Monday, January 31, 2011

Love on Assignment

Love on Assignment (Ladies of Summerhill)Love on Assignment by Cara Lynn James

During the summer of 1900 Charlotte Hale, a native Newporter and secretary for the Rhode Island Reporter, accepts an undercover assignment as temporary governess to Daniel Wilmont's children in order to secretly gather evidence against him. As he helps her rediscover God, Charlotte learns that Daniel is an honorable man.

They unexpectedly fall in love despite their different backgrounds and social positions. Charlotte soon realizes she must defend Daniel against the forces set against him-a willful student with a romantic crush and the newspaper editor determined to destroy his reputation.

My Take: This is a sweet book with Christian overtones. Actually, it is more than overtones. When Charlotte is being interviewed by Daniel, he asks her outright, "Are you a Christian?" Dear, sweet Daniel is a pious and rather stupid man. In today's world Daniel would be looking at a lawsuit. Of course, Charlotte would be looking for an attorney for her part which I can't tell you because then I'd ruin the story.

Although somewhat predictable, the book is different in that the author provides time and space for redemption. When the hearts are changed, the orchestra does not automatically strike up a tune and lovers fall into each others arms declaring their undying love. In fact, Daniel's marriage problems add a good deal of depth to Daniel and I began to appreciate his forgiving heart and recognize that forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing.

The protagonist is interesting and grows a spine, providing the reader with a conflict that is directly opposed to Charlotte's role as breadwinner for her arthritic aunt and disabled sister. I found that I liked Charlotte and could relate to her in many ways.

Writing is solid. Story is engaging. Language and dialogue is clean and the book earns a place on the family bookshelf.

If you want it, all you have to do if fill out the form below.  Love on Assignment is available with a bonus of Love on a Dime.  Coincidentally, although they are independent stories, there is some character crossing which is fun.

U.S. Only
No post office boxes

*This book was provided by TLC as part of a book tour in exchange for an honest review.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from TLC Book Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, January 30, 2011

IMM 1/30/11 and It's Monday!

This week I read:

The PostmistressRed Riding HoodLady in Waiting: A NovelDarkness Becomes Her

New Giveaways I've added this week:

Red Riding HoodAngel Harp: A NovelLastingness: The Art of Old Age

Books acquired (I'm so excited!)

Darkness Becomes HerStayAmaryllis in BlueberryPlanting Dandelions: Field Notes From a Semi-Domesticated LifeThe Union Quilters: An Elm Creek Quilts NovelIn the Shadow of the Buddha: Secret Journeys, Sacred Histories, and Spiritual Discovery in TibetThe Orchid Affair (Pink Carnation)

This week I will be posting new reviews and giveaways!

Have a great week!

Post script:

I forgot to mention Iron Queen, THANKS HARLEQUIN TEEN!

The Iron Queen (Harlequin Teen)


The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver

The Demon Trapper's DaughterThe Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm glad I finished this book, although I didn't like it very much halfway through. I liked the protagonist, Riley. She's the underdog that is going going to kick demon butt. The author is a good writer. She tells a story that is compelling and realistic enough that I struggled. I struggled with the reality she created. In short order, (7 years from now), Atlanta and much of the world is going to be fighting demons. The book describes different kinds of demons that cause different kinds of mischief/destruction. There are a group of people, mostly men, who are demon trappers. They hunt down the demons, use their arsenal of holy water and whatnot, capture them, sell them to traffickers who sell them to the Vatican to be destroyed. The demons are rated by how much trouble/how deadly they are. Ones are mischievous and irritating. Threes can be deadly. Fives are beasts that scared the crap out of me.

So let's go to my problems with the book. The subject of demons is just not the same as fallen angels. No, these babies are pretty terrifying. So if you don't have demon phobias like I do, it will be a good escape. The next problem I had is quickly becoming a pet peeve. Some of the characters dialogue is written with an accent. This is distracting and a little insulting. Tell me Beck is a Georgia boy and he'll have a southern drawl in my head when he speaks. Tell me Stewart is Irish, I'll add the lilt. If the author takes it upon herself to write the "you" into "ya" and "your" into "yer" and I start getting irritated. My alliteration is not the queen's English, either, but I don't quote myself the way I actually speak. There is a reason for using standard English form.

