Monday, December 16, 2013

Blog Hiatus

So, the baby boy came! We are super happy but he came with complications. His bowels had a perforation and he was rushed to surgery in his first 24 hours of life. It has been almost a week now and our baby boy is doing good considering everything. He is mostly healed up from the surgery, but GI tracts are super complicated things and he'll be healing up for the next 8 weeks in the NICU.

All of this has brought a lot of upheaval and so I am officially declaring a blog hiatus. See you all next year! Enjoy your holidays.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Studio C Review

studio c tour
   
Studio C
Seasons 1 and 2 of the hilarious BYUtv sketch comedy series, Studio C, featuring Whitney, Mallory, Jason, Matt, and the rest of the cast pulling out all the stops with two full seasons of enough rip-roaring hilarity to make you spit milk out of your nose. Travel back to the moment it all began and watch some of the very first Studio C sketches, plus two never-before-seen features! Includes popular episodes featuring
  • Presidential Shoulder Angel
  • Facebook Friends Song
  • Flirting Academy
  • Captain Literally
  • The Center for People That YouTube Made Infamous
  • Candy Land Character Conference
  • Bollyside
  • Dana’s Dead
  • And many more!
Special Features
  • Exclusive Feature: “Just Jeremy Date”
  • Exclusive Sketch: “Substitute Miss Frizzle”
  • Season 2 Outtakes
Studio C is a hit sketch comedy series that the whole family can enjoy. Like the popular TV show Saturday Night Live, the cast performs original sketches that parody American culture and the hilariously awkward moments of everyday life; but with a refreshingly wholesome yet hilarious spin. With their huge fan-base and increasing popularity, Studio C aims to produce clean, family-oriented comedy for a national audience.
 
My Review:

So, I first heard of Studio C while reading an interview with Mallory Everton the Mormon Artist blog. Then a few days later my husband started watching their skits on youtube and laughing. So, when a chance came up to participate in reviewing the DVD I was interested. My husband watched about a dozen skits together. He had only seen two previously from his youtube investigations so that is an idea about the amount of new content on the disk.

There were several really funny skits and a couple of just okay ones. Since we are not Downtown Abby fans I think my husband and I didn’t really get the comedy skit about that one as a result. We did however laugh uproariously at the Lady Shadow skit. Which centers around the concept of a dangerous female spy trying to steal a disk, only to sneak out from behind a box nine months pregnant. She then tries to take down four armed guys that really want nothing to do with fighting her. It was hilarious. We also like the flirting university skit and the driving instructor skit. So we really enjoyed the majority of the skits we watched and enjoyed laughing together.     

Purchase Amazon * Deseret Book
        Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 12/31/13 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 29, 2013

House on Rose Creek by Jenny Proctor


The House on Rose Creek by Jenny Proctor


"Kate Sinclair wasn't planning on inheriting her family's 100-year-old farmhouse. She wasn't even planning on going back to Rose Creek. But when her aunt unexpectedly passes away, leaving her the house, she finds herself forced to confront her past, including the family she hasn't spoken to in years. 

When she finds a journal belonging to a distant ancestor in the attic of the old house, she begins a journey that reconnects her with her faith, her family, and herself. 

But trouble looms. Kate's new love interest, Andrew, has a past full of secrets. And the state department of transportation wants to bulldoze the old farmhouse for a highway project.

Will Kate be able to see through Andrew's past? Most importantly, will she find a way to save her house and hold onto the fragile threads that tie her to her family?" (
Summary from author's website)


 

So, I really enjoyed the House on Rose Creek.  One of the main plot lines does center around a non-member who eventually joins the church, which just happens to be the religion of the main love interest. I know this plot trope gets a lot of negative reactions because it has been done a lot and sometimes not all that well. However, I felt that Proctor did an excellent job with the story. Kate has real and compelling reasons to investigate the church. After finding the long forgotten journal of her ancestor in the attic of the house that her aunt left to her after her death Kate finds herself thinking not only about God, but about her family connections. Just as she begins to settle in and decides to rebuild her ties with her family, she discovers that her house is in danger of being torn down by the city so they can build a new freeway. To make matters worse her aunt’s death caused Kate to miss the paperwork that would have allowed her to appeal the decision. So, she has to discover a way to save the house that has been in her family so long and that has become her new home. In addition, to the conversion and house plotline there is also a sweet romance with Andrew.  The romance plotline felt a tad predictable to me and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other plot threads, but over all this was a really enjoyable read with interesting characters and dilemmas that kept me reading until the last page.

