazel Hughes has spent her life believing she is a Medium—someone who can talk to ghosts. But as of yet, that skill has remained frustratingly elusive. She is also suffering from a reoccurring childhood dream of someone who looks almost exactly like Hazel, but this dream version of herself is slowly going mad.

Sam MacInnes is a talented surgeon who runs in the highest social circles thanks to his family’s position and history. When Sam hires Hazel to assist him with his medical practice, he is immediately drawn to her intelligence, wit, and beauty. Their potential relationship is derailed one evening when a mysterious count arrives in London and reveals to Hazel the truth about her past: she was abducted at birth and her twin sister has fallen dangerously ill.

Hazel agrees to travel to Romania with Count Petrescu in order to save her sister, and Sam insists on accompanying her. The count has secrets, though, and the journey grows more sinister with every mile that draws Hazel closer to her homeland. Even as her feelings for Sam become deeper and more complicated, she fears she might not survive the quest to save her sister with her heart intact, not to mention her life. She must learn to draw on gifts she doesn’t know she has if they are going to ever return home again.

Hazel and Sam must fight their way past dark magic, clockwork beasts, and their own insecurities as they try to reach her sister in the impenetrable Coppergate Tower before time runs out.

Four Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Moderate Violence

Your Escape

Last week I escaped to my sister’s house. Our kids are similar ages and they easily occupy each other. Leaving us free to read, talk books and just chill. It was amazing. One book we had both recently read was Chalon Linton‘s Escape to Everly Manor.

51nvA00PLnL

“Nineteen-year-old Lizzy and her young brother, Thomas, find themselves orphaned after a tragic accident claims the lives of their parents. Their estranged Uncle Cline arrives to claim his inheritance, and his roguish ways cast a shadow over the manor. Both the family estate and guardianship of his niece and nephew were left to him, and diabolical Uncle Cline is determined to indulge in his newfound wealth and rid himself of his charges. Desperate to save her brother from a dangerous life at sea, and herself from being married off to a detestable old gentleman, Lizzy knows there is only one choice left—they must run.

Lizzy and Thomas sneak away and find refuge in an abandoned cabin. There they remain hidden—until fate acquaints Lizzy with Mr. Barton, a charming gentleman who is immediately intrigued by the mysterious young woman. Concealing her identity, Lizzy is unaware that there is much more to this compassionate man than meets the eye. Through his kindness to herself and her brother, Lizzy begins to trust him. Soon Lizzy realizes Mr. Barton may be her best hope for a life in which she can live—and love—as she chooses . . .”

Sometimes when you read a lot of books in the same genre they can start to seem slightly repetitive in their tropes and even some of the subplots. It can be easy to see where the story is headed. Chalon Linton’s story was uniquely it’s own and went in unexpected directions. I loved that.  The plot was a little heavy on the drama for my tastes, and there were a few plot points that were a little confusing, but the story moved at a good pace and held my interest.

Chalon Linton has excellent character development and I was delightfully surprised that the story turned out to be from both points of view.  The author’s description of Lizzy’s emotions made you feel as if you were in Lizzy’s head without being in first person. You’ll quickly fall in love with the characters and root for them through to the end.

 

Four Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Moderate Romance, Moderate Violence

Historical Spymance

I love history and I learning little details, but I’m finding there is a very fine line that must be walked between the history and the fiction. Too heavy on either end and it comes across as too dry or not believable. Laura Beers did a great job of blending the historical and the fictional in her novel The Baron’s Daughter.

51pEuWDaMNL

Lord Morgan Easton is, first and foremost, an agent of the Crown. To achieve his purposes, he has become Society’s golden boy, and a renowned rake. When it’s discovered that notorious French spy, Genet, is attending a house party in a small seaside village, he is tasked to infiltrate the gathering and arrest the spy. But first, he must convince a certain woman to become his partner and pose as his wife. The challenge is that she would rather see him dead.

Miss Josette Northcott guards her secrets fiercely, trusts few, and enjoys the anonymity that goes along with being the headmistress of a private school in the rookeries. When Lord Morgan offers her a deal she can’t refuse, she makes it clear that this is nothing more than a business arrangement. No man, no matter how charming or infuriatingly handsome he is, can know the truth of her sordid and twisted past.  

