Tag Archives: Book reviews

“A Banquet of Lies” is an Intriguing Romance

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Giselle Barrington is not your average young lady of good breeding. First, she has a passionate interest in cooking and she uses her scholar-father’s travels to collect recipes and second, she is often the carrier of whatever spy secrets her father is currently transporting. After watching her father’s brutal murder, Giselle is forced to flee and seek cover somewhere while she tries to unravel the mystery of where the last message her father was carrying should go. Not knowing who to trust, she takes a job as a chef which gives her a sudden and unique perspective of the politics of downstairs and the inequities of the classes.
Michelle Diener takes a slightly improbably premise and turns out a lovely, intriguing and well-written romantic suspense that will engage readers from the first page. While some of the elements of the story may not be new to readers, they are like an outfit that has been freshly pressed and newly accessorized…pleasing and fresh, even if you’ve seen some of the pieces before. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend “A Banquet of Lies.” The story is fun, engaging and perfect for a mental vacation. Giselle is a lovely, independent and highly likeable heroine. One word of warning, you may be craving a croissant before you finish this book, the cooking scenes are quite delectable!
“Banquet of Lies” is from Gallery Books and scheduled for release on October 22nd, 2013. This book was provided to me for this review. However, the opinions are entirely my own!

“Please Don’t Take My Baby” is Thought Provoking

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Take a pregnant teen, a reluctant foster carer who usually only takes young children, and add in the difficulties of alcohol abuse and you can prepare yourself for a pretty grim outcome. Cathy Glass, however, in her telling of her experience with a 17 year-old, unwed mother manages to capture your heart. Told from her perspective as a foster care giver in England, Cathy manages to keep you guessing as to the outcome of this story until the final pages. It’s a riveting account of both the young mother’s journey and Cathy’s own journey as she tries to prepare this young woman for motherhood and teach her appropriate mothering skills while not taking over the parenting process herself.
As a US reader familiar with our own foster care system, it was interesting to see the difference in the UK policies regarding possibly unfit parents. As the mother of a child adopted through the state, it was interesting to see how my child’s life might have been affected differently under a different set of policies. If you’re the least bit affected or interested in the statistics of teen pregnancy or you just love a good human interest story, you will enjoy “Please Don’t Take My Baby.” It provides an interesting look into the story of one young woman and the mentor who tried to show her the way. “Please Don’t Take My Baby” is scheduled for US release on October 22, 2013.
This book was provided to me by Harper Collins for this review. The opinions, however, are entirely my own!

“Before I Knew You” is a Dazzling Story of London During the Early Jazz Age

before i met you
Elizabeth and Arlette have one thing in common, an appreciation of all things beautiful. When Elizabeth finds this common link with the elderly mother of her mom’s boyfriend, she begins a relationship that will literally change the course of her life. As she struggles to grant Arlette’s last wish, her journey to London will uncover both a past she never would have suspected and a future she didn’t anticipate.
Lisa Jewell is an absolute master craftsperson of words and her story will pull you in and make it nearly impossible to put the book down. Compelling and exquisitely human, “Before I Knew You” explores race relations in London in the early Jazz Age as well as the pitfalls of coming of age in any era. Told with a wonderful narrative voice, the tale is beautifully balanced. We are as eager to see Elizabeth’s progress in modern London as we are to uncover the secrets of Artlette’s past. Both women come to life on the pages with beautiful prose and fabulous turns of phrasing that will have you laughing out loud one moment and sighing the next.
“Before I Met You” is due to be released from Atria Books on October 15th, 2013.
This book was provided to me by Atria Books for this review. The opinions, however, are entirely my own!

“The Bookstore” is a Quirky Delight!

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Esme Garland, 23 and British, is studying art in New York when her life takes an unexpected turn. Suddenly in need of an extra income, she gets a part-time job at her favorite used bookstore, The Owl. The Owl’s colorful staff and customers become a kind of family who help see Esme through.
Deborah Meyler has crafted an exquisite novel of friendship and how the most unlikely people sometimes become the most important people in our lives. “The Bookstore” draws you in from the first page and never disappoints. The characters are memorable and original and the story is certainly not your average “girl in the big city” story. Unexpected twists and turns take Esme and the reader on a one of a kind journey that proves once again that love shows itself in a myriad of unexpected ways.
“The Bookstore” by Deborah Meyler is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster on August 20, 2013.
This book was provided to me by Simon & Schuster for this review. The opinions, however, are entirely my own.

“To Love and Cherish” Feels Like the Wrong Time Zone


Ok, first let me say that, in my opinion, historical fiction should do two things. It should tell a story and it should allow the reader to get a feel for another time period. “To Love and Cherish” does the first but falls flat in the second. The basic story is about a young woman in love who injudiciously leaves her employer to rush to find out the fate of the man she loves after a hurricane hits the resort island where he works. When she arrives and finds, to her relief, that he is alive and well, he mystifies her by his reluctance to get married to her. Not a bad story line but setting it in 1898 didn’t do a thing for it. The time period doesn’t feel consistent and characters do and say things that feel wrong for the time. The overall effect is a bit jarring. I would have liked this better if it had been set in modern day against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina.
I enjoy and admire Tracie Peterson’s writing but I like her a lot more when she stays in current day. On the plus side, this is the kind of romance you can share with a middle or high school age friend without worrying about them reading anything more than PG. In all honesty, I can only give this one middle marks which is a pity as I was prepared to like it a lot more than that!
This book was provided to me by Bethany House for this review.