Visit Proctor's Website

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christmas From Heaven


Christmas from Heaven

Thanks to Shadow Mountain for giving me the opportunity to review this unique picture book that tells the story of the candy bomber. At the end of WWII Gail Halverson participated in the effort to drop supplies into West Berlin. Gail started out small in giving small treats to the children he saw and ended up at dropping thousands of parachutes of candy on the bombed out city.  Over 21 tons of candy was collected from company and private donations so that the sweets could be dropped on the city during the Christmas season.

I really enjoyed the historical aspect of this little Christmas story. As a former teacher I could imagine myself using it in a classroom setting on those last few days before the holiday break when the kids need a prod to focus on doing work.  The story sets up the political and social conditions that affected Europe after WWII and shows the kindness of the human spirit. The book has instructions on how to make your own candy parachutes that could be a fun hands-on project for younger children. I’m planning to use this little book in my picture book advent calendar this year, as our family counts down to Christmas. The book also includes a DVD of Tom Brokaw reading the text of the picture book with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the background. It has a scene where they drop parachutes onto the audience during the finale that is just marvelous to watch.  
Find out more about the book at Deseretbook.

Biblical Names of Christ Christmas Set Review

Product Description from Deseret Book:
Create a Christ-focused holiday tradition as you review the sacred names of the Savior. Display these antique pewter-finish ornaments on the tree, as gift tags, or adorning a wreath on the front door. A list of scripture references is included, perfect for a "Twelve Days of Christmas" countdown. 12-piece set.



I like how these stars are light but sturdy. They have rounded corners so I don’t have to worry about my kids getting hurt on them. They have different names of the Savior printed on the front so they would be a good way to organize devotionals, 12 days of Christmas count downs, or even a little FHE event. One of the things that disappointed me was that I assumed the corresponding scriptural references for the names were on the back of the particular star, but the scriptural references are only on the box. From the point of view of keeping these ornaments as a keepsake for years I found this slightly annoying. If you lose the box or it gets damaged you may find yourself doing some prep work in years ahead. Still they are a wonderful gift and a really nice way to bring the Savior into family Christmas traditions.

Ornament sets can be purchased from Deseret Book.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Witnesses by Stephanie Black

The Witnesses by Stephanie Black

“Welcome to New America, where patriots are traitors and religion is a crime. After government agent Daniel Lansbury fakes the executions of three believers on national television, he and the fugitives Alisa Kent, Ian Roshek, and Ian's sister, Jill face the perilous task of outwitting President Amanda Ryce and her power-hungry Council long enough to escape to freedom. While a government reformer is on their side, rigorous new security measures thwart any chance of aid. And Daniel's estranged father, Marcus, an underground terrorist leader, is hatching plans to sabotage the breakable trust between Daniel and Ian and put himself in power at the head of the nation. As faith and loyalties come under fire, the fugitives struggle to stop Marcus and his zealous terrorists and bring to light the wrongs committed against the citizens of this fragile, fledgling nation.” (summary from Deseret Book)
  I was super happy when I discovered that The Witnesses was a direct sequel to Black’s previous novel The Believer. I reread the first book so I could remember the plot for the second book. The novel leaves off right where the first left off, which surprised me a bit. I was looking forward to seeing more of the world and how things had changed in her future, but it turns out that her characters were never able to escape New America and the corrupt government. The strain of staying in hiding is threatening to tear apart the fragile bands of loyalty the group only just forged. It doesn’t help that Marcus Landsbury is still out there making plots to take over the presidency, and is still trying to manipulate his son. With the way things are going it is only a matter of time before Ian, Alisa, Jill, and Daniel are caught. What they didn’t expect was that their capture may be the key to getting the reforms that they wanted all along. I really liked experiencing another adventure with these characters and seeing how they were able to change their country for the better even if it happened in a way they would never have expected. I love how layered and complex Black’s characters are, especially her villains. She did a superb job of showing their motivations and revealing their fascinating decisions. I really enjoyed getting back into this intense dystopian world.

Visit Stephanie Black's Website

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Runaway King by Jenifer A. Nielsen


The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
“A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen’s blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE! Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!” (summary from author’s website)

After Jeron takes the throne he discovers that his life is still in danger from pirates, rival countries, and even his own regents. Jeron has no chance of winning against any of them the traditional way. So, he does what he does best. He risks everything in a crazy plan to take over the Avenian pirates. Jeron reverts to his previous persona Sage and infiltrates the dangerous pirate compound by claiming he knows the location of an extremely valuable treasure. If Jeron manages to stay alive his crazy plan could just give his country a fighting chance. Just like the first book in the series the author expertly puts her character in high-stakes situations where you can’t help by root for their survival. An intense and riveting read.