When I get over my irritations with the dialogue style, I have no complaints regarding the author's writing talent. She clearly has quite a bit to offer. Descriptions are clear and complete. Riley's character evolves fluently as do the relationships with the other trappers. Interesting characters are introduced.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Scouted Out

GiveawayScout is a fantastic service that helps you find the best giveaways right when they are happening.  As of now (I hope) I will also be included.  Click on over there and find out what giveaways are going on.  You just might find your next book.  

Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison Review

Here Lies BridgetHere Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heroine, Bridget Duke, rules her high school, but when she crashes her car and ends up in limbo, she must confront the people she has wronged, all of whom want her to go to hell. The outcome of these meetings will decide her final destination.

My Take: This is pure, enjoyable entertainment. It's a nice cross between Cinderella, a twisted "It's a Wonderful Life," and "Mean Girls." Bridget's a b****, with a capital B. Problem is, she doesn't know it. She's been queen bee for the last few years. She rules her kingdom through manipulation, intimidation, and fear. What Bridget doesn't see is that her reign is about to end. Her serfs are starting to ignore her.

In a self-absorbed tizzy fit, Bridget drives off too fast in her (used) 2009 BMW while feeling sorry for herself. She's so sad. She crashes. In limbo she sees herself through the eyes of others. She is led to the shoes of different significant people and steps into them. As she does so, the past week is played through their eyes and she feels what they feel.

Will she live? Will she die? Will she change? Will she make a difference?

The story is fun and takes a few surprising turns, although nothing too extreme. Clean language besides a few high school name calling words that I wouldn't use but we heard when we were in high school. Dialogue is incredibly entertaining. Bridget is the most self-centered protagonist you can't help but love. The other characters are also very well developed as Bridget sees herself through their eyes. Ending is cute and not too cheesy. Just kind of. Which I liked.

I haven't read this author before. I will DEFINITELY read her again. She has excellent insights and builds them into her characters and the story easily. Really loved it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lastingness by Nicholas Delbanco GIVEAWAY

America grows older yet stays focused on its young. Whatever hill we try to climb, we're "over" it by fifty and should that hill involve entertainment or athletics we're finished long before. But if younger is better, it doesn't appear that youngest is best: we want our teachers, doctors, generals, and presidents to have reached a certain age. In context after context and contest after contest, we're more than a little conflicted about elders of the tribe; when is it right to honor them, and when to say "step aside"?

In LASTINGNESS, Nicholas Delbanco, one of America's most celebrated men of letters, profiles great geniuses in the fields of visual art, literature, and music-Monet, Verdi, O'Keeffe, Yeats, among others - searching for the answers to why some artists' work diminishes with age, while others' reaches its peak. Both an intellectual inquiry into the essence of aging and creativity and a personal journey of discovery, this is a brilliant exploration of what determines what one needs to do to keep the habits of creation and achievement alive.

2 copies are available
US and Canada eligible
No P.O. Boxes
One copy per household
Ends February 11th.

Angel Harp: A Novel by Michael Phillips Review and GIVEAWAY!!!!

Angel HarpAngel Harp by Michael Phillips

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?

My Take: This is a pleasant read that combines the author's love of Scottish history and lore with his passion for the spiritual influence of Scottish novelist, George McDonald. It is a well written piece that illustrates the ideas of God in an "After Calvinism" approach. The character that embodied these ideas is the curate, Iaian Barclay. For the bulk of the Scottish history, the reader relies on the protagonists travels and her visits with Ranald who succinctly describes the historical and religious (which are intertwined) events that lead to today's Scotland.