“Insignificant” is Like a Strong Cup of Coffee for the Spirit


Have you ever had those mornings where you wanted to pull the covers back over your head because your work seems unimportant and boring? Times when you wonder if what you do really matters? .If so, then Chris Travis’ “Insignificant, Why You Matter in the Surprising Way God is Changing the World” is better than a cup of strong coffee to help get you back in the groove. Chris is no stranger to feeling like his work was a waste of effort. His stories of working as a teacher in one of the most violent schools in New York will both inspire and encourage you. (And, possibly make you re-think how bad your job really is!)
It’s easy in the day-to-day sameness of a job or childrearing to feel like your efforts aren’t counting for anything. Chris Travis gives us a shot in the arm of encouragement and advice that, while it will not change the job, may change your heart.
I’d recommend “Insignificant” for high school and older readers. It’s a good reminder that, whether you are running a corporation or a household, everything we do has significance and eternal value.

This book was provided to me for this review by Bethany House.

“Touching the Sky” Explores Post-Civil War Texas

Texas has always been a great setting for novels but post civil war Texas is fraught with tensions that make it even better. Add the unmarried daughter of a Northern sympathizer, an unsolved murder of six Union soldiers, a handsome captain working undercover to solve the murders and a smattering of flirtation and you have the makings of a very fun read. “Touching the Sky” is one part historical fiction, one part mystery and one part romance that adds up nicely. I’ve only read Tracie Peterson writing fiction in a modern setting before and I would have to say that the one weakness I found with this book is that her historical setting is occasionally marred by too-current of language or interactions. If I were grading, I’d give her story an “A” for originality, characters and setting but a low “B” for historical consistency. However, if you’re really in it for the romance and the characters, it’s easy to forgive the few slips and just enjoy the story. It’s not “Gone With the Wind” but it will take you to another time and place and give you an enjoyable reading experience. Oh, and just a warning, this book could leave you with a craving for Southern cooking!
This book was provided to me by Bethany House for this review.

“The Fiddler” Strikes a Lovely Note

Two young adults meet by chance (or is it fate?) during the midst of a storm. Both are struggling to balance the desires of their hearts with the expectations of their parents. Despite their obvious differences (he’s Amish, she’s not) there is an immediate connection between these two seeking souls.
Amelia Devries is a concert violinist, perfectly poised to reach the greatest heights in her career…but unsure if that is what she wants. Michael Hostetler longs for peace in his family but isn’t sure he can commit the rest of his life to living Plain.
Beverly Lewis does a lovely bit of writing in “The Fiddler” and keeps her characters real and her story well-paced. This is not a “love at first sight, sweep you off your feet” story, in fact, the love story is really secondary to the decisions and self-awareness that both Amelia and Michael must gain to decide which life is right for each of them and how to best pursue it. For me, this was a “read through in one sitting” book. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the glimpse into Amish life, and the realistic struggles of the characters. Just like the characters, there were times I wasn’t sure what the right choice was for them and so the ending was quite delightful.
Another thing I enjoyed about this book it that you could share it with a reading friend from middle school on up. I think women of all ages will enjoy this finely crafted story about finding your own right way to live.
This book was provided to me by Bethany House for this review.

“Heart of Ice” Will Chill You to the Bone

Former classmates Cassidy, Allison and Nicole jokingly call themselves the “Triple Threat Club” because of their respective careers as a crime reporter, prosecutor, and FBI agent. Right now, a threat they never anticipated is moving in their direction and their lives are about to experience a major collision with a psychopath. Lis Wiehl does a terrific job of creating a believable scenario in which her characters unknowingly become acquainted with a women who is very, very dangerous.

This book is well-written and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The character of the psychopath is particularly chilling and woven into the story are the real-life struggles of the main characters which give the story a sense of depth.  The friendship of the three women is beautifully developed along with the insecurities of each person which help round out their characters making them quite believeable.

As the killer begins to spin her web of deceit, she draws one of the Triple Threat Club into her web. It was very hard for me to get anything done until I finished this story. I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller with well-rounded characters and an imaginative plot.

This book was provided for me through the BookSneeze program for this review.

“A Sound Among the Trees” Sounds an Off Note (But I Liked It Anyway!)

Have you ever gone out to a dinner where the appetizers were superb, the soup amazing, the salad everything a salad could ever hope to be but the main course was completely lackluster? After you’ve had a bit of time to think back on the experience, you find yourself wanting to visit the restaurant again, just for the lovely soup!

That’s how I felt about Susan Meissner’s “A Sound Among the Trees.” This story had a terrific premise, a new bride arrives to her new home in Fredricksberg which she will be sharing with her new step-children’s great-grandmother, her new husband (previously widowed) and, apparently, the family ghost. A ghost with an apparent grudge against the women of the family and one that cannot get past the tragedies of the Civil War.

“It was an unspoken understanding among the Holly Oak women – for who on the outside would believe it? – that the house had never grasped the notion that it was no longer a battleground, a hospital, a hiding place, a graveyard…no longer a refuge stripped of its meaning by the women who had lived inside it. It was still a house of penance, the cannonball on the north wall a tangible reminder of the indictments against it, and its women the apparent objects of its remorse.”

Throw in a missing daughter and add a legend of a Yankee spy living in the house and you have the makings of a great tale. Which it is, great….mostly, until you get to the end. The story is deftly told from three perspectives, the aging Adelaide an inmate of the house since birth, Marielle, the new bride trying to step gently around a house filled with memories of her new husband’s deceased wife and Susannah, a Civil War resident of the house and presumed ghost of Holly Oak. The ending, frankly, left me feeling like I’d suddenly wandered into another story, “Wait, you’re going to have them do what? You’ve got to be kidding!”

However, as I said before, this is one of those times when the soup and the appetizer may be worth the lackluster main course. I’m only rating this 3 out of 5 because of the ending but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their “Blogging for Books” program.

Waterbrook Multnomah is giving away books for book review readers!  Click on this link and rank my review to be entered to win! “http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/bloggingforbooks/reviews/ranking/12296“>