For more information visit Jennifer Nielsen's website.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen



The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
"THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end. In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together. An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats." (summary author's website)

This was a really interesting read. I love the sardonic and self-deprecating voice of Sage. I had a suspicion that he wasn’t who he first appeared to be, but I really wondered just how he came to be an orphan on the streets. The author does an awesome job of convincing the reader of his real backstory. I really enjoyed reading about this strong-willed, bitter, and unconventional hero.

Seriously, this is a book you have to read. The conflict drags you into the story immediately and you can’t help but want to know more about Sage and his unusual quirks. It was really refreshing to read something without romance (huzzah!) and to read something I could share and discuss with my husband. As soon as I finished I put the second book on hold at the library. We are fans.


Jennifer A. Nielsen's website

Friday, October 11, 2013

After Hello by Lisa Mangum

After Hello by Lisa Mangum

"What if the first day of your relationship was the only day you had? 

Seventeen-year-old Sara is a seeker. She’s always on the lookout for the perfect moment to capture with her ever-present, point-and-shoot camera, especially on her first trip to New York City. 

Sam is a finder. He has a knack for finding what other people can’t—a first-edition book or the last two tickets to a sold-out Broadway show. In New York, there is always something interesting to find. 

When Sam and Sara’s paths cross, neither one of them is prepared for what they will find out about each other—and about themselves when they form an unlikely partnership in search of a seemingly elusive work of art. They have one day to find the impossible. Fate brought their talents together, but what happens when time runs out? Will love be able to overcome fate? This new novel from award-winning author Lisa Mangum explores what happens after hello."
 
Sara is stuck wandering the streets of New York while her father is in a meeting that runs late. She happens to run into Sam, and they discover that they are kindred spirits, both holding wounds that they can help each other heal. Sara accidently gets Sam’s brother fired from his job being the personal assistant to an actress with anger management problems, and spend the rest of her time in New York searching for a piece of art that will get Paul his job back. I enjoyed the characters and setting of the novel and it reminded me in small way of The Fault in our Stars, except the novel was far less depressing, as the book is ultimately not a tragedy, and has a happy ending. I guess the only problem I had with the book is that I felt like the stakes to find the art weren’t high enough personally for Sara. The book kind of slowed for me in the middle because I had a hard time believing that Sara would go through all this trouble and blow off her dad for some guy that was actually kind of a jerk to her when they met. Still, over all I found this to be an interesting read.
 Tour giveaway is here

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

LDSPBP: Ken Baker

Old MacDonald Has a Dragon 

This fun picture book meshes the children’s classic song ‘Old Macdonald” with the classic fantasy trope of a dragon. One can only imagine the type of havoc a dragon could cause on a farm. The famer is losing animals left and right. Then the dragon eats the farmer’s dog and the farmer has had enough.  With a little bit of team work and some music the farmer and his animals managed to chase the dragon off for good.

I thought this was a fun and clever reinterpretation of two children’s tropes. A enjoyable read for those that love farm-animal tales.


Cow Can’t Sleep
Cow isn’t comfortable sleeping in the itchy hay. So she goes to find another place to sleep. That soft feather mattress is slightly more wiggly and lumpy than she expected. Thus begins  Cow’s chaotic search for a new place to sleep. Who knew that one tired cow could cause so much havoc on the farm.
A humorous tale about a picky cow looking for a nice place to sleep.

 
Brave Little Monster by Ken Baker

Albert, a young monster faces his fears of boys and girls before he falls to sleep.  Little Albert is certain that there are little boys and girls lying in wait under his bed,  hiding in his closet, and playing outside his window. With a little creativity and a lot of courage Albert knows all the right tricks to scare them away. 

The story of a young little monster overcoming  his fears of boys and girls. This book made me laugh because as a young child I used some of the very same tricks to convince myself my room was safe at night.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Transparent by Natalie Whipple


Transparent by Natalie Whipple

"Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl."

Fiona is one of those whose genes have been affected by change. Her particular mutation makes it so that she appears invisible to everyone around her. When she looks in the mirror she doesn’t even know what she looks like. In fact, she often feels like a tool and she is an extremely useful one to her Father, the leader of a crime syndicate.  When her father has plans to send Fiona overseas to kill somebody her mother decides it is time to get out.

