Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A book review with my daughter Sophie

I'd like to introduce my wonderful daughter, Sophie, who is 8 years old (going on 16 ;-)).  Sophie LOVES to draw and read. In fact, she could spend a good part of the day writing notes to all of us, drawing in her journal or note pad, and is basically a very relaxed gal.  When I found out I had the opportunity to get a copy of this book "Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Girls," I knew it would be perfect for her!  Oh...and even more perfect...it has a funny kid's joke on each page.  Another bonus!  Sophie loves to tell jokes and now she has plenty to add to her collection ; ).

Each page of this book has a kid appropriate joke with a partially drawn doodle that goes along with it.  Your child has to complete the doodle but add their own creativity to it.  This was great for my girl because while she loves to draw on her own, the partial doodle gave her some good ideas.  Here is one of the pages from the book and Sophie's completed doodle on the left.  I asked her, "How did you like doing this doodle, Sophie?"  She said, "One word: LOVE!" : )

I thought it would be fun to do a few interview questions and see what else she liked about this book.

1. Which joke in the book is your favorite so far?
Sophie: The pig joke! --What do you call the story of the three little pigs?  A pigtail.

2.  Do you feel like the doodles are easy or hard?
Sophie: Very easy.

3. Have you been able to practice your drawing skill with this book?
Sophie: It's very easy to do.

4. Would you recommend this book to other girls?
Sophie: YES!

5.  What do you think of this book?
Sophie: It is very great! I like the doodling pictures and the jokes.  I would tell my friends the jokes in the book.

Thank you, Sophie, for joining me today.  
We would definitely recommend this fun book!  

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in order to give an unbiased review**

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: To Capture Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

Book Summary (from Goodreads):
It is 1653 and Heather Flower, a princess of the Montauk tribe, is enjoying her wedding feast when her groom is killed and she is kidnapped by a rival tribe and held for ransom. Though her ransom is paid by an Englishman, she is nonetheless left to die in a Connecticut forest--until she finds herself rescued by handsome Dutch Lieutenant Dirk Van Buren. Torn between her affection for Dirk and her long friendship with family friend Benjamin Horton, Heather Flower must make a difficult choice--stay true to her friend or follow her heart.

My thoughts: 
This is a difficult review for me to write because I wanted to love this book!  The cover and summary had my expectations very high.  I love books that include Native Americans, some of their history, and clean romance.  In some ways this book met those expectations, but in others it fell short.  Let me begin with the positives.

There was a good bit of history that was unknown to me that I did learn about in this novel.  I didn't know much about the relationship between the Dutch and the English in early American history, and this story did offer that.  I also liked that the love story was not completely predictable.  There was a little bit of a twist at the end and I wasn't completely sure what was going to happen.

In the story's defense, it may have been helpful for me to read the first book in the series.  I believe this novel was meant to be stand alone, but there were SO many characters in this story. Maybe if I had some background I could've kept up with all of them.  Unfortunately, I kind of got lost in the references to so many people coming in and out of the storyline that I was often distracted.

Another issue I had with the story is that, for me, it lacked the romantic tension that I was expecting.  The romantic aspect of the story was often in the background, while the everyday going about life for the characters was the focal point.  One character basically proclaimed his love for the heroine after meeting her in the first few pages of the book.  No angst.  I was pretty detached from the love story that was supposed to be happening.  

As a reviewer I feel obligated to give an honest review.  While DeMarino did offer some history and some very clean, short, romantic moments, this story just fell flat for me.  I was expecting an epic love triangle, and it seemed to me like at least half of the story was about the lives of other characters in the novel.  It was a big disconnect.  That's not to say that some of you might like this style and story.

**I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I gave.**

Monday, June 8, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Worthy Pursuit" by Karen Witemeyer

Book summary (from Goodreads): Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the little girl entrusted to her care after her mother’s death. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When the teacher he’s after produces documentation that shows she’s the little girl’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is Miss Atherton villain or victim? She acts more like a loving mother than an abductress, and the children in her care clearly adore her. Should Stone break his perfect record?

Then a new danger threatens, and Charlotte is forced to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone becomes determined to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.

My thoughts....
Another great story by Karen Witemeyer!  This story, for me, is special because of the great contrasts that are throughout the novel, but is made even better by the common desires of our two main characters.  

The cover has a whimsical feel to it, like several other covers of Witemeyer's books, and there are some fun moments in the story.  But I took away even more from the more serious aspects of the novel.  Charlotte and Stone have suffered in their past, which causes them both to have emotional walls built up.  Although both have been wounded, they are also resilient, showing courage in different ways.  Charlotte isn't afraid to stand up to Stone, even though he could physically overpower her.  Stone is taken back by this prim, yet strong little woman who doesn't seem to be afraid of him.  

Stone shows up in Charlotte's life as basically a bounty hunter, believing he's serving justice and doing right by bringing her in.  But as he gets to know her, sees how she loves the young children she's basically adopted, he realizes there is more to the story than he was told.  Stone is hard and tough, Charlotte is prim and proper, but these two opposites find common ground in their mutual desire to have true justice served.  I loved watching the progression of their firmly constructed emotional walls being torn down.  Stone lives up to his name as he is a rock for Charlotte physically and emotionally, but Charlotte was able to break through and get to the soft parts of Stone's hardened heart.  Good stuff!