Morgan and Josette must learn to trust each other however, trust does not come easily to either agent, and when the truth of Josette’s past is finally unveiled, will they be able to accept that not only is their mission on the line, but their hearts, as well?

Though I have read some of the Beckett Files, I haven’t read them all. And unfortunately for me I had not yet read book 5 when I was sent book 6. I wish I would’ve read that one first, though not strictly necessary, I do find there were some plot holes that could have helped my understanding of the characters personalities and current situations at the opening of the story.

Despite the missing pieces of the main character’s history together, I didn’t love them any less. They were well written and engaging. The mystery was intriguing enough that though I guessed Genet’s identity early on, I was never one hundred percent sure I was correct in my guess.

Laura Beers presented the side characters so well that you were always guessing at their allegiance and trying to piece together the puzzle, a mark of a great spy novel.

I always read the book blurb before I read the book, this time I wish I hadn’t. I mistakenly assumed more about Josette’s past than it entailed, but it was a pleasant surprise, one I was happy to be wrong about. I think I would like to read it again with out the assumptions I went in with the first time.

I was intrigued with her pieces of history. On a side note, this was one of few regency books that not only discussed The Whigs and The Tories, but gave you a very good layman’s description of the difference between the two. It was a well researched and delightfully mysterious regency spy novel.

Don’t you think that should be a genre? We have a whole section on our Pinterest Reviews board dedicated to them, we call it Historical Spymance, you should check it out!

Five Stars, Low Language, Low Romance, Moderate Religion, Moderate Violence

You’re Welcome

My daughter, like every other little girl in the world got caught up in the Frozen saga, the costumes, the dolls, the songs. I’ll be the first to admit I enjoyed both the movie and the soundtrack, but there is a limit to how many times you can press repeat until you just can’t anymore. That’s until Moana came out.

If I got a nickle for every time I heard one of my three kids say “Alexa, play shiny,” “Alexa, play You’re Welcome.” I would be a very rich woman. That I actually didn’t mind too much, it’s adorable to hear a toddler say Alexa, but everything has a limit. Thankfully that phase ended too, but the songs came back very quickly as I read Ilima Todd‘s A Song for the Stars.41wGq01L-LL

“Inspired by a true story

Hawaiian Islands, 1779

As the second daughter of a royal chief, Maile will be permitted to marry for love. Her fiancé is the best navigator in Hawaii, and he taught her everything he knows—how to feel the ocean, observe the winds, read the stars, and how to love.

But when sailors from a strange place called England arrive on her island, a misunderstanding ends in battle, and Maile is suddenly widowed before she is wed.

Finding herself in the middle of the battle and fearing for her life, Maile takes John Harbottle, the wounded man who killed her fiancé, prisoner, and though originally intending to let him die, she reluctantly heals him. And in the process, she discovers the man she thought was her enemy might be her ally instead.

John has been Captain James Cook’s translator for three voyages across the Pacific. He is kind and clearly fascinated with Maile’s homeland and her people—and Maile herself. But guilt continues to drive a wedge between them: John’s guilt over the death he caused, and Maile’s guilt over the truth about what triggered the deadly battle—a secret she’s kept hidden from everyone on the island.”

I’ve never been to Hawaii, it’s definitely on my bucket list though. However Ilima Todd’s imagery painted such a beautiful picture, I felt like I was there. Her descriptions were not just visible either. I felt like I could smell the flowers, hear the waterfall, and feel. I could feel so much, you can tell that this novel contains all of Ilima Todd’s heart, it bleeds through ever page.

That includes Maile. I could feel her confusion, her naivety, and her strength. The switch between John’s journal and Maile’s first person narrative was a perfect way to convey the clash of cultures the misunderstandings and the growing feelings between the two. All were handled so well I found myself laughing and crying and yes even sighing.

I loved how she had John and Maile start out on so completely opposite sides, the conflict between them added depth and a beautiful heartache to the story.

The only thing I struggled with was the wayfaring. For the most part, it was fascinating. I loved how something that was so special to her and Ikaika also brought her closer to John. However there were a few moments when I felt like the wayfaring details slowed down the story right when I felt like it was picking up. This however didn’t take away from the beauty of the novel.

This should definitely be on the top of your TBR pile, you’ll thank me. So in advance… You’re Welcome.

fb466cbb3ece357a48f4a9f22724436b (2)