They sneak off to a small town in the middle of the desert, and Fi actually gets to go to a normal school. There she begins to make friends and have an almost normal life. Life is almost perfect except for the fact that her brother, her dad’s henchman, keeps coming around the check on them. Fiona can’t trust the fact that he’ll keep their location a secret. She has to rely on her new friends to stay out of her father’s long reaching clutches.

Alright, I know this sounds x-men, and I’m not really a huge fan of this mutant trope, but I loved the small scale of this novel. A vulnerable girl trying to navigate her way through high school, her first crush, and her seemingly insurmountable family issues . I loved the details of how Fiona’s invisibility affected her everyday life, her sense of self, and her relationship with others. I have to say that I loved the way the teen romance worked out in this book. Like the setting it is small, subtle and in a market saturated with epic teenage love stories with protagonists that just can’t keep their hands off each other even in the most unlikely of circumstances Whipple presents the exact opposite. Without a single kiss Fi and Seth build a tender and honest relationship. An excellent read that I’d recommend to everyone.

The sequel Blindsided comes out January 2nd and I can’t wait to finish reading Fi’s story. Find out more about Whipple's work at her website.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Proceed with Caution by Betsy Brannon Green

Proceed with Caution by Betsy Brannon Green
"Brooke Clayton is in trouble. Deep in the shadowy woods outside Nashville, the young activist stumbled on something she was never meant to see something she can never reveal if she values her life. Now, as an unknown enemy closes in, she must take drastic measures to disappear. Brooke s only hope for survival is to accept help from her uncle, Major Christopher Dane, and his team of highly trained operatives. Dane entrusts his niece s safety to one of his most reliable men, Hunter, aka Owl. Brooke and Owl go into hiding, posing as a married couple volunteering at a Civil War reenactment site. As Brooke comes to trust her protector, their connection deepens and their cover relationship begins to feel all too real. But when danger encroaches on their make believe world and explosive truths are revealed, Hunter and Brooke risk everything to expose the discovery she tried so hard to escape and as peril looms ever closer, it s too late to proceed with caution.” (Summary from DB)

Alright, so I wanted to switch things up a bit and Covenant has added me to a list of book blog reviewers and so I snatched this one right up, hoping it wouldn’t be a romance. Alas, I am not to escape, not at all! This one is firmly in the romantic suspense category. I still enjoyed it. I believe the book is a spin-off of other characters in her Hazardous Duty series, which I never read. On occasion, this felt awkward as if I were left on the outside of a few inside jokes among a close group of friends. I also had a hard time getting through the first chapter that felt more clichĂ© and kind of info dumpy because I wasn’t really invested in the characters you were obviously already supposed to care about. Still, the plot and character relationships are understandable and I got invested in the story pretty quickly after that.

My favorite part of the book is when a pair of the characters have to go undercover at a civil war reenactment experience resort. This of course is when the romance line went full swing, and really it was so much fun, and sort of hilarious. I wish I could have spent the entire rest of the book at the fun resort, but alas there were bad guys to elude and dangerous missions to undertake. So, despite the rough start I ended up enjoying this book and the varied, entangled plots that ensue.

Visit Betsy Brannon Green's website

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blackmoore by Julianna Donaldson


Blackmoore by Julianna Donaldson

“At eighteen, Kate Worthington knows she should be getting serious about marriage, but her restless heart won’t let her settle down. To escape her mother’s meddlesome influence, she dreams of traveling with her spinster aunt to exotic India. But when the opportunity arises, Kate finds herself making a bargain with her mother: she will be allowed to go only if she spends a season at the family’s wealthy estate, Blackmoore, where she must secure and reject three marriage proposals. Enlisting the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield, Kate sets out to collect her proposals so she can be on her way. But Henry s decision to help threatens to destroy both of their dreams in ways they could never imagine. Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to listen to her heart. With hints of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Blackmoore is a page-turning tale of romance, intrigue, and devotion. (summary from Amazon)

Set in the wild moors of Scotland in an old gothic manor with secret passages and the remains of ruined abbeys in the countryside. Blackmoore has an atmospheric setting that makes its heroine Kate thrilled with the prospect of adventure. She has dreamed of going to Blackmoore forever, but quickly finds that the experience of Blackmoore is much more painful than her childhood fantasies about the place. Her childhood relationships are more complex and fraught with tension then they once were. Desperate, Kate enlists the help of her dearest friend Henry to escape her mother’s clutches and her family’s tarnished reputation.

