Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Lucy Kendall always assumed she'd help her father in his candy-making business, creating recipes and aiding him in their shared passion. But after a year traveling in Europe, Lucy returns to 1910 St. Louis to find her father unwell and her mother planning to sell the struggling candy company. Determined to help, Lucy vows to create a candy that will reverse their fortunes.

St. Louis newcomer Charlie Clarke is determined to help his father dominate the nation's candy industry. Compromise is not an option when the prize is a father's approval, and falling in love with a business rival is a recipe for disaster when only one company can win. Will these two star-crossed lovers let a competition that turns less than friendly sour their dreams?

My Thoughts:
Thinking about this novel, the first word that comes to my mind is "unique". Very unique. In a very, very good way!

The point of view switches back and forth between Lucy and Charlie, with first person writing (which I love because it puts you RIGHT THERE in the characters heads). I really enjoyed the interaction between Lucy and Charlie. It's obvious they "click", they just kind of fit together, but the long standing feud between their fathers' rival candy companies inevitably pits them again each other. They frustrate each other to no end, especially when it becomes apparent that neither is afraid to play dirty (often with amusing results) in their quest to disrupt the others candy business.

I really liked Lucy's personality...some of the thoughts that run through her head seem more fitting for a girl of today, rather than early 20th century, but not in a bad way at all. I actually really liked this as it made her very easy to relate to and sympathize with. She gets put into some humorously strange situations, and it's quite fun to watch how she reacts.

The time period is a good one; I really enjoyed "visiting" an era so full of progress and change. Automobiles are coming into popularity, mixing with horses and buggies on the streets. The telephone is available and used at many businesses, yet it's still "new" enough that many people have never used one. (Charlie's first encounter with a phone is seen, which is interesting and humorous at the same time.) Advertising is only by word-of-mouth or printed posters, and defacing or covering up a rival's poster is considered fair game.

As the story progressed and the rivalry between Lucy and Charlie escalated, the stakes got larger than I ever imagined possible. It's kind of a wild ride, and there were times when I was absolutely clueless as to how things could ever be neatly wrapped up! I must admit that fairly early on I had a sneaking suspicion about who the "bad guy" would be....and when the reveal came, it turned out I was partially right, but I did still have alot of fun getting there.

I highly recommend this one! I'm a long time fan of Siri Mitchell, and once again she's delivered an excellent story. The candy-centered plot is fun, unique, and very memorable. Pick this one up, you won't regret it!

My Rating: 5 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Bethany House) for providing me with this e-book for review via NetGalley.   

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: Trouble at Lake Lorraine by Sherry Chamblee

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Her best friend calls her reckless, her mom says she’s nosy - KerryAnne thinks of herself as blessed with hyper-observationalism. She hopes that someday it will all add up to a career as a journalist. For now, she just needs to get through Bible college, maybe even go on a date once in awhile.

Class projects, school newspapers, all-night cram sessions, terrifying noises in the middle of the night - the perfect start to a freshman year.

Trouble follows KerryAnne Dawson, she can’t help it. Mystery is around every corner, and she likes it that way. So when the mystery begins on campus, she’s ready for it.

There couldn’t be a better start to her first year in college than by uncovering the mystery at Lake Lorraine. 

My Thoughts:
I've felt for a while that the Christian fiction market needs more books with college-age characters, so I was happy to stumble across this title. Granted, mysteries aren't my preferred genre, but I was still curious to check it out.

The book is written in first person from Kerry's point of view, but in my opinion Tim is the highlight of the entire book. Initially I felt the story was just "okay", but my overall feeling greatly improved once his character became more integral to the story (about half way through). Tim is very happy-go-lucky, always looking for the humor in things, but he is occasionally serious as well. Kerry has a fairly serious personality, and she finds Tim's funny-man act completely aggravating...but nevertheless, when Tim is around Kerry tends to loosen up as she tries to come up with retorts to his smart remarks. The banter between them can't be calling anything less than flirting, though Kerry doesn't yet realize it.

The book is marketed as Young Adult, I'd say probably for mid-teens. There were a few things that struck me as slightly unrealistic, and occasionally the characters and their actions felt a bit more "high school" than "college". There is a noticeable lack of adults at the college; I honestly can't imagine college faculty just sitting back while events of this nature were occurring....but I think all of this stems from the Young Adult target audience. Despite all this, and my not being in the Young Adult age range (I'm mid-twenties), I still found the story to be worth reading. If you're a bit older, don't just instantly dismiss it! :)

Trouble at Lake Lorraine appears to be the start of a series about KerryAnne. The story ends somewhat abruptly; though the mystery is solved, everything else is left fairly open, so it's obvious the author has plans for additional stories about Kerry. I'm undecided if I will follow the series or not...Kerry is a bit too obsessed with mysteries for my taste, but I really did like Tim and the banter he has with Kerry. I'd be interested in seeing their relationship grow, so you never know, I may just decide to check out the next installment.

My Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: A Wedding Date in Hot Springs, Arkansas by Annalisa Daughety

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Sometimes there’s a thin line between love and hate. . . 

Violet Matthews has always been unlucky in love, but it never bothered her until her little sister’s wedding. The idea of facing the event alone is more than she can stand, and she’s determined to have a date. Online dating, speed dating. . .she doesn’t care what it takes. And when that fails, she hires a matchmaker. Leave it to a professional, right? 

Wrong. When Violet arrives for lunch with her match, she is horrified. She’s been paired with Jackson Stratford, an old college classmate. She didn’t like him then and she doesn’t like him now. But Jackson has a plan: he’ll be her “boyfriend” at the wedding if she’ll be his “girlfriend” at his high school reunion. And no one will be the wiser. 

