Monday, February 29, 2016

A Worthy Heart- Susan Anne Mason

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Maggie Montgomery's long-held wish to see America is finally coming true. She'll visit her beloved brother Rylan and his wife, Colleen, and at the same time, escape Neill Fitzgerald's unwanted attention. In addition, Maggie has a secret! She plans to remain in America to seek her fortune and to hopefully find love. While visiting Irish Meadows, she meets an intriguing man whom she thinks is a stable hand. Only when Rylan demands she stay away from Adam O'Leary does she realize he's Colleen's brother, recently released from prison. Nonetheless, Maggie can't seem to make her heart conform to her brother's request.

Adam O'Leary has never felt worthy of his place in the family. Spending time in jail only reinforces his belief. Now that he's free, Adam hopes to make amends and earn back his family's trust. Falling in love with Maggie Montgomery, however, was never in his plans.

Despite everyone's effort to keep them apart, the two develop a bond nothing can break--but has Adam truly changed, or will the sins of his past prove too much for Maggie to overcome?

My Thoughts: As with the first book, A Worthy Heart is actually two love stories in one, though the description leads you to believe otherwise. In this case, the couples are Adam O'Leary and Maggie Montgomery and then Maggie's brother Gabe Montgomery and Aurora Hastings, who readers may remember from the first book. The book opens with Gabe and Maggie coming to America to visit their brother, while Adam and Aurora attempted to make new lives for themselves after the mistakes and heartaches of the first book.

I love how Mason is able to work the stories together, showing how two siblings can have interesting and complex lives and loves at the same time rather than one at a time as most novel series depict it. The family dynamics are what I love most about this series as they are very real sources of conflict in which a happily-ever-after for the main characters also means growth and redemption for the whole family.

As with the first book, A Worthy Heart is not perfect. I found some of the characters' motivation in doing things to be a little weak and the ending seemed to wrap up a little too quickly. Unfortunately, people are often far more likely to hold grudges and refuse to compromise than the characters in this book. Still, I found it to be a delightfully well paced novel with characters I loved (Adam being my favorite). I am hopeful for another novel from Mason soon.

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Curio- Evangeline Denmark

My Rating: 2 Stars

Description: Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.

By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.

But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.

My Thoughts: This review saddens me to write because I thought I would love this book. The author's mother (Donita K. Paul) was one of my favorites and I had expected to enjoy this just as much. Unfortunately, Denmark's story was nothing like I expected, even knowing (and liking) that it was steampunk.

The issues for me began when the conflict between the Chemists and Grey's home town were thrust to the background in favor of the conflict brewing inside the curio cabinet. Denmark had set up a huge conflict which from then on played almost no part in the rest of the story other than to give Grey a reason to want to get back home. I might have been able to overlook this if not for the fact that I could not get myself to care about the conflict inside the curio.

Curio city is full of porcies and tocks, or animated porcelain figurines and windup toys. They are supposed to be just as real and alive as any human, yet they never age or have children and they can't die, only deanimate. Throughout the story, they are presented as beings who the reader is supposed to sympathize with, yet I could not get over that even when deanimated they can always be reanimated or else rebuilt. Up until the very end, I found the porcies and tocks to be selfish and mostly uncaring people who used each other to further their own goals. Even then, the only one I ever had any sympathy for was Lord Weatherton, who only took part in a handful of chapters.

I might have liked the story better if not for the scenes from Wit's perspective back in the real world. The conflicts in these scenes mattered to me, with characters who sacrificed for others and lived in the fear of actual death. These scenes served to remind me that I would have much preferred reading that story instead of the one taking place inside the curio.

Potential readers of this book should also be aware that there is a strong presence of sexual conflict, which I personally found so strong as to be ridiculous, particularly for a YA novel. This included a city where physical contact between the sexes (even when in order to save a life) is punishable by "striping", to another city where one of the highest honors is to be taken as Lord Blueboy's mistress and named "Beauty's Best". There are two instances of insta-love, a vividly described almost rape which is drawn out over an entire chapter, and an attraction between two characters that is felt as a burning in a mark that circles their bellybutton. And this is only some of the more memorable examples.