Donaldson has produced another standalone regency romance novel for Deseret Book’s proper romance line. I really enjoyed Blackmoore and felt like this novel was much more polished than Donaldson’s debut. The plot has more originality and the characters rely less on regency tropes, as I felt was the case in her first book, and stand on their own. In addition, I love how eloquently and beautifully Donaldson can convey her character’s emotions, a skill that has only grown since Edenbrook. I’m excited to see what this author has planned next.

If you're interested in trying out Donaldson's work this is the perfect time to jump in as Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance is currently on sale as a kindle ebook for $1.99 this month. Blackmoore is currently on sale for $7.99 in ebook format.

Visit Donaldson's website

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Not Even Once Club by Wendy Watson Nelson

The Not Even Once Club by Wendy Watson Nelson
The Not Even Once Club is a story about a boy, Tyler, who has moved to a new neighborhood. His primary class has a secret club house and is close-knit group that likes to play together. Tyler has to pass a test to be able to join the club—the test is turn down drinking an alcoholic drink on a pretend restaurant  menu. Tyler then signs a club contract that says he will always keep the word of wisdom, dress modestly, avoid pornography, and other bad habits. The boy is super happy about his new friends and super excited about his commitment to avoid doing any of these things Not Even Once!
On the one hand I think this is a pretty decent story. I think the idea of a secret club based on keeping the commandments is a fun idea for kids. Finding friends that have the same standards as you is a rewarding experience. The book also provides a safe way for parents and kids to have discussions about church standards and the choices we make. There is a discussion guide in the back for parents and kids to follow on topics like modesty and pornography, obedience, and repentance.
I did kind of have a problem with the fact that the primary teacher was the founder of the club and that she supplied the club house with snacks, candy, puzzles, games and crafts as long as the kids kept the promise of the contract. I didn’t like the message that the primary teacher would provide treats and other external rewards conditional on the children’s behavior. Because keeping the commandments shouldn’t be motivated by getting candy or games, keeping the commandments should be motivated by how living the gospel brings peace and happiness internally. Also, why should this primary teacher get to be judge if these kids deserve snacks or not? Is she going to keep track of everything they do? Also, what primary teacher can afford to do that? Seriously? 
I think this book does have a lot of potential to be a good catalyst for gospel discussions and conversations in families, but I’m not a fan of the teacher’s influence. I’d like the book much more if the kids had decorated and supplied the club on their own initiative out of a desire to do what the primary teacher taught them about. They could have all brought something special to share— an activity, snack or game that reflected their commitment to make choices different from the world and to create a safe haven for themselves and their friends.
I hope that my quibbling with story details doesn’t cause people to discount completely the potential for this story concept to be a positive influence. I don’t want to convey that idea at all. I think that with the guidance of parents this story concept is flexible enough to adapt to different situations and circumstances, and that it could be a tool to strengthen families. 
Find more information about the book here.



Friday, August 30, 2013

Finding Sheba by H.B. Moore


Finding Sheba  Finding Sheba by H.B. Moore An ancient legend is reborn . . . One that might prove the Bible false. For centuries, historians have theorized the Queen of Sheba as only a seductive legend, and scholars have debated over the legitimacy of King David or King Solomon. When undercover Israeli agent, Omar Zagouri, stumbles onto a tomb in Northern Jerusalem he unknowingly finds the final clue that threatens to overthrow government claim to the Holy Land, pits wealthy collectors against one another, and sends ruthless archaeologists scrambling to find the queen’s secret burial place. An assassination attempt on the Coptic Pope, His Holiness, Patriarch Stephanus II, is only the first in the chain of lethal crimes. Omar must find a way to prevent the greatest discovery of the century from becoming the most deadly.

Moore admits that her concept for Finding Sheba was inspired by the popularity of Dan Brown's novels. I think I enjoyed Moore’s attempt more than Brown’s books. As an experienced historical novelist I feel like she does a much better job of blending her historical information into her narrative making her text read smoothly and naturally rather than the stop and go of Brown’s info dumpy style. So I found this to be a really fun read for the historical thriller genre. The concept centers around the life of the Queen of Sheba and her legacy.  Her historical legitimacy lends many different countries with the historical context for their claim to political power. I love how twisty and complex that she makes the Queen of Sheba’s life, making it possible for all of the different factions warring for more information to have legitimate claims, or at the very least still preserves that need for more historical information to come to light before any solid conclusions can be ascertained. Yet, we get the meat of a very compelling and interesting story about a strong woman and her leadership.  I enjoyed that the author included a point of view from the Queen of Sheba herself so we could hear her story in her own words.
If you love a fun historical thriller a la Dan Brown or the National Treasure genre then this is an excellent and enjoyable read.  
finding sheba tour

