Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Sandwich, With A Side of Romance by Krista Phillips

Book Cover and Synopsis:
She moved to Sandwich, Illinois, in search of a new life, but ended up in a giant pickle. 

Sandwich represents hope for twenty-year-old Maddie Buckner and Kyle, the eleven-year-old brother Maddie wants to spring out of foster care. Then she loses her new job after less than a day. It's all Reuben-the-Jerk's fault, and she's determined to make him right the wrong. He does so, reluctantly, by giving her a job at his restaurant, The Sandwich Emporium. Then crazy things start happening at the restaurant, and Kyle's foster parents apply to adopt him. To stop it all, Maddie must learn the art of humbling herself and accepting the help God has arranged, risking her heart to Reuben in the process. And she'd rather eat a million corned-beef on rye sandwiches than do that.

My Thoughts:
Okay, who can honestly say they aren't intrigued by the title of this book?! It just screams that there is fun to be had, and I simply couldn't resist checking it out.

The back-and-forth bantering dialogue between Maddie and Reuben is perpetual and while amusing, it's often extremely snarky, due in part to the unfortunate circumstances of how they met. Reuben has a temper that often blows up, causing Maddie to privately think of him as "Reuben-the-jerk", a nickname that is often deserved. Many of the things Maddie says to Reuben in the course of their bantering are simply astonishing, I would never have the guts to talk to my boss that way... but then again, I've never had to work for "Reuben-the-jerk!" It's all very interesting and humorous to read, but I admit to initially having trouble imagining a relationship working out for them in the presence of all their snarky comments.

Maddie's hard past displays itself in her often sarcastic comments, but occasionally I felt her sarcasm was a bit forced, like she was trying just a bit too hard to be "funny". A few times her thought processes concerned me, as she seemed a bit irreverent towards God... now granted, she acknowledges this and says it's a deal she has with God to keep things "real", but it still bothered me somewhat.

This is Krista Phillips debut novel, and ultimately while I'm not sure it will be extremely memorable for me in the long run, it was a good diversion and definitely had a unique plot. The small issues I had certainly wouldn't stop me from picking up another one of her books in the future.

My Rating: 3.5, rounded up to 4 stars
Thanks to the publisher (Abingdon Press) for providing me with an e-arc via NetGalley for review.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review: The Wedding Cake Girl by Anne Pfeffer

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Seventeen year old Alexandra spends so much time helping others realize their dreams that she never has time for her own. An expert ocean diver and reluctant maker of wedding cakes, she longs to leave roses and frosting behind to study oceanography. Alex’s mother won’t have it—needy and dependent, Mom can’t run the family wedding cake business on her own.

No matter what Alex does, things only get worse for her. When she risks her life to save a tourist while scuba diving and becomes the local hero, Mom's angry with Alex for going diving at all. Mom also discourages Alex's new friendship with the insanely wealthy Jeremy, a fun boy with a secret. Then, Alex's best friend, Zack, a hunky island guy, starts to take an interest in her as well. The problem is, he's dating another girl.

As Alex struggles to learn where she stands between her two difficult and confusing Prince Charmings, it occurs to her that maybe what she really needs is a Prince Charming for Mom. If she doesn't do something, she will make cakes all her life and die in her "Sue's Wedding Cakery" apron with a spatula in her hand.

Featuring a colorful island setting, dangerous underwater diving adventures, a family of billionaires, and lots and lots of buttercream, this is Alex's journey toward not only finding love, but learning how to step forward and take control of her own life, a rite of passage that faces all young readers.

My Thoughts:
This book starts out as a light and fun story with a unique island setting, and the characters are immediately likeable and easy to sympathize with. Alex's diving hobby is a fun diversion; the underwater scenes are written so vividly that it's easy to imagine yourself in the situations. Of course there are a couple slightly unrealistic (but fun!) plot points, but overall I initially found the story to be quite enjoyable and a nice change of pace. I was all set to give a rating of 4 or 5 stars, until....

Unfortunately, about two-thirds of the way through the tone of the story changes, with sex becoming a larger issue than what I care to read about. During make-out sessions Alex's boyfriend lightly pressures her, and while she resists, she does consider giving in. Closer to the end, one of the main characters admits to being gay, which was unexpected and in my opinion seemed forced... it was as if the story was mostly written and then someone had a last minute idea to throw this in for controversy. These were both very disappointing happenings in a book that I originally thought would be a fun, mostly innocent "trip" to an island...

Honestly, in the beginning I really did enjoy the story; the diving scenes were exciting and fun, and the wedding cake business was interesting as well. However, when the tone changed and the above mentioned topics became front and center, my interest waned and I just wanted to be done so I could move on to other things. I wish the story had played out differently, because it had potential and was on a good fun streak until things suddenly got muddied by what I consider unnecessary themes.