The story itself is a pleasant diversion from life. I liked it fine but found it incomplete. The ending seemed forced and many questions were left unanswered. I assume there will be a follow-up book to complete the story of Olivia, the diabolical aunt, describe how Ranald's daughter died and why he indicated that Marie be careful around the cliffs, and continue Marie's story in her new setting.

Clean, pleasant read.

Thanks to Hatchette Book Group, I have one copy for a lucky reader (that's you).

U.S. and Canada only
No post office boxes
One title per household
Ends February 13th.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Red Riding Hood Giveaway

Red Riding Hood
Just in case you missed it, Red Riding Hood was released yesterday. In case you missed my review, scroll one post back. Or click here.

I can't stop thinking about it. It haunts me. In a good way.

Sara at Hatchette Book Group as agreed to sponsor a giveaway.

U.S. Only
No P.O. boxes.
One copy per household.
2 Copies Available

Contest ends February 13, 2011

Extra entries:

+ 1 Comment with your favorite fairy tale

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

Red Riding HoodRed Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there is a village much like other villages in the time of yore. In this village is a girl named Valerie, her older sister named Lucie, and their parents, Suzette with unrequited love for another, and Cesaire, the town drunk who carries sorrow in his heart. In a different house lives the grandmother who has been accused of being a witch.

The village has an agreement with a very big, very bad wolf. Full moon comes and a goat or some other poor creature is sacrificed for the wolf's meal. And the wolf leaves the villagers alone. But then the wolf kills Lucie. At the same time, Valerie's childhood friend, Peter arrives. He has secrets. Coincidentally, Valerie becomes betrothed to the village hottie, Henry. And this is the requisite love triangle.

I read on the internet (so I KNOW it must be true) that this novel started as a screen play. In fact, the movie will be released in March. Along with the final chapter of the book. So, yes, the book ends with a cliffhanger but I'm pretty certain I know who the wolf is and it's none of the usual suspects. In fact, the speculation will definitely drive up the hype for the movie release. But even with my "knowledge" of the wolf, there are still unanswered questions. I'm just going to put my suspicions in the envelope here and let you open it after the identity is revealed.

Hint: It's not someone that Valerie or any of the other characters suspect. If I'm wrong, I'll buy you all ice cream.

Also found on the internet (very reliable source), I found that this book stands alone. The answers had better be in that final chapter. I reserve the right to change my star rating. Including up.

What I loved: The imagery evoked is astonishing. Although a little slow in the beginning, I enjoyed the quiet tale reminiscent of M. Night Shamalayan's The Village. And then it picks up. Particularly the moment when the wolf slips down part of its face to reveal human eyes as it talks to Valerie with a voice both male and female, beast and human. (I heard: We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile). Continuing with the imagery, this is a bloody book. The wolf really is big and bad.

What I didn't love: Character development. I wouldn't go so far as to accuse any of the characters of being one dimensional, but a couple come pretty close. I would have liked to know what qualities both Peter and Henry possessed to be of interest. Also, something happened to make Peter and his father disappear all those years ago. Is that when Valerie and Peter bonded? Then what is the attraction now? Then there's Henry with better character development which leads to me wonder why Valerie isn't leaving Peter in the dust. Suzette and Cesaire have secrets that need to be revealed for me to have closure. I believe that Valerie's parents and grandmother know much more about the wolf than they let on.

Also what I didn't love: The non-ending. However, since the book was supposed to coincide with the release of the movie (as per internet gossip), I can see this as a great marketing tool to boost sales for the movie which looks FANTASTIC, by the way. Catherine Hardwicke of Twilight fame is directing it. I've made no secret about my disappointment for the first Twilight movie (which nixed the next three) but this is not Twilight. This is not a Chick Flick.

Back to my love: The writing and the story is compelling. I went into it without expectations and found it to be a compelling page turner. I would not suggest the reader skip the book and just read the last chapter when it is released on the internet. It is a truly unique and enjoyable read.