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Working it Out by Rachel Renee Anderson

 

Working It Out by Rachael Anderson Grace Warren's life is safe and predictable—exactly the way she likes it. But when she gets roped into going to an auction to help out a friend, everything changes. She meets Seth Tuttle—a guy who unexpectedly kisses her then disappears, leaving her flustered and upset. If she never sees him again, it will be too soon.
A chance for love . . . Weeks later, when Seth limps into Grace's rehab clinic post surgery, she immediately recognizes him. Unfortunately, he's every bit as frustrating and annoying as she remembered. Yet there's something about him that makes her second-guess her carefully placed boundaries even though he's everything she's sure she doesn't want in a man. But maybe Seth is exactly what Grace has needed all along—assuming she's willing to risk safe and predictable for a chance at love.   (summary from author's website)

I thought that this was a fun, clean, romance. I really enjoyed the characters and how the author pitted Grace and Seth’s personalities against each other to create some fun romantic tension. Grace is constantly helping recover from sports injuries and Seth has a thirst for high adventure that often puts him in harm’s way. It is interesting to see how they have to navigate this conflict in their relationship.  The author does very well at creating interesting characters and writing a crisp, quick-moving plot. I really enjoyed this introduction to Anderson’s work. This one is a quick and light-hearted chick-flic read for all romance lovers.
 

 
working it out tour

 
As this review is part of a blog tour. I hope you'll enter the promotional giveaway running along with it!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 16, 2013

Glamour and Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal


Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass continues following the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.



In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it.



Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison . . . and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country's war.


So, I felt so-so about shades of milk and honey. I enjoy it but I found some aspects of the world odd. For some reason the world felt a bit more natural this time around and it was very interesting to see Vincent and Jane explore and discover more about the glamour than they previously had before. I like seeing that discoveries were still being made in their fantasy system it made the magic seem more real and interesting to me.  I also thought that this alternate history of the battle of Waterloo was so much fun to read. I loved watching Jane trying to figure out a way to save her husband after he was captured as I feel like she grew a lot as a character in this novel. I am even more excited to read next book in this series.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Longing For Home by Sarah M. Eden

Longing For Home by Sarah M. Eden

"Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland’s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family’s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family’s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace." (summary from DB website)


When Katie arrives to accept a job in a small Wyoming town she doesn’t expect to be found lacking because she Irish. The fact that she suddenly is responsible to take care of two small children is a deal breaker also. Stranded in a town where the residents have literally split themselves down the middle as Irish and non- Irish there really are no other job openings for someone of her nationality. With a fierce determination she manages to renegotiate the terms of being a housekeeper for Joseph Archer. He reluctantly takes her in on a temporary basis until he can find a replacement. Katie comes to get to know the Irish side of the town, including a ceaseless flirt named Tavish. He and his family help Katie to navigate the unfamiliar waters of the town and become her friends. Though, Tavish slowly comes to mean more to her over time.

One of the best parts of this book is the hilarious banter that the characters toss back and forth between one another. Eden has created a cast of real and interesting characters that are sure to make you chuckle a time or two. Though, I occasionally wondered if Katie’s lack of reserve when it came to snapping comebacks was out of character with her background as a servant who did her best to be quiet and unnoticed. There is also a love triangle that seemed lopsided to me, which left me wondering why it was included as the main conflict for one of the minor characters. I’m kind of hoping it doesn’t randomly come back in the second book and throw everything into chaos.  Otherwise, the setting, characters, and conflicts of this story drew me in and I enjoyed the read.

Sarah M. Eden's Website

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Catch up and news


So, the blog has been kind of erratic of late. Sorry about that.  Life has been super crazy. I have a backlog of books I’ve read that still need a bunch of reviews written for them. That leads directly into my cool news.

I’m pregnant! Yea! About 20 weeks along currently. I am due on December 25th. Makes me super nervous to go into labor around such a huge holiday considering all the craziness that already ensues during that time, but I’m happy that we are going to have the chance to welcome a new little life into our lives. 

