Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Own The Most Books From

The topic this week is: Top Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

I don't own a ton of paperbacks anymore since I do most of my reading on my kindle. So most of these will be counted from kindle books, though I do still "own" them in a sense. :)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Chautona Havig
I own 13 of her kindle books plus numerous "episodes" from her serial stories, but I've actually only read 4 of the books. It's all because of those free kindle sale days... I can't help but snatch things up when I see them!

2. Bonnie Blythe
I own 8 of her kindle books, but I've only read 2 of them.

3. Shanna Swendson
I have all 7 books from the "Enchanted, Inc" series. Which, by the way, is my favorite series of all time! :)

4. Christine Lynxwiler
I have 7 of her books, but I've only read 3. I really should remedy that...

5. Siri Mitchell
I have 7 of her books, and I've read them all.

6. Tracie Peterson
I have 7 of her books, but I've only read 1 of them so far.

7. Amanda Hamm
I have 6 of her books, and I've read them all!

8. Karen Witemeyer
I have 6 of her books, and I've read them all!

9. Judy Pace Christie
I have all 5 books from her "Green" series, but sadly I haven't read any of them yet.

10. Nancy Moser
I have 5 of her books, but haven't read any of them yet.

I figured this list would ultimately look similar to a list of my favorite authors, but surprisingly it actually doesn't. While some definitely are my favorites, there's others on here that I've never even read before. I seriously blame it on the free kindle sale books though. I check for freebies every day and snatch up anything I might like. It's a good thing for my wallet, but I think it's made this list slightly strange, LOL.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

Book Cover and Synopsis:
When Lucinda Chapdelaine was a small child, her parents left for the royal ball and never returned. Ever since, Lucinda has been stuck in perpetual servitude at her evil aunt’s jewelry store. Then, on the very same day, a mysterious visitor and an even more bizarre piece of jewelry both enter the shop, setting in motion a string of twists and turns that will forever alter Lucinda’s path. In this magical story filled with delightful surprises, Lucinda will dance at the royal ball, fall under the Amaranth Witch’s spell, avenge her parents’ death, and maybe—just maybe—capture the heart of a prince.

My source for book: Personal Library
My Thoughts:
This one is marketed as YA fiction, but the appeal certainly isn't limited to younger readers! (I'm mid-20's and I read it!) The story has some very light Cinderella tones, and the stone/gem sort of reminded me of the ring from Lord of the Rings. (Two odd stories to pair together, for sure, but it does work rather well!) The author has some interesting ideas about other worlds, and she manages to paint an intriguing picture of these places, and of the beings--much like us, but not exactly--that live there.

Something that I really liked was the goat that acted like a dog. In my experience goats don't act anything like this, so the stark contrast to normal behavior made it unique and added to the fairy tale feel. Unless I missed something, there wasn't any explanation for the goat's intelligence or how he always managed to show up when Lucinda most needed him...but this really didn't matter. He was a fun addition, and he conveniently managed to get Lucinda out of several scrapes.

For those who are wondering about the content or appropriateness of the story: it's actually quite clean. The only possible issue I can remember is an instance where Lucinda saw some fancily-dressed ladies on the street late at night and she "realized what they were", but it was not taken any further. The language is mild overall. There were a handful of instances where God's name was misused, but otherwise I can't remember anything that might be offensive.

Though I don't think the book will be extremely memorable for me in the long run, I did enjoy it while reading it. It's not the genre that I normally read, but it actually did keep my attention without wavering. The ending is somewhat bittersweet, but overall I was fairly happy with the outcome. It features a large twist that I never saw coming, but it was ultimately good because it paved the way for a future happily-ever-after which otherwise probably wouldn't have been possible. And of course you know, happily-ever-after's are always a good thing! :)

My Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I'd Want With Me On A Deserted Island

The topic this week is "Top Ten Characters That I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island". I'm not sure if this is supposed to be strictly book characters or not, but I'm going to go a little crazy and include tv/movie characters as well.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Jack Bauer (24)
This is just an obvious choice. Anything that needs doing, he's the man to get it done. One thing's for sure: with Jack around, everyone on the island would be safe! Unless they turned out to be a traitor or something...

2. Maya Davis (from Cool Beans by Erynn Mangum)
She seems to have my exact sense of humor, and I think we'd get along really well. In a deserted island scenario, you gotta have a good friend.

3. Samantha Carter (Stargate SG-1)
If there was any technology on the island, she's the one I'd want working on it. Plus, she'd also come in handy in survival scenarios.

4. Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)
I couldn't not include a Gilmore on this list, so I chose Rory. I think she'd handle the deserted island scenario *slightly* better than Lorelai. :)


5. MacGyver
A handyman would be invaluable on a desert island, and who better to have than MacGyver!?

6. Jack Bartlett (Heartland)
Every scenario needs an older character, and Jack Bartlett is my choice for that slot. He has a lot of common sense wisdom, and a humorous way of getting his point across.

7. Elyse McCord (Cowgirl at Heart by Christine Lynxwiler)
I just finished reading this book and I really liked Elyse. I don't have any huge reason for picking her, but regardless, I'm still choosing her!

 8. Jade McKinley (Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter)
Again, I don't have a solid reason for choosing her, except that I really liked her and the book is one of my favorites.

  9. Oliver O'Toole (Signed, Sealed, Delivered)
 This seems like a strange choice, but I gotta admit that some of the other characters I've chosen don't have the best moral compass. Oliver has that, and I think he'd be a great asset in that respect.

10. Jack Shepherd (LOST)
Yes, he's low on my list, but I figure that a doctor is always good to have around. And it doesn't hurt that he already has some island experience!

This was fun, but also kind of difficult. I tried to think logically, so I obviously couldn't include characters from historical stories. Yes, I admit MacGyver isn't very current compared to all my other choices. Oh well.

How well would all these random characters get along? Hard to tell, but sadly I'm afraid it probably wouldn't be good. Nevertheless, I had fun with this!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: Collecting Zebras by Amanda Hamm

FYI: The Kindle version of this book will be free on August 1st! :)

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Angel Melling is determined to find a husband. The long held goal has recently morphed into an obsession. Being the new girl in a small town does have some advantages though. Angel quickly catches the eye of several of Hartford’s eligible bachelors.

Her quest for a husband appears to be on the right track as she embarks on the most active dating of her life. But as the guys are ruled out one after another, Angel begins to fear that she’ll run out of options. Will Angel find a guy who meets all the criteria for her happily ever after?

Collecting Zebras is the third book in the Stories From Hartford series.

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
I found Angel's mission to find a husband extremely entertaining. Despite the fact that she immediately sizes up almost every man she meets, it doesn't feel over-the-top at all. She has a slightly sarcastic voice and it helps that she can sort of laugh at her man-crazy thoughts, in spite of not being able to control them. Angel inwardly admits that she's glad people can't read her thoughts, but I have to say I'm glad the book is written in first person so I CAN read her thoughts because they are highly amusing.

There's actually a surprising number of guys featured in the story--more than I expected--and they all continually pop up throughout, sometimes acting humorously odd with motivations that aren't extremely clear. (Riley, I'm thinking of you!) Just when I'd think no more guys could be introduced, another one would come on the scene. All of this makes it interesting when you try to figure out ahead of time who Angel might end up with. No, the number of guys may not be completely realistic, but it is completely entertaining. Everything else is fairly realistic feeling, including the speed of small town talk and some misunderstandings about which guys are or are not married!

Collecting Zebras is the third book in the "Stories from Hartford" series, but as with all the Hartford books it works well as a standalone if you want to read just the one. As for the others, there's no required order for the series; the stories just kind of fit together in any way you choose to read them. One of the main constants in Hartford is Mabel, the cashier at the grocery store, who has appeared in every story so far. I just can't help but be amused by her good-natured way of sticking her nose into everyone's business while she rings up their groceries!

I do want to point out that the book is very clean. Even though husband hunting is a large part of the story, the content never steers into iffy or objectionable areas. This isn't that kind of story, and Angel isn't that kind of person. It's not preachy at all, but Angel does attend church and accordingly she is looking for someone who shares her beliefs.

Overall, I very much enjoyed Collecting Zebras and I was sad to see it end, though it did end very nicely. Thankfully, the next Hartford book releases later this year so it won't be too long before I can once again "visit" the town and its cast of characters.

My Rating: 5 stars

Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: TV Shows

I don't normally participate in these types of things, but from time to time the Top Ten Tuesday has some interesting topics. I thought I'd try it out this week, since the topic is an easy yet interesting one!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

 1. Gilmore Girls

2. Stargate SG-1

3. Stargate Atlantis

4. Psych

5. Monk

6. Bones

7. White Collar

8. Heartland

9. Signed, Sealed, Delivered

10. Mysterious Ways

Of course the list isn't necessarily in any particular order. The top ones are pretty solid, but I had trouble numbering the lower half of the list. There were other contenders as well, but in the end I decided to give the love to some lesser known shows, like Mysterious Ways (which only lasted 2 seasons).

Thanks for stopping by! Comments and follows are welcome!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can't prove it. Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom. 

For nobleman Carl von Reichert, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He's been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn't commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he'll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa's farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor. 