For those wanting more info on possible content concerns:
Obviously there are the issues mentioned above, but of top of that, God's name is misused a dozen or so times, and minor profanities such as h*ll, *ss, etc, are each used a few times. A couple innuendos are present, and one time Alex visits a friend's house and discovers he has a girl in his room; nothing graphic is really seen, it's more just implied and then later referenced a couple times.

My Rating: 3 stars

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: Hatteras Girl by Alice J. Wiser

Book Cover and Synopsis:
There are two things twenty-nine-year-old Jackie Donovan asks God for: an honest, wonderful man to marry, and to own a bed-and-breakfast in the Outer Banks region. In the meantime, Jackie works for Lighthouse Views magazine, writing articles about other local business owners, and intrepidly goes on the blind dates set up by her well-meaning but oh-so-clueless relatives.

There's one specific property Jackie dreams of purchasing: the Bailey Place, a fabulous old home where Jackie spent many happy childhood afternoons, a place that has now fallen into disrepair because of its outrageous price tag. When Jackie meets handsome Davis Erickson, who holds the key to the Bailey Place, Jackie is sure God has answered both her prayers. But as Jackie learns some disturbing details about Davis's past, she begins to question her own motivation. Will she risk her long-held dreams to find out the truth?

My Thoughts:
Okay, I admit, this was a really enjoyable read! Hatteras Girl is a very relaxing story; the comfortable writing style makes it almost effortless to get wrapped up in Jackie's life and her dream of owning the Bailey House B&B. I was floored by the price tag of her dream location, but you gotta admire how Jackie didn't let that deter her from pursuing her dream.

Jackie's friendly bantering relationship with Buck at the local grille is fun to watch, and her budding relationship with Davis, the owner of the Bailey House, is very interesting to see unfold. (Be careful in making judgments, because Jackie just might not end up with who you initially guess! *wink, wink*) The quirky friends and relatives that round out the cast of characters in Jackie's life are realistic, with past pains and sorrows, but yet they have enough eccentric traits to keep things mostly light and amusing. (I couldn't help being amused by her aunt's continual song-writing habit!)

The beachy/hometown setting is strangely familiar and comfortable, which makes it very enjoyable to follow Jackie around town as she goes about her daily business of holding down a job, dealing with friends and family, and continually pursuing her dream of one day owning the Bailey House B&B. If you're looking for a relaxing change of pace from your day-to-day life, Hatteras Girl might be just the ticket you've been looking for!  

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

Book Cover and Synopsis:
When costume-maker Ellie Moore suddenly finds herself out of a job in the middle of a bleak Chicago winter, she uses her knowledge of theatrical disguise to secure a position as an undercover operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her assignment: find the culprit behind the theft of silver shipped from the mines near Pickford, Arizona. 

Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie begins her investigation. Soon she finds she must also pose as the dazzling young Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk. 

Mine owner Steven Pierce is about to lose his business after the theft of several bullion shipments--until hope arrives in the unlikely form of Lavinia Stewart, who offers to invest in Steven's mine. In his wildest dreams, Steven never expected to be rescued by an inquisitive gray-haired widow . . . or to fall head over heels for Lavinia's captivating niece, Jessie. 

But then the thieves come after both Lavinia and Jessie. Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays! Will she be forced to reveal her true identity before the criminals are caught? What will Steven do when he discovers the woman he loves doesn't exist?

My Thoughts:
For some reason I find Pinkerton Detectives to be a mysterious and intriguing subject in fiction, so I gladly picked up this book. I was quickly amused watching Ellie weasel her way into the Pinkerton job, with no qualifications except her unique ability to disguise herself!

Ellie's scheme of splitting herself into two "characters" for the benefit of her investigation was very unique and definitely an amusing idea. I rather feel like I've seen something similar in a sitcom or movie somewhere...I think the idea may be a bit better suited to film, but it was still an interesting read. I expected a bit more humor with Ellie trying to keep others from finding out her game, but the story actually ended up having more of a serious tone, without venturing much into humor. Although, I will say I found it amusing watching Ellie try to hide her attraction for a certain man. When the entire town (and the man in question) think you are an elderly lady, it's not good to appear interested in a man half your age! :)

Overall, I have to say I wasn't able to connect with the characters quite as much as I would've liked, and I'm not really sure what the reason is. I did "like" the story, I just didn't "love" it. For sure, it's definitely well written and researched, and the storyline is very unique; it's certainly not just the typical historical tale! If you're looking for something a little outside the box, this would be a good choice.

My Rating: 3.5 stars
(I received this book courtesy of the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, a positive review was not required.)