Friday, March 18, 2016

Review: Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Trying to escape the shambles her con-man father has made of their reputation, Lucinda Curtis arrives in West Point, New York, determined to land a husband from the military academy. Campbell Conklin is first in his class and preparing to embark upon a storied career in the U.S. Army. Lucinda thinks Campbell will make the perfect husband . . . as long as he does not find out about her father.

Seth Westcott also has taken a liking to Lucinda. He's kind, smart . . . and working extremely hard to graduate last. Tradition states that the worst cadets are assigned to the cavalry out west. And west is where Seth must head to track the swindler who stole all of Seth's mother's money. Seth is smart enough to vie for the top spot, but life isn't fair and this is his chance to catch the man who ruined his family. It's too bad Campbell is all shine and no substance, but Lucinda will surely see through all of that, won't she?

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
The premise of Flirtation Walk is actually really good, but unfortunately I was unable to connect with the characters. Parts of it I enjoyed, but for the most part it had trouble holding my attention. One thing that especially perplexed and frustrated me was how Lucinda developed feelings for Seth so quickly when she had hardly spent any time with him at all. 

The best part of the book for me was Seth's crazy scheme to bring his grades down by acting out and not studying. This really amused me as it was a pretty clever idea for the difficult situation he was in, but I did feel there were too many scenes of Seth whining to his friends about it. While I appreciated that it was difficult for him to do sub-par work after a life of being an exemplary student, I just really wanted to see him completely commit to doing mediocre work instead of going at it half-heartedly--and only then with major prodding from his friends.

Honestly I really wavered between a 2 and 3 star rating, but I decided on 3 because I really do like the story idea. For some reason I just couldn't connect with the characters though, no matter how hard I tried. It took me over a month to finish because often when I would think of picking it up I'd just skip it because I had no desire or pull to visit with the characters. I think it's just one of those things that didn't connect with me, but I'm sure most people will likely enjoy it. If you're a fan of the author or the story sounds intriguing to you, I do think it's worth checking out.

My Rating: 3 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Bethany House) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Sofie Waits by Amanda Hamm

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Amber was Sofie’s first friend at a new school and they’ve been inseparable ever since. She’s been the source of countless laughs and occasional dares. She supported Sofie through college and carried her through her mom’s battle with cancer. But if Amber is her rock, Austin is Sofie’s hard place. He’s the only guy she’s ever loved. She can’t tell anyone because he’s also Amber’s brother.

Sofie has spent eleven years trapped between her feelings for Austin and her loyalty to Amber, who would be horrified to find out about those feelings. Now something has happened, something that means Sofie’s feelings for Austin are no longer a secret. Sofie can’t avoid the fallout forever, and it might not be anything like she expected.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
This story is told through alternating past/present timelines, and both timelines also have alternating points of view (switching between Sofie and Austin). Initially I was a bit skeptical about this format, but it was actually fairly interesting to see how things were revealed in one timeline and then became relevant in the other. I do think this format slightly delayed my bonding with the characters due to the shifting times, but I did eventually come to like them all. 

I was quite amused by the obsession that Austin's dad had with croquet and the way he always roped everyone else into it. Quirky stuff like this is something that I always appreciate as it makes stories more memorable for me. I was also very amused by Austin's need to consciously remind himself how truly nice one of his relatives is, despite the fact that she caused inconvenience to his plans. This is SO realistic and something that I (shamefully) can relate to, which I think made it even more amusing to me.

The alternating timelines (past/present) isn't my favorite style of storytelling, but I do have to admit that it makes for a unique reading experience. Overall I enjoyed the story as a whole, though not quite as much as some of the author's other work. Still, I'm glad I had the chance to read it and I'm anxious to continue on and check out the next book in the "Coffee and Donuts" series when it's released.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: Love in the Details by Becky Wade

Book Cover and Synopsis:
When Josh returns to his hometown of Martinsburg, Texas, to help his best friend get married, he didn’t intend to run into church wedding coordinator—and ex-girlfriend—Holly. He can’t help but pine after the girl he never got over.