And last, but not least, I loved the children in the story!  They were each given amazing talents and gifts and those gifts each played a part in the story.  Charlotte loved each child for who they were but she also encouraged their giftedness and helped develop it.  As a gifted person herself, Charlotte was able to rediscover her own love of her special gift through the people she loved in the story.  I appreciated that aspect of the novel just as much as the romantic parts.  

I always recommend Karen Witemeyer's books because they are all excellent!  I have written several reviews of her books and Karen was also the first author I interviewed on my blog!  Go here to read it and even find out what one of Karen's favorite recipes is! : )

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in order to give an unbiased review, which I did.*

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Hearts Made Whole" by Jody Hedlund

Book Summary (from Goodreads): After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s been given the post as lighthouse keeper, and the isolation where he can drown in drink and hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s none-too-pleased to be giving up her position. They both quickly realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but Ryan’s unwilling to let anyone close, ravaged by memories and guilt. Caroline’s drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

My thoughts....
This is the third book I've read in which one of the main characters is a war veteran and dealing with PTSD.  Each character dealt with it in his/her own way.  With Ryan Chambers, it was to drown his nightmares away with drink and pills.  When he arrived at the lighthouse, Caroline saw a broken man.  But Ryan wasn't the only broken person in the lighthouse.

The vulnerability of each of the main characters in this novel really draws you in to their story.  Caroline has been forced into the role of mother and father, she works hard to try and be a good leader and influence in her little family, but it's a heavy load to bear.  Ryan is so broken physically and mentally that he can barely take care of himself.  They are both at a point of such high need that it draws them to each other for not just romantic reasons but for physical and emotional survival.

Hedlund is a master at creating wonderful romantic moments for her characters.  I know that when I read one of her books I'm going to have those butterflies-in-my-stomach moments and this book was no exception!  Tastefully done and creates a delightful page-turning experience!

Some of the romantic moments came together as part of the suspense aspect of the plot.  Someone was trying their best to harm and cause trouble for Caroline and her family.  There was also some tension between Caroline and another family member. The plot twists that came from both of those situations also made for a fantastic read.

Definitely recommend this book!

*I received a free e-copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, which I gave.*

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Now & Forever" by Mary Connealy

Book Summary (from Goodreads): Matthew Tucker survives a grizzly attack by jumping over a cliff into a rushing river. Unexpectedly, Shannon Wilde takes the plunge with him. Going through a series of waterfalls and rapids turns into a bonding experience.

By the time they battle their way back to civilization, Shannon has been thoroughly compromised, and only a wedding will do. A mountain man who loves to wander in the wilderness far from other people finds himself hitched to a young woman with a passel of relatives, a homestead, and a flock of sheep to care for.

As they learn to live with each other, strange things begin to happen on Shannon’s land. Someone evil clearly wants to drive them off, but whoever it is apparently didn’t count on Tucker. Trying to scare Matthew Tucker just makes him mad–and trying to hurt the woman he’s falling in love with sets off something even Matthew never expected.

My thoughts...
The wild ride starts on the first page of this book and doesn't stop til the end.  When Matthew Tucker is being chased by a bear and Shannon saves him by throwing him over a cliff into "Slaughter River", it begins the fast-paced action and romance that can only be expected from a Mary Connealy novel. It's only appropriate that our heroine, Shannon, has the last name of Wilde ; ). 

I mentioned the fast pace from the start because that's what I love about Connealy's books.  It's what makes them page-turners because you want to know...what's going to happen!?  Of the three Wilde sisters, Shannon seems to be the most gentle.  But this novel also shows Shannon's tough side as she not only throws Matt over the cliff, but also how she keeps him afloat, and saves him from certain death in the rapids.  There was a great contrast, though, because Shannon was forced to be tough through her experiences in the Civil War, but deep down, when she was most vulnerable, she was gentle and tender-hearted.  I really loved getting to know her character more and seeing these different sides.

I also love the wit that Connealy writes for her characters.  This sometimes comes out in dialogue, but other times it's just what they're thinking.  It makes me laugh inside...and sometimes out loud...and causes the characters to be all the more endearing.  It adds levity to tough situations, but it also serves to show some of her character's deep feelings.  Here's a passage from the beginning of the book:
"Somehow Shannon had gotten them ashore--he was real sure he hadn't done it.  He fumbled at his shirt, reasonably dry now.  So they'd been landed for hours.  What a woman.  Tucker smiled as he considered all she'd done and all that was left to do to get them out of here.  He hoped she didn't kick up too much of a fuss when, after all she'd done to save them, Tucker took charge, because he didn't like a fuss."

I will also say that with all the humor and lighthearted moments in the novel, Connealy sure can write nasty bad guys!  In this book the villian is cunning, evil, and a little scary.  He's great at fooling everyone as to just how smart he really is, which catches them off guard.  This makes for some very exciting moments in the story.

Overall, I really loved this book.  The humor, wit, fast-paced action, and great characters made a great novel.  It's also the second in the Wild at Heart series and I would recommend the first novel as well, called "Tried and True."  I will say that the resolution was a little predictable, as there were a few hints during the course of the novel.  But it didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the book.

Happy reading!

*I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for an honest review, which I gave."