Last chapter will be released on 3/14 on  Any reservations I have expressed in this review is due solely to the fact that I don't know exactly how it will end. 

Honestly, I loved the book.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life



The Book of Tomorrow Review

The Book of TomorrowThe Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tamara Goodwin has always got everything she's ever wanted. Born into a family of wealth, she grew up in a mansion with its own private beach, a wardrobe full of designer clothes and all that a girl could ever wish for. She's always lived in the here and now, never giving a second thought to tomorrow. But then suddenly her dad is gone and life for Tamara and her mother changes forever. Left with a mountain of debt, they have no choice but to sell everything they own and move to the country. Nestled next to Kilsaney Castle, their gatehouse is a world away from Tamara's childhood. With her mother shut away with grief, and her aunt busy tending to her, Tamara is lonely and bored and longs to return to Dublin.When a travelling library passes through Kilsaney Demesne, Tamara is intrigued. Her eyes rest on a mysterious large leather bound tome locked with a gold clasp and padlock. What she discovers within the pages takes her breath away and shakes her world to its core

My Take: The mysteries of this story unraveled beautifully as the events unfolded. The author is incredibly gifted in succinctly handing out life nuggets while writing a story about a selfish little girl. She also uses symbolism to provide the reader with deeper meaning which gave me more to think about in the following days.

I enjoyed the concept of a diary that wrote itself for tomorrow. The protagonist, Tamera, decides to use the diary as a tool for making better decisions. She discovers that ultimately she is responsible for the consequences of her actions, which makes her more careful about her choices. This does not stop her from making mistakes but it does give her clues to the mysteries surrounding the castle, her aunt and uncle, her mother, her father, and herself.

My favorite character by far is Sister Ignatius. She was written to be old, wise, and of a good nature. Excellent comic relief.

I really wanted to like the protagonist better. But I didn't. She was supposed to be a rich and spoiled girl who lost everything which she was. She was also extremely crass (a lot of sex talk and "f" bombs) that didn't seem to add to the story. She grows throughout the book but not enough for me to really like her. Although I immensely enjoyed the first dialogue between Marcus and Tamera.

I must admit that the writing style is reminiscent of Kate Morton's "The Distant Hours" although in ways not as evident as it would seem. There's a castle, strange inhabitants (gatehouse for this book), secrets kept but it is the way the story is unfolded and particularly the way the authors provide life for inanimate things and places that I really enjoyed. In this book, the trees, forest, and castle live with the echos of those who have walked the way before.

Beautifully written. Some relationships I would have liked to have been better developed and I could have used a cleaner read for targeted audience but I liked it.

Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

Lady in WaitingTitle: LADY IN WAITING
Author: Susan Meissner
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
September 2010
ISBN: 978-0-307-45883-4
Genre: Inspirational/part historical, part contemporary/women’s fiction

This book takes on two different stories and different aspects of love. Lady Jane Gray is a real historical figure who entered the English court around the time King Henry VIII had a wife outlive him, Katherine Parr. The events of this time period have always fascinated me. The story told is that Henry, unhappy with Catherine of Aragon's inability to produce a male heir, requested a divorce from Rome in order to marry the bewitching Anne Boleyn. Rome said no so Henry started a protestant faith, the Church of England then his wives kept dying on him. Some with his help, others not so much. Henry sires 3 children; Mary, a devout Catholic and later known as Bloody Mary, Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen who ruled Britain for decades, and Edward, a sickly son who died in his mid teens.

As I study more of these events and the Catholic church in Britain at this time, along with reformists' ideas floating around, I am more of the opinion that Henry was a Reformist long before he actually became the head of the Church of England. Rome's rigid stand on divorce was the excuse he needed to practice his beliefs. Just my two cents.

To be royalty in any country at this time was dangerous and left marriage options in the hands of the powerful or those seeking increased power. This was the case with Lady Jane. Lady Jane was simply a victim of circumstances and a pawn used to secure the crown. Her life and death marked with tragedy. Or was it?