Holly broke up with Josh years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. But she loved him then and still loves him now. As she helps him plan his best friend’s wedding, she can’t help but feel horrible for the pain she caused him. And even though she longs to be with Josh, she doesn’t feel worthy of his big-time lifestyle when she is more comfortable in her small town world. Will Josh and Holly be able to keep things as they are when their true feelings threaten to surface at every turn?

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
This novella has some fun and quirky things that I thought were really unique touches to the story. These little things really added some amusement, such as a senior neighbor who always tries to get Holly to bring her things like Depends and Efferdent. I also enjoyed the pact between Holly and her friend to eat at every restaurant in town during one year. This in particular was really clever and I actually feel like a whole novel could be built around it.

As for the relationship between Holly and Josh--which is the main plot--unfortunately it just didn't grab me like I hoped. Personally I'm not a big fan of breakups that revolve around one person sacrificially doing it for the good of the other, and the basis of the story here is ultimately about the long-term effects and results of that situation. I tried but I simply couldn't get as invested in it as I previously have with the author's full length novels. I'm not sure if this is simply due to the novella length or to the overall plot, but I suspect it may be a combination of both.

Overall the novella isn't "bad" by any means, but it's just not exactly my cup of tea and I doubt it will be very memorable for me in the long run. I'm glad I read it though because I do like Becky's work and there's always something fun to be found, such as the quirky things I mentioned above. If you're a fan of Becky Wade then you should definitely give it a try. If you've previously never read any of Becky's work you can still go ahead and give this one a shot, but just remember that her full length novels are even better than this one.

My Rating: 3 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Zondervan) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of any artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.

After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars—surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.

After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.

But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything—except her happily ever after.


My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
I don't know much about the original Rapunzel tale aside from long hair and a tower so I'm unsure what twists are original here, but I have to say that the Christian angle fits very well into the story--basically seamlessly. The Bible is naturally incorporated into the plot but it's not overpowering or preachy in the least. Very well done!

I enjoyed the coming-of-age feel surrounding Rupunzel, and also the relationship development between her and Sir Gerek. (And there was a lot of development! They were not the best of friends at first...) Rupunzel's mother really confused me by her actions, but at the same time it was rather interesting to see what she would do next. Her intentions and motives eventually do become clear towards the end.

One thing I noticed was there were quite a few mentions of women possibly being attacked, taken advantage of, or similarly misled by men. There's nothing particularly graphic and innuendos are not used, but nevertheless these topics just seemed to keep popping up. It may be that it's realistic for the era, but for the story I would've preferred fewer mentions of these things... especially since a younger age group will likely be a large portion of the audience. 

Overall, I really think this is some of the author's best work. My unfamiliarity with the original Rapunzel tale meant that I had no idea at all of what to expect, and I was quite enthralled through most of the story. I enjoyed very much it and I also really appreciated how the Christian/religious angle is incorporated so well. If you are a fan of fairy tales I would definitely recommend checking this one out! It's a winner!

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Thomas Nelson) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Just months after the closure of the Chicago World's Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.

Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn't merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.

Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
I found it very interesting to watch Lydia and Sebastian form a friendship despite their extremely different lifestyles. I liked how Sebastian seemed slightly different when he was around Lydia, because her influence made him want to be a better person. Honestly I'm not sure how realistic the whole storyline is, but it's definitely intriguing and it makes you think about differences in lifestyles, class, and even good vs. bad parts of town.

I was somewhat appalled by Lydia's mother's behavior as she languished in bed waiting for her daughter to catch a man to save them from their money troubles. I don't know how authentic this was, but it certainly shows the emphasis placed on a good match in the era. I liked how Lydia didn't necessarily follow her mother's money-grabbing wishes; instead Lydia thought to look ahead to her future instead of only her present circumstances.

This is apparently the final book in a series, however it works well as a stand alone. There are a few quick references to side characters that feel placed especially for those who've read the other stories, but I personally haven't read any of the previous books and I had no trouble jumping right in to this one.

Overall I mostly enjoyed the story, though I do feel it lost some momentum towards the end and unfortunately it never really recovered. The "separation" that always comes near the end of romances seemed a bit forced and didn't really fit the tone that the book had already established. Still, I did mostly enjoy the book and it makes me curious to try some of the author's other works.

My Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Zondervan) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.