So, I’m trying to keep up with a very active 2 ½ year old, keep the apartment decently clean, feed the family decent food, and keep slogging through the second draft of my novel.  I get tired really easily and a lot of my down time is dedicated to sleep. Sigh. Seems like such a waste of time, but I don’t feel well if I don’t get enough rest. The leftover time is mostly parceled out to writing until I burn out, which happened twice in July. Then I usually read a couple novels or take on other projects until I’m ready to start writing again. Other projects include sewing. For some reason I really like to sew when I am pregnant. It is strange.  

I did okay in the summer reading trek challenge.  I didn’t get as many reviews up as I wanted to during the month. I didn’t even start Road to Bountiful  or finish Cloak. I did read  The House at Rose Creek by Jenny Proctor though. So if I substitute that title I didn’t do too badly.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Love in the Darkness by E.M. Tippetts

Love in Darkness by E.M. Tippetts
"Alex had everything when he was with Madison. But the darkness within him wouldn't go away.

After two years apart, he returns to Pelican Bluffs and to the girl he never wanted to leave. Madison wants to give their love another chance, but Alex can't fight fate.

He is what he is.

Ruined. Crazy like his mother. And Madison deserves so much more. When his secrets spill out into their small town, Alex has a choice to make. Hide away in the darkness forever, or let love in."



So, I was a tad bit hesitant to read this one at first, but I’m glad I did. I’m not really a fan of stories told from the point-of-view of insane people, because things can get kind of crazy. Too crazy, but Tippetts seems to find the perfect balance between making Alex’s schizophrenia seem real and still gives her main character a solid and likable personality. Alex’s biggest fear is becoming like his mother who hits every stereotype of raging lunatic possible— irrational paranoia, hearing voices, escaping the house to wander the streets, not recognizing her own son.  With the help of his friends and a good psychologist Alex has some hope of keeping his mental breaks under control. That, however, doesn’t mean he’s ready to let the girl he loves marry him. Yet, Alex isn’t sure how long he can avoid Madison when she is so determined to be with him.  Alex doesn’t know how he can accept her love or carve out a future for himself when his illness makes everything so uncertain. It is very interesting to watch Alex struggle through his problems and see the strengths and skills that he has help people in their lives despite everything. I thought this was a really uplifting read and did an awesome job of portraying a character with mental illness as a real and well-rounded person.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Drops of Gold by Sarah M. Eden

Drops of Gold by Sarah M. Eden
"When her father dies and leaves her completely destitute, Marion can think of only one thing to do--make a new life for herself. Commencing a life of duplicity, Marion transforms herself into Mary Wood--governess. In possession of a forged letter of recommendation and cloaked in the anonymity of her new identity, she enters a life of self-imposed servitude as teacher and caretaker of young Miss Caroline Jonquil of Farland Meadows.

Her idyllic daydream vision of life at the Meadows is dashed when she finds a child desperately in need of hope and a cold and sorrowful home haunted by the past. With her characteristic sunny disposition, Marion casts her spell upon the household and slowly brings to life the long-forgotten joy of those within. Layton Jonquil is a man tormented by the lies surrounding the death of his late wife, but he cannot deny his growing attraction for the beautiful governess whose goodness and optimism have touched his dormant heart. Their connection grows ever stronger, and despite the impropriety of harboring feelings for a servant, Layton's heart whispers that this is the woman he's destined to love. But when Layton's fears about the past become too much to bear and the falsehoods in which they are entangled threaten to shatter his and Marion's blossoming attachment, will true love conquer all?" (amazon summary)
As long as I’m on a regency roll I might as well make a full confession. I enjoyed this one too. This one plays on mistaken identity tropes. Marion, a Lady, falls into hard times and has to disguise herself as a governess. Her new master Layton Jonquil holds a dark secret that makes him moody and strict. Marion only sees the more lighthearted side of him emerge when he interacts with his beautiful and charming daughter, Caroline. I really like Eden’s Jonquil family series, as they are a big family of brothers that try to take care of one another. I have to admit that I love how sneaky Layon’s older brother Philip is while he goes about trying to help Layton, staging conversations and dropping hints. It is pretty hilarious and also really sweet. Something I also really liked about this book was that much of the plot hinged on nuances of old English law. That made this book feel unique and stand out for a regency era novel. I found the moral quandaries that Layton faced very compelling and interesting to read about. I’d recommend this one highly.

 


 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Glimmer of Hope by Sarah M. Eden


Glimmer of Hope by Sarah M. Eden
"Stunning Miranda Harford once had the world at her feet. She was young, carefree, and desperately in love. But when her new husband left for London without her, her world fell apart. Devastated by his abandonment, Miranda fled their home, taking residence at her husband’s rarely visited countryside estate. For three years, she lived alone. But now, as the holidays draw near, an unexpected visitor arrives . . .