Although Lady Jane married a man she did not love, her dressmaker, Lucy, married of her own volition a man of her choice. She enjoyed growing older with him, having children, and struggling to make ends meet. At Jane's coronation, Lucy wisely is dismissed from court and stays far from it as the drama of power plays out; Mary's turn holding the crown, her death, and finally Queen Elizabeth.

So what does this have to do with the protagonist in today's Manhattan?

Jane Lindsay finds a ring in the binding of book she acquires from Cardiff, Wales. Inscribed is her name and prose from Songs of Solomon. The ring becomes more relevant to her as she finds herself separated from her husband, a circumstance she does not choose. Brad, her husband, announced he was leaving for a different job in a different state closer to their only son, now in college and she was not invited to come. And so she waits as she has done all her life, until someone else makes decisions for her. Like Lady Jane, she is a victim of her circumstances. But is she, really?

The contemporary story was compelling and relevant. A younger woman may not understand the undercurrents and the quiet decisions Jane makes or the anticlimactic ending to the book. At the risk of revealing more than I should, this is the perfect book for a wife who watches her husband in the throes of a mid life crisis and feels helpless as her future is uncertain and feels dictated by his decisions.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Solid writing talent. Quiet, yet amazing insight. Beautiful symbolism.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen Review

Lock and KeyLock and Key by Sarah Dessen

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

After her mom vanished in a stench of drugs and alcohol, Ruby continued to live in the family house alone. Finally found out, the introspective teenager is sent to the luxurious home of her older sister, Cora, whom she hadn't seen in ten years. Everything there seems unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and supremely weird: her fancy new room; her lavish new wardrobe; the exclusive private school where she never quite fits in. Most mysterious of all is Nate, the friendly boy next door who seems to have a deep secret of his own. Another subtle character-driven teen novel by Sarah Dessen, the author of Just Listen and That Summer.

My Take: Sarah Dessen has an amazing talent for addressing difficult subject matter without making it worse than it already is and by not glossing over the complicated nature. In this book, the protagonist is Ruby, a girl who has been living with her alcoholic mother for the past 10 years and moving around a lot. One day she finds that her mom is gone for good and ends up with her sister, Cora, as her guardian. She struggles through the changes surrounding her move and redefinition of family. She meets the cute guy (always required in this type of book) and finds out all of his secrets, connects the symbolism, and has growing experiences.

I didn't love this book as much as I have loved other novels by Dessen. I didn't like the protagonist. That is not the fault of the author but the nature of Ruby. She is distant and rough around the edges. I also felt like the relationship between her and Nate (hot guy) was a stretch and felt forced for the story. They needed to be close enough for her to realize Nate's conflicts but I didn't see them together. I also liked the symbolism but also felt like it was not as smooth of a transition as it could have been.

Back to the positives, Dessen does not tell a simple, cheesy story. She adds secondary plots and develops and connects all the stories very well. The story also includes enough detail that I could see it becoming an ABC Monday Night Movie. Even though I was very disappointed in Ruby's actions when she found out the truth about her mother, I really liked the way Cora stepped in and reached her hand to Ruby and protected her as she had in the past. It was well described and had good transitions.

There were also some very enjoyable crossovers from another one of Dessen's book (The Thing About Forever) including interactions with my favorite people who stayed true to their characters from the other book. There were also similar themes in regards to herons, although I can't quite remember and connect what the herons represented. Also enjoyed the play on words and references to other literary work like Esther Prin (Hesther Prynne).

Not Dessen's best but then she has set herself up to a high standard.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Don't you love big giveaways?

Here's what's up for grabs:

Aren't I awesome?  Aren't I fine!  I would be if I were doing the giveaway but I'm not.  I'm just not that awesome.  But Stephanie is.  Stephanie is a publicist.  She likes giving away the goods that we readers dream of.  Books.  So here is her latest giveaway.

Be sure to let her know that that I'm skinnier than she is.  I'm a little on the competitive side.