As they go on a series of dates designed to make them look like a real couple, they’re surprised by how much fun they have together. But when the past rears its ugly head, Violet and Jackson find themselves on shaky ground. 

Can they turn their faux relationship into something real, or are there some wounds that cannot heal?

My Thoughts:
I'm generally a sucker for fake relationship scenarios that turn into something more, so I was thrilled to get my hands on this! Violet and Jackson are old college enemies, but they're about to discover each other is the solution for getting their respective families off their backs about not being in a relationship.

The point of view shifts between 4 characters, with Violet being the most "main" character. Violet is very unique, but I liked her a lot. She has an eclectic sense of style and a love of vintage things because they remind her of simpler times. Her attachment to her aging dog is very bittersweet and definitely something I could relate to.

Jackson originally struck me as being kind of a jerk, but as time went on I started to warm to him. Later on, I actually found it hard to believe he was the same character as the "jerk" I perceived in the beginning. He actually became somewhat sweet, and the casual interaction between him and Violet was fun to watch.

Shadow really surprised me by being a very likable character. As a troubled teen with a tragic past, she starts off with an attitude, but gradually she comes out of her shell. I enjoyed watching her progress and growth. I actually feel like she would be a good candidate for a book of her own.

Reagan's story was my least favorite; perhaps it's where I am in life, but her various problems (taking care of 4 kids, not having time for herself, worrying if her husband is still committed, etc) didn't really interest me. I felt like she was always nagging at her husband, which is something that really rubs me the wrong way. Overall I felt her part of the story was a bit cliché, and the book as a whole would have been quite fine without her part.

Occasionally some of the dialogue felt a bit stiff...I find that real people generally don't talk quite so precise or formal....however, it certainly wasn't enough to hamper my enjoyment of the story. This is the first book by Annalisa Daughety that I've read, but I definitely wouldn't hesitate to pick up another of her works. Recommended!

My Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Barbour) for providing me with this e-book for review via NetGalley.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Match Point by Erynn Mangum

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Matchmaker Lauren Holbrook is happy after putting together four successful couples. That is, until the tables are turned and she’s on the receiving end of the matchmaking!

Lauren and her boyfriend, Ryan, devise a plan to make it look as if they’ve broken up so people will get off their backs about marriage. No problem, right? That’s of course until Lauren realizes she’s in love.

My Thoughts:
Laurie and Ryan have been casually dating for over a year, and all the while Laurie has constantly been practicing her hobby of unwanted matchmaking on her friends and acquaintances. But she's in for a big surprise when her friends start giving her a taste of her own medicine!

I found it quite humorous that Laurie's friends turned her matchmaking habit around on her, and Ryan's plan to get "revenge" on the matchmakers was amazingly fun...however, sadly I felt that some of the magic between Laurie and Ryan was lost once everyone started pushing them together. Yes, it's obvious that they make a great couple... but I really liked the slow and steady pace their relationship was built on. Many parts of the plot were quite fun, but ultimately I think I would've preferred to see Laurie and Ryan find their own way, instead of everyone trying to speed up their relationship.

Something that really stood out to me, that I really loved, was how Laurie tends to freeze up when she finds herself in a romantic situation. She is always so happy when her friends are in mushy situations, but when it happens to her, she just about panics. I loved that! It's so "real" and down-to-earth. It certainly doesn't fit into the standard mold for novel romances, but then again, Laurie is anything but normal...which is why she is so awesome as a character.

Despite my small nitpicking in a few places on Match Point, I still say Erynn Mangum is the ultimate queen of Christian Chick-Lit, hands down. No one can match her off-the-wall banter and quirky, yet realistic characters. This is the end of the Lauren Holbrook series, but I am anxiously awaiting her next book release!

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: Rematch by Erynn Mangum

Book Cover and Synopsis:
With two matches under her belt, Lauren’s ready to get back to work. Lucky for her, her job at The Brandon Knox Photography Studio makes it even easier to work her magic on her best friend and boss, Brandon, and the adorable receptionist, Hannah. And since she’s at Shawn’s cafĂ© every day anyway (a girl’s gotta feed her caffeine and chocolate addictions, doesn’t she?), why not look for his perfect match as well?

But with all her love-connection luck, Lauren’s thrown for a loop when her dad announces that he’s heading out of town for a singles’ retreat. And in the midst of panicking about her dad and potential future stepmom, there's also the matter of Ryan: Love interest or friend? Only time, vats of coffee, and pounds of chocolate will tell!

My Thoughts:
Erynn Mangum has delivered another winner! Lauren and all her friends are back in this second installment in the Lauren Holbrook trilogy. There's more banter, more coffee, more chocolate, and yes, of course there is more matchmaking to be done!

One (of the many) things I really enjoyed is the sibling relationships that are shown. There are several pairs of siblings in Lauren's circle of friends, and Lauren's two sisters also have a part in the story. All of these relationships translate so well onto paper, with all the craziness, care, and teasing of close brothers and sisters. It's this exact family dynamic that is missing from many books today, but thankfully this series has it in spades!

Being the middle book in the trilogy, it's becoming subtly obvious that Ryan's feelings for Lauren are the long-term kind, but ironically, Lauren, the matchmaker extraordinaire, simply can't see it. Though she likes hanging out with Ryan and dating in their somewhat casual way, she doesn't know exactly where they stand. Ryan is so sweet to her, and it's just so much fun to watch his efforts and her cluelessness.

As a Christian, I know that God is sovereign and is the author of any future relationships I may have, however, I sort of hope my happy ending is written in the style of an Erynn Mangum novel. :) There's just so much to like about her characters. If you like chick-lit and haven't yet read this series, what are you waiting for!?

My Rating: 5 stars