Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man's world ... which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder.

Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears though. He's a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line.

My Thoughts:
As commonplace as telephones are nowadays, it's easy to forget their humble beginnings and the ladies who manually connected each call through large switchboards. "Love on the Line" brightly paints this era of the past, easily bringing it to life in full color.

Georgie is quite the character, being an independent single woman in a time when such a thing was truly unusual. Her job as a rural switchboard operator is simply fascinating, and I loved reading about the "party lines" that I've heard my grandmother talk about!! I always appreciate when a fictional novel can be entertaining while at the same time bringing to light trends and issues from the past, and Georgie's love for birds brings up one of these forgotten issues--the fashion of placing taxidermy birds on women's hats and gowns. I find the idea quite appalling, so I was completely on Georgie's side as she tried to put a dent in the sales of such items. Her ideas on how to stop fashion with "bird parts" were interesting to follow, and never more so than when she butted heads with Luke on the issue.

Now, about Luke/Lucious: simply put, he was a superb character. It was really cool how he actually seemed like two totally different people, depending on what clothes he wore and if he was acting undercover or not. When undercover as Luke he appeared so normal, but his true identity of Lucious was more like the "Jack Bauer" of Texas Rangers, and you just can't deny the coolness of that! Though there were a few times when I wasn't completely on board with his actions, I admit that it did make for entertaining reading, keeping me riveted to the page in anticipation of the outcome!

This story has so much going on that it's impossible to cover it all without giving spoilers... I feel like I've been through so much with these characters, and now that I've finished the book I'm rather sad to be leaving my "friends." (I did notice that Bettina seems like a great candidate for a book of her own, and the epilogue seemed like it could easily be leading up to that. I hope at some point her story will be told!) I'm ashamed to confess that I put off reading "Love on the Line" for quite a while, thinking that it would just be average--but I couldn't have been more wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and I would highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction! This one is a real winner!

My Rating: 5 stars

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just for fun: Spine Poetry

The spine poetry craze is making the rounds among the book bloggers, and I can't help but join in.
I raided my bookshelf, along with my mother's, and this is what I came up with.

I can only imagine a cowboy's touch,
under the big sky, by the shores of silver lake.
Together for good, for better or for worse,
from this day forward, cowgirl at heart. 

I've never been a huge fan of poetry, so mine is more of a story... but I'm still rather pleased with how it turned out! :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Meet Cute by Amanda Hamm

Book Cover and Synopsis:
5 stories… 5 couples… 1 cute collection…

THE SLOW LANE – Slow traffic on the way home from work is never any fun. Or is it? When the good-looking guy in another car starts flirting with Mia, she ends up enjoying the commute and the surprise it brings.

MY BROTHER THE MATCH-MAKER – Tabby’s brother likes to play match-maker. She insists she doesn’t want his help. Will Tabby have to admit she likes the guy her brother picked for her or will she finally see her good friend as something more?

WAITING FOR THE BUS - Wes isn’t waiting for the bus. He always knows exactly what time it arrives. He knows what time she arrives to wait for it. Can he figure out the mystery woman? And will he have a chance to capture her attention as well as she has captured his?

NOW IS GOOD – Emily and Zane get two chances to meet two years apart. What happens when only one of them remembers the first time?

PIZZA HEAVEN – Pizza Heaven has mouthwatering food and a fun atmosphere. It’s a dream job for most of the college students who work there. Kara in particular doesn’t want to leave and she’s attached to something besides the pizza. The problem? She doesn’t have the courage to tell him.

My Thoughts:
This collection of 5 short stories is aptly named, as each story details "cute" first meetings paired with sweet and creative ways of asking the ever important "will-you-go-out-with-me?" question. From matchmaking, to accidental meetings, and long-held crushes, all of these scenarios are explored in the stories. Each one is very clean, and though they're not overtly Christian or religious, there are light undertones of faith woven in.

Most of the stories use a first person writing style, which I always enjoy as it allows me to feel more connected to the characters. I quite like the unique atmosphere of Amanda Hamm's work; it's uncomplicated while at the same time being very amusing, with subtle (and not-so-subtle) humor woven in through the inner-thoughts of the characters. They seem real--just like average everyday people--which makes it easy to picture yourself in their shoes.