Annalisa senses that Karl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He's gentle, kind, and romantic--unlike any of the men she's ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love--but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.

My source for book: Local Library
My Thoughts:
A Noble Groom offers a nice twist on the traditional mail-order-spouse plot in that Annalisa's father essentially orders her a groom, but while waiting for the groom to arrive she develops feelings for someone else. Something that really intrigued me was the fact that Annalisa didn't have any experience with romance, flirting, or even kissing, despite the fact that she was widowed and had children. It was interesting to see her experience these things for the first time at her stage in life. Her reactions and thoughts seemed very realistic, especially considering her upbringing and the strict traditions of her community.

I enjoyed Carl's personality and the way he was able to make light of many situations. I loved how his playful and jokey comments were such a stark contrast to the serious manner of most everyone else! His views on women and relationships were also wildly different from the commonly accepted ones, but again, the contrast was great--especially considering that Carl was ultimately right. It's rare to find such a playful guy in fiction of this time period, but it was good. Very good.

Though I really did enjoy the story, I have to admit that I struggled with the first two chapters. They seemed very slow, with lots of unknown German words sprinkled in the dialogue and some political background that I had trouble following. I actually considered abandoning it, but thankfully I pressed on and soon found myself absorbed in the story as things quickly picked up. Maybe it was just me, I don't know... but regardless, it's definitely worth pushing through the first couple of chapters, as my overall 5 star rating shows!

The ending wasn't as concrete as I expected, but the large issues were all ultimately resolved. It actually struck me as being somewhat bittersweet--much like real life often is--but I was left with a mostly hopeful outlook for the characters' futures. Despite the first two chapters that I struggled with, I'm ultimately glad to have read the story. There's a lot of positive reviews out there for this one, and there's good reason for it. It's a great story, and fans of the genre won't want to miss it!

My Rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: Through the Deep Waters by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Born to an unloving prostitute in a popular Chicago brothel, timid seventeen-year-old Dinah Hubley was raised amidst the secrets held in every dark, grimy room of her home. Anxious to escape, Dinah pursues her dream of becoming a Harvey Girl, waiting tables along the railroad in an upscale hotel. But when she finds out she isn’t old enough, her only option is to accept a job as a chambermaid at the Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas. Eager to put everything behind her, Dinah feels more worthless than ever, based on a single horrible decision she made to survive.

The Clifton offers a life Dinah has never known, but blinded to the love around her, Dinah remains buried in the shame of her past. When a handsome chicken farmer named Amos Ackerman starts to show interest, Dinah withdraws further, convinced no one could want a sullied woman like her.  Despite his self-consciousness about his handicapped leg and her strange behavior, Amos resolves to show Dinah Christ’s love. But can she ever accept a gift she so desperately needs?

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
Dinah's situation is a tough one, and it's something that Christian fiction doesn't often delve into. The set-up for the story is actually quite intriguing as young Dinah plots how to start a fresh new life, with her need for travel funds being at the top of her requirements. Out of desperation she makes a bad choice that brings about some uncomfortable scenes, though the author does handle them fairly well despite going into slightly more detail than I expected. (Nothing graphic, though!) It's a heartbreaking scenario--no doubt it's fairly realistic for some girls--and it does serve to open up your mind to the tragic and secret pasts that some people have.

The point-of-view switches back and forth between Dinah, Amos, and Ruthie. I liked the perspectives of Dinah and Amos, but unfortunately I found Ruthie's perspective somewhat annoying, especially in the beginning. She alternated between being overly happy and perky or being overcome with feelings of jealousy towards Dinah. Though her misjudgement and envy towards Dinah is actually realistic, overall I found it to be irksome considering the truth of Dinah's sad past. In Ruthie's defense though, I really appreciated the lesson she learned of how she needed to pursue her relationship with God in order to gain happiness, rather than pinning all her hopes on finding a husband.

I have to admit that the writing struck me as having a somewhat simple vibe. The storyline isn't simple, but the way it's written--the dialogue in particular--has a somewhat plain feeling. I've never experienced this with any of the author's other books, so I was somewhat caught off guard by it. I can't really describe it any better than I have, but something about it unfortunately made me view the characters as being slightly immature for their ages.

Though the story started out fairly strong, I felt that it began to run out of steam about half or three-quarters of the way through. In the end Dinah is forced to face her past head on, and the way it played out was a situation I saw coming long before it happened. It got so predictable that I ultimately became anxious to see the end simply so I could move on to something else. If you're a die-hard fan of Kim's writing then it's probably still worth checking this one out....but otherwise, I would recommend reading one of her other works instead. (I highly recommend My Heart Remembers or Echoes of Mercy.)

My Rating: 3 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Waterbrook) for providing me with a review copy.