I really wish that I could have liked this book. A steampunk written just as well as Donita K. Paul's books would have been fantastic. Unfortunately, this fell far short of the mark for me.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Kissed by a Cowboy- Debra Clopton

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Having lived through her parents’ endless string of “matrimonial bliss gone wrong,” Cassidy Starr knows when the odds are not in her favor. Divorced and humiliated, her faith on rocky ground, Cassidy is through with love. She’s been bucked o_ that horse far too many times. Instead, she returns to Wishing Springs, Texas, and the rundown farm she’s inherited from her great aunt Roxie. She’ll reopen the strawberry farm and a bed & breakfast and follow in her aunt’s footsteps, remaining forever-independent, happy . . . and single.

Rancher Jarrod Monahan’s hands are full running the ranch, looking after his ailing grandfather, and chasing down a group of rustlers on the loose. He’s pushed his longing for a family to the bottom of his list of priorities. Besides, he was in love once but ran scared and lost his shot at happiness. But suddenly, the biggest regret of his life has moved in next door with a wounded heart, determined to become a spinster . . . and that’s a challenge that Jarrod can’t pass up.

Jarrod sets his mind to breaking down the walls around Cassidy’s stubborn heart. How can he show her that a cowboy’s kiss lasts forever? For the good folks of Wishing Springs, falling in love has never been so much fun to witness.

My Thoughts: Kissed by a Cowboy is by far my favorite of the Four Hearts Ranch trilogy. Unlike his brothers, Jarrod is still striving for his dream (instead of already having everything but the girl), and unlike the other heroines, Cassidy has come to make her dream rather than find a new one. I personally found them to be far more relatable, both in their personalities and in the way their romance unfolded.

There was one thing I did not like. While I did not mind that Jarrod refused to give up on having a relationship with Cassidy, especially since she turned away from him out of fear, I was frustrated that he continued to push her so hard instead of excepting that she might need some time to heal after her failed marriage.

Outside of Jarrod's pushy moments, I found their relationship to be rather sweet; from Cassidy helping Jarrod round up rustlers, to Jarrod helping Cassidy clean up her barn. The way Cassidy was immediately enveloped as part of the Monahan family really stood out to me as a sign that she belonged and I was pleased with their happy ending.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Not Always Happenstance- Tour and Giveaway

Not Always (1)

Not Always Happenstance My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Lani has lived in Hana, Hawaii for five years. She’s learned to surf, fish, dive, and manage her grandmother’s bed and breakfast. She’s also learned to take one day at a time the way it should be taken—relaxed and unrushed, savoring every moment. But, like a large wave on the brink of breaking, her life is about to crash out of control. A proposal of marriage, a conniving grandmother, a cryptic Asian woman, and a handsome guest, and suddenly everything calm begins to churn, everything clear becomes confused, and all that was normal segues into peculiar. As Lani struggles against the current to hold her ground, she realizes that she can either continue to fight and eventually lose, or take a take a leap of faith, hold her breath, and ride the wave wherever it takes her. 

 ***This book is part of the Power of the Matchmaker series that features one recurring character—the match maker—but it is a STAND-ALONE novel.*** 

My Thoughts: I am really enjoying this series. Not Always Happenstance is the second book in the matchmaker series and although it is written by a different author than the first, I was pleased with how the story connected with the first.

I did not like this book as much as the first, I will admit. From the beginning I found Easton not all that likeable as a hero because he admits to dating women in order to use them as a means of exploring their communities, then he leaves without ever having said goodbye. At first, Easton fully intends to treat Lani this way, even though she had made it clear that she was engaged. I didn't like that he thought he could treat her like a game, to see if he could win her away from her fiance only to leave her at the end of the summer.

But Lani stood up for herself. She didn't let Easton play with her and refused to be his next conquest. Once Easton realized that he wanted more than a summer with her, and that he had been wrong in treating all the past women the way he had, I started to like him and was able to believe in their relationship.

Just like the first book, this one deals with the idea that love is not easy and there is a lot that people have to be willing to work though if they want happily-ever-after. I'm excited to see where this goes with the next books and am hopeful that they will be just as good.

I received this book through I am a Reader, Not a Writer in exchange for an honest review.


Author Rachael Anderson A USA Today bestselling author, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can't sing, doesn't dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.