While I thought all of the stories were cute, my favorite by far was "Pizza Heaven." It's been several days since I read it, but my mind continues to go back and revisit the story. The restaurant setting was great fun, and the characters and their personalities were awesome; I was immediately comfortable with them, which made it easy to cheer for and sympathize with them through their ups and downs. "Pizza Heaven" is the longest story in the collection, and while it's very complete and doesn't feel too short, I do admit to wishing it had been longer--simply because I enjoyed it so much! :)

I don't often read short stories as I honestly just finish them too quickly, however I did enjoy this collection. It's easy to be amused by the great bits of banter, sweet and harmless flirting, and one or two humorously awkward scenarios. In keeping with our times cell phones play a big part in two of the stories, and the sheer creativity of how they are used is delightful. If you're a fan of short stories or if you're just looking for something light and fun, this collection is a good one to consider!

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Grace's Pictures by Cindy Thomson

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Grace McCaffery hopes the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader.

A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness.

My Thoughts:
The description of this story really captured my attention, immediately drawing a grand picture in my mind of the potential fun that could be had with the scenario. Unfortunately, the execution of the plot fell somewhat flat and left me rather disappointed.

The story started out well enough, and initially I liked Grace and Owen, the two main characters. Their interactions were entertaining, especially when Grace was still fresh off the boat from Ireland. But somewhere along the way, perhaps around the 1/3 mark, I found my attention starting to waver, and it never fully recovered.

Grace's distrust of police officers results in her and Owen having little interaction for a large portion--right in the middle--of the story, and I feel this is one of the downfalls. It forced the plot to mostly revolve around their separate lives, which ultimately served to make Owen look like a work-a-holic and to make Grace look overly naive. They were kept apart so long that when they finally did start to work together in the end, I could no longer see any connection or chemistry between them.

I felt the conflict wasn't played up enough, and what conflict there was seemed to be spread across several different subplots. In particular, I thought the side story involving Owen's parents was unnecessary and didn't add much, aside from length, to the overall novel. Grace's issue with her employer being involved in questionable practices initially appeared like it might offer a fun/creepy vibe, but it fizzled out and was resolved without much commotion.

I did like the parts where the Brownie camera came into play, however I felt it wasn't used to the full potential. The gangster matter also wasn't as predominant as I thought it could be. Ultimately, I feel the story would be stronger if it were trimmed and tightened up. I don't like giving 3 star ratings, and I really do like the *idea* of the story... but at this point I have to admit that I'm glad to have finished the book so I can move on to something else. 

My Rating: 3 stars

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

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she'll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she's sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she'd rather leave buried.

For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father's dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

My Thoughts:
My feelings on this one are mixed, but I can wholeheartedly say that the foreign setting (Scotland) is quite charming and gives the book a unique atmosphere. I also appreciated the eccentric words and phrases that the locals use in everyday conversation; there's just something about foreign expressions that I find intriguing and fun.

The story focuses on Andrea and James, with the point of view alternating back and forth. Neither one is where they should be in their relationship with God, so a large portion of the book actually reads more like a non-christian novel. This isn't to say it's not clean, for the most part it is, but it just has a slightly "worldly" feel to it. (An example of this is that the characters have alcoholic drinks with almost every meal. While I realize there are many different views on this subject, personally it leaves me feeling unsettled.)

Andrea sort of gave me the impression of a stick in the mud...she is very goal and work oriented, and the hurts from her past only serve to amplify her work-a-holic tendencies, resulting in her keeping everyone at arm's length. Perhaps it's because I've never experienced anywhere near what she has, but I simply couldn't relate to her on any level. As for James, he's a bit too forward in his flirtations; though he technically never does anything inappropriate, he makes some comments that toe the line. Some of this is amusing when you see how all-professional Andrea responds, but at other times his flirtations were just a bit "too much" for my taste.

Overall, I do feel the book is well written and researched....however, it just wasn't my cup of tea. Undeniably there were some parts that I enjoyed and found intriguing, but there were simply too many things that didn't "click" with me, which is the reason for my 3 star rating.

My Rating: 3 stars