Carter Alexander Harford, Seventh Viscount Devereaux, is a man driven to succeed. His work is his life, and the position of Prime Minister of England is within reach. But in truth, Carter is a man haunted by lost love. Estranged from his beautiful wife, Carter is shocked to find Miranda—the woman he loved and who he believed left him—in residence at his country home.

As plans for a holiday party move forward, the uneasy couple realizes that to avoid further scandal, they must keep up appearances in a charade of marital happiness. Thrust together by fate, it quickly becomes clear that they have both been living beneath a conspired cloud of misunderstanding. As family, career, and social pressures threaten to keep them apart, can love have even a glimmer of hope?" (summary from Amazon)
Another regency! This one centers around an estranged married couple that meets up again at a house party. I found this one very interesting as both parties think they are the wronged one, but the couple was separated deliberately by deception, and I felt so bad for Carter. Seriously, my heart just broke for him and for Miranda.  It was so interesting to see them build their relationship again after they both distrusted one another. This is a tragic love story that has a hopeful ending. I couldn’t put this one down until I finished it!

Visit Sarah M. Eden's Website

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Edenbrook by Julianna Donaldson


Edenbrook by Julianna Donaldson

"Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she'll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.       

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke."

So, I’m currently on a regency romance kick despite the fact I vowed to read less romance this year. What can I say? At least this one is a Whitney award winner, right? Anyway, I really enjoyed the book though, I did see one of the subplots coming from a mile away. I thought the author did such a lovely job with the setting in this book. It seriously makes me want to go sit in the Edenbrook library. I also really liked the main character Marianne and sympathized with her a lot.  Overall, this was a light-hearted, clean romance perfect to curl up with on a rainy summer day.

Visit Donaldson's Website
 


Friday, July 5, 2013

Through Cloud and Sunshine by Dean Hughes


Through Cloud and Sunshine by Dean Hughes
Nauvoo was supposed to be the kingdom of God on earth, but Will and Liz Lewis are learning that it takes more than dreaming of Zion to make it a reality. Sickness, poverty, and just plain human nature add to the struggles for the Lord's people, but every now and then a glimpse of heaven shines through. Just when things are starting to get settled, though, the old problems start rearing their heads, leaving Will and others wondering if they will be there to reap the harvest they have so carefully sown. Meanwhile, Jeff and Abby—in modern-day Nauvoo—are dealing with challenges of their own. As their newborn baby fights for his life, they must come to grips with their personal faith. Can they, like their ancestors, continue to trust in God when there seems to be no trace o Him in their trials? Beloved novelist Dean Hughes skillfully interweaves the stories of two couples separated by five generations and 150 years, providing a unique perspective on Church history and showing how much we can learn from those who went before us.

  I really enjoyed this continuation of this series by Dean Hughes. Will and Liz continue to work hard in Nauvoo to build Zion. Yet, they begin to suffer persecution from other citizens in the county. The Prophet Joseph’s life is in danger and rumors about plural marriage abound. Meanwhile, their descendants Abby and Jeff are dealing with the birth of a son with a heart defect. The little guy goes through open heart surgery at only a few days old. His parents have to wait for agonizing amount of time to see if the surgery will heal the little boy’s heart. I love some of the themes that Hughes pulls out in this narrative. I love how honestly he acknowledges that death hurts us terribly even with the light of the gospel. I also love how his characters when faced with crises in faith don’t automatically question God, but also consider adjusting their expectations. Will chooses charity over prosperity even though he desperately wants to give his wife a nicer home. He’s reminded that people are more important than nice houses. I also love how Hughes made Jeff struggle with his intellectual tendencies to question everything in the church. I love how he realizes how useless his intellect is but at the same time still struggles with the fact that he doesn’t feel whole without asking his questions and trying to discover answers. He tries to find meaning in service and finds joy in his callings, but one still gets the sense that he has more to discover about himself and the gospel. I am interested to see how Hughes explores this dichotomy in the next volume.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I'm so excited! Summer Book Trek

New LDS fiction is hosting a summer book trek again! Huzzah!

There are always awesome prizes.










My list:
Through Cloud and Sunshine by Dean Hughes

Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden

The Runaway King by Jenifer N Nielsen

Cloak by James Gough

Road to Bountiful by Donald S Smirthwaite

Proceed with Caution by Betsey Brannon Green