Blog Tour $50 Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 2/29/16 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

The Exspress Rider's Lady- Stacy Henrie

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

The Express Rider's LadyThe Express Rider's Lady
by Stacy Henrie
Adult Christian Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 288 pages
February 9th 2016 by Love Inspired

Westward Wedding Journey

Delsie Radford is going to make it to California, no matter the danger or difficulty. Her father may have kept her and her sister apart, but Delsie refuses to miss her sister's wedding—even with only eighteen days to get there. And she's found the perfect escort in Pony Express rider Myles Patton.

Myles can't believe it when a pretty socialite hires him to take her cross-country through rough terrain and dangerous territory. Surely she'll quit before they reach their destination—he's known girls like her before. But the longer they ride together, the more Myles notices Delsie's toughness and kindness beneath her polished exterior. And though they may be worlds apart…they might just be perfect for each other.

My Rating: 3 Stars

My Thoughts: The Express Rider's Lady started off well. The premise was not one I had heard of before and, while it did seem a little far fetched, it was fun and interesting. I liked Delsie's determination to make things right with her sister and her willingness to do most anything to make it happen.

The middle started to lag for me. Within the story, Myles seemed to change his opinion of Delsie fairly early on and then just decided that he was not the right kind of man for her. *SPOILER* While there was some tension in the idea that Delsie would not marry against her father's wishes, it frustrated me that she was willing to defy her father in order to travel across country on horse back to see her sister for a day, yet she was not willing to do the same for the man she loved. *END SPOILER* There were also some interactions with Indians in which I was able to predict the entire interaction because it was the same as I have seen many other times before.

Near the end, after Delsie has returned home, the story picked back up. Here, Delsie showed more of the same spirit she started off the journey with and Myles has learned to be content with life. I liked how the story ended and if the middle had played out similarly, I would have enjoyed the story far more.

I received this book through Prism Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Stacy Henrie has always had a love for history, fiction, and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances. Wife of an entrepreneur husband and a mother to three, Stacy loves to live out history through her fictional characters. In addition to author, she is also a reader, a road trip enthusiast, and a novice interior decorator.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Mountain Midwife- Laurie Alice Eakes

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Ashley Tolliver has tended to the women of her small Appalachian community for years. As their midwife, she thinks she has seen it all. Until a young woman gives birth at Ashley’s home and is abducted just as Ashley tries to take the dangerously bleeding mother to the nearest hospital. Now Ashley is on a mission to find the woman and her newborn baby . . . before it’s too late.

Hunter McDermott is on a quest—to track down his birth mother. After receiving more media attention than he could ever want for being in the right place at the right time, he receives a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to be his mother. Hunter seeks out the aid of the local midwife in the mountain town where the phone call originated—surely she can shed some light on his own family background.

Ashley isn’t prepared for the way Hunter’s entrance into her world affects her heart and her future. He reignites dreams of having her own family that she has long put aside in favor of earning her medical degree and being able to do even more for her community. But is it commitment to her calling or fear of the unknown that keeps her feet firmly planted in the Appalachian soil? Or is it something more—fear of her growing feelings for Hunter—that makes her hesitant to explore the world beyond the mountains?

My Thoughts: I have seen a lot of other great reviews of this story and I have to say that I agree with these... for the most part. The story starts off wonderfully, with an exciting incident that drives the story on, and a look at what it means to help those who need you. I was fully engaged and excited about this story until about halfway in.

Toward the middle of the story, certain things started to take place that just did not add up. I wish I could explain just what confused me, but unfortunately I tried to explain it to my mother and ended up having to just read her the passage for her to understand. By this point I had also figured out how the story would end and had to push myself to finish it.

The last half of the book seemed to me to read much the same as the first. Ashley would help her patients, Hunter would ask for her help and then make excuses to not go through with his intent of finding his birth mother. In the end, the answers he found seemed to contradict certain information from the beginning of the story.

The Mountain Midwife was not wholly upsetting, I still enjoyed it at times and I can tell by the writing that Eakes is talented. There is great potential for others to really like this book as well, however I found parts of it to be contradictory and for that reason did not enjoy it as well as I would have liked.

I received this book through the Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review.