Friday, March 27, 2015

Betting on Hope- Debra Clopton

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: A bet gone wrong. A small town's meddling. And a cowboy intent on saving his ranch.

Maggie Hope is an advice columnist whose background leaves her with little advice to give . . . and it's beginning to show. When Maggie fills in at an interview with champion horse trainer Tru Monahan, the on-camera chemistry between them is undeniable. Maggie's bosses know this is the opportunity she's been looking for to launch her career--and their bank accounts. In order to save her column, Maggie takes Tru up on the bet that he can teach her to ride a quick-stepping cutting horse like any cowgirl, despite the fact that she has never been on a horse. And in the meantime, she can get the scoop on the man under the cowboy hat.

Tru has been on the competition circuit for longer than he'd like, but he knows it's the only way he can afford to keep the Four of Hearts Ranch that means so much to his ailing grandfather. So when his sponsors see the opportunity for Tru's fans to get to know the star on a more intimate level, he knows he must oblige. To his dismay, Maggie not only invades his small town of Wishing Springs, but she also invades his heart, and that is something he cannot let any woman do--for her own good.

In Wishing Springs, Maggie finds what she has always been looking for: a community and a home. But when her past catches up to her, it threatens everything, even the tender hope that this town holds all of her heart's desires.

My Thoughts: Normally I don't care for contemporary novels, as they seem too farfetched or else too much like real life to be interesting. Betting on Hope falls in that perfect place in the middle. As a columnist and a rodeo star, the hero and heroine fall far enough outside the realm "normal" to be interesting, and are yet not so far gone from reality as to be unbelievable. They have great voices and I loved to read through their struggles and watch as they worked through them.

At points there were things I didn't care for. The towns people of Wishing Springs, for instance, seemed a bit stereotypical (though it seems many other reviewers loved them). It seemed a little like the only thing most of them cared about was Tru's love life. I also wish that Maggie could have told Tru about her past without a certain someone showing up and forcing her to. Yet I loved how he was able to support her with her relationship with Jenna.

Clopton does an amazing job of making the characters feel like you next door neighbor. I'm excited to see what happens to Bo in the next Wishing Springs book. Hopefully the story will be just as sweet.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for honest review.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Petticoat Detective- Margaret Brownley

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Pinkerton detective Jennifer Layne is no stranger to undercover work. But posing as a lady companion named Amy at Miss Lillian’s Parlor House and Boots is a first for her. She’s finally landed a high-profile case and is on the trail of the notorious Gunnysack Bandit, when one of Miss Lillian’s girls essential to her investigation meets an untimely demise. Only a handful of people are in the house at the time of her death, including handsome Tom Colton, a former Texas Ranger determined to clear his brother’s name. Amy has many reasons to suspect Tom of murder—and one very personal reason to hope that she’s wrong about him.

My Thoughts: The Petticoat Detective is a romance that reads with the feel of a mystery. Unfortunately, because the author does not include a lot of information about the secondary characters which later turns out to be the very information which Amy uses to solve, there is little chance you will be able to follow along and make a guess like you might for a regular mystery novel. For example, a perfume scent is used to identify a female suspect, yet until it was important, there was no mention of any of the women wearing perfume.

It is the romance that holds up the best in this novel. Tom is a truly amazing guy who is not afraid to be seen with a soiled-dove, or to treat her as a human being. Even when he has been betrayed, he still gives people the benefit of the doubt and does what he can to trust their word. While Amy's role at Miss Lillian's is a barrier in their relationship, he doesn't give up on Amy all together.

There is a great message in this novel about treating people with love and respect, no matter what their sins. It is nice to see that message told from the perspective of someone who has become a social outcast (the summary does not seem to include that Amy is undercover as a prostitute) rather abruptly. I think that the only issue I had with Brownley's portrayal was the one woman who did not change her career at the end of the novel. While there was mention that she could still change her ways, it was almost as if to say that any woman who didn't take any opportunity leave such a life, must be a nasty person.

I did enjoy the Petticoat Detective. There was a good message and a sweet romance. My issue was that it seemed so much like a mystery, which I would have loved, and yet did not deliver that mystery. Hopefully the next book will be different. I fully intend to read it either way.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Stitching Snow- R. C. Lewis

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

My Thoughts: I am pretty sure this is the first Snow White retelling I have ever read (seen a lot of Cinderella, but not Snow White for some reason). It is most certainly the first sci-fi retelling of Snow White I have read, which intrigued me since I am still waiting for Meyer's Winter to come out. Let me say that, while I do not like it as much as the Lunar Chronicles, I will be seeking out more of Lewis' novels.

Essie is not the typical princess. She is not refined, she has a terrible vocabulary, and she tends to be covered in grim. Her skills are programming, robotic engineering, and fighting. And unlike most YA novels, she is not obsessed with the idea of love. Dane is an absolutely lovely hero who, once he knows her past, is willing to sacrifice everything for her happiness. Unlike the current trend of super alpha heroes, Dane lets Essie determine the speed of their relationship, giving her the time to feel right about it.

Stitching Snow is not necessarily for lovers of hard core sci-fi. There is little description of the way anything in this world actually, physically works. I preferred this, as it kept the story from being bogged down with concepts I didn't understand, though I would have liked for there to have been more description in general.

In the end, what I loved most was the relationships between the Essie, Dane, and the drones. Dimwitt (Dopey) was my absolute favorite with Cusser (Grumpy) coming in a close second. It was also nice to read a story absent all the cliches which have riddled YA fiction in the past year (love triangles, heroine who thinks she's not that pretty but some how everyone wants her, ect.). That said, it may not be for everyone. There is a lot of violence, with the opening scene having Essie in a cage fight, as well as inferences of horrible things from Essie childhood. Still, I found it an enjoyable read and recommend it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Oath of the Brotherhood- C. E. Laureano

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man's worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king's sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine's ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he's meant to play in Seare's future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything--even the woman he loves--to follow the path his God has laid before him?

My Thoughts: What first stood out to me about Oath of the Brotherhood was that it was based off of Scottish culture, rather than a medieval England as so many other fantasies are today. It was interesting to see how Laureano brought in the clan system to her world, though there are not as many clan rivalries as I would have hoped. Another element of history brought into the story was the persecution of the Balians, reminiscent of the Christian persecutions in Rome. The history nerd in me loved pulling out the comparisons.

Conor is a great hero in that he strives to do the will of Balus in all that he does. And if he gets too cocky, Comdiu makes sure to remind him who is in charge of his future. Aine often had to remember that too, and it was a good reminder for myself as well. The way the characters interacted with Comdiu was a relationship which every Christian should strive to have with God.

What kept me from absolutely adoring this book was Conor's abilities. He seemed to be perfect at everything, whether it was music or fighting or speaking different languages. It seemed odd that Conner could go from insisting he was not capable of learning to fight (though he had never touched a sword), to being one of the best fighters there was. While he could not fire a bow, it seemed almost like a token see-he-can't-do-everything.

I have the second book, Beneath the Forsaken City, and plan to start reading it soon. Hopefully it will be just as good as this.