Sunday, February 3, 2019

Only Ever Her - by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen: Book Review

Title: Only Ever Her
Author: Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Pages:298
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: May 7th 2019
Genre: Mystery
Format: Kindle

A mystery novel where the missing person is not found and rescued in a happy ending. As macabre as that may sound, I was glad we weren't given a perfectly tied bow to wrap up the novel.

Annie, the small town's belle, is missing a few days before her wedding to a catch of a man. Many are suspect, including the man who was in prison on accusations of having killed her mother twenty years prior. I was sure we will never learn the exact circumstance of how Lydia, Annie's mother, died, and I did not see that coming! I loved that revealing part!

I read an advanced e-book copy, and maybe this had to do with it, but there wasn't a clear transition from one scene to another. At times I had to figure it out by reading between lines [see: Clary and Travis' history]. It doesn't mean you can't understand the story, but you have to pay closer attention to details thrown in.

I didn't like the mocking tone used towards the religious and Christian life. I felt like we were encouraged to root for Clary, Annie's cousin, and give Travis the side eye. I'm not claiming that his decisions and life are where they should be, but he moved on instead on wallowing in the past. 

Speaking of moving on, none of these characters (I'm referring to those from whose perspective the story was told) seem to have done that. They still linger on the past. It's typical of a novel set in a smalltown. Another thing that didn't convince me was how a whole case was based on the babbling of a three year old. No matter how precocious Annie was at that age, you investigate further, especially when there are other leads. It's unfortunate that there is another, albeit fictional, example of the incompetence of the justice system. And it throws a bad light on the police force, again. Not to mention, in a novel it just seemed the easy way to make the reader believe a three year old's word could be considered as the basis for a murder trial. 

As for the main character, I for one didn't like her, and I didn't care for her Southern sweetheart status. She was spoilt by the whole town and look what good did that do to her!

Despite all this, I enjoyed the novel a lot. I finished it in two days because I didn't want to do anything else but read more of it. It kept me interested and intrigued, wanting to read one more chapter. As far as mystery and suspense are concerned, it delivers. I sure do recommend it for fans of this genre.

4*

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

The Best of Us - by Robyn Carr: Book Review

Title: The Best of Us
Series: Sullivan's Crossing
Author: Robyn Carr
Pages: 384
Publisher: Harlequin - Mira
Release Date: January 8th 2019
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Kindle

In the fourth book in the Sullivan's Crossing series, Robyn Carr presents the going-ons in the small town of Timberlake, CO. Because I haven't read the first three book in the series, there were a lot of characters I kept losing track of. I had to make a characters' list, and how they were related. Although the author tried to naturally pepper in info about them all, you could still see there were details that you were missing as a reader. However, it wasn't something to stop you from enjoying the novel, if this is your typical genre.
It's not mine, I am picky with my romance books, but I'm a sucker for a pretty cover. And this one has a preeeeetty cover. 

The novel starts calmy, in a typical small town way. Warm and fuzzy feels, the town is homey, the kind where people greet eachother and everyone knows everybody. The characters are likeable, nice and kind, the kind for whom you want nothing but the best. Of course, as mentioned, the long list of them is a tad daunting and I am still not very sure who is married to who. But that can be overlooked.

Although it started so nice, it suddenly turned into people being in so dire need to remove their clothes and just be in bed together. Ummkay! The main character, Dr. Leigh Culver, a woman who hasn't been in a serious relationship for quite some time, finds herself sleeping with the town's bar keeper, Rob, and becoming pregnant with his child due to... wait for it... a faulty anticonceptive overlooking on her part. It's highly unbelievable. But the two of them are mature... actually scratch that, only Rob is, because Leigh behaves like a teenager. In love are also Helen, Leigh's aunt, and Sully, the campground owner. Sparks fly and they too find themselves in bed in a matter on weeks. Love, man! To be honest, Helen and Sully's romance is more believable than Rob and Leigh's, plus they are cute and you just have to root for them.

Speaking of unbelievable, the characters are all mature and think clearly, and everybody does the right thing sooner or later. Small drama with a teenage couple, Finn and Maia, when the doctors discover she has a tumour, but is operable and she's fine in the end. Those two 18-years-olds are mature and every parent's dream. So cute! The award for the most annoying characters goes to Helen, Leigh's aunt. She acts like too good for this world. I know she did a lot of things for Leigh, but I don't like her. The only moment I rooted for her was when she told Leigh she will not help her raise a kid at 50+ years old.

It didn't real like real life at all. It read cozy and a bit of "oh, no!" but all is solvable in the end, don't you readers worry. It read so fast, I kept reading because I was engrossed in it, I really was! But the moment I realised everybody acted so cool and they took everything in stride despite a relatively conservative life thus far, well, I just don't buy it. I read the final quarter of the book just wanting to see where it led: spoiler: a happy ending all around. Shocker, huh?

I may be sarcastic and mocking towards this one, but for those you like cozy romance and happy endings, this is the perfect read. And since it's number four in the series, there is more cozyness to be had at Sullivan's Crossing.

2.5*

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.
Title: Castle on the Rise
Series: Lost Castle
Author: Kristy Cambron
Pages: 384
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: February 5th 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian
Format: Kindle

It was an enjoyable read, although I can't say it was a favourite. It's the second novel in a series, and I am now sure if my just OK opinion of the book had to do with not having read the first novel.

The story starts with the present day, in Ireland, and then it adds two other, one from 1916 and one from 1797/98, both past points of view presenting the actions of those who fought for Ireland's freedom. I knew almost nothing about Ireland's past, except from what I learned from other novels, so the historical aspect was welcome. However, I had to google a lot of information. At times the novel was too stuffed with facts and name-dropping that I felt a bit lost - who were all these people and what's so important about this date or this event in history? Thank you, Google.

There were a lot of characters and I am sure they were not mentioned in the first novel because of the three points of view [pov] in this novel, only one makes references to the first book in the series. I had to make a list of characters and what happened to each one and how they related and... let me just say that it's not fun when you have to keep a list with you to make sure you don't forget who's who. The chapters alternated between the three points of view, and that had the effect of keeping me interested in each story because most of the time a chapter ended with a (small-ish) cliff-hanger. I can't say which point of view was the best, but together they worked just fine. Until about halfway into the novel I had no idea how exactly they interconnected, but it made sense in the end. 

Towards the end I felt like I had spent too much with the book, and I was eager to read it already. Not because it wasn't good, but because I just wanted the novel to end. For the most part I was sure there'll be a happy end on all three levels. 

I reckon this is intended for a Christian audience, however I kept forgetting that. If what you're after is a historical Christian romance I am not sure this is the book for you. There is beer and drinking, and although the pub is presented as a vital part of Ireland's life I can't help but think that a pub is not a Christian place. As for the three romantic relationships, one for each POV, they were OK, albeit not as innocent as Christian standards suggest is best. There are few mentions of God, and when any of the characters reference to Him it's in an inspirational way, not very deep. It's like an afterthought just to remind the reader that this is, in fact, a Christian story.

A fine read, full of info, it made me step a bit outside my usual historical fiction box. And for a book to make me google something because I am curious is something!
3*

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas - by Juana Medina: Book Review

Title: Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas
Series: Juana and Lucas
Author: Juana Medina
Pages: 96
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: May 14th
Genre: Children's Literature, Spanish
Format: Kindle

I haven't read the first book in the series, but this one I absolutely loved. It's darling, you can see the child's perspective clearly without any adult interference. 

There are a lot of basic Spanish words thrown in and I couldn't love this more! Yes, you or the child read to might not understand every Spanish word, but if you read the whole sentence or the whole paragraph it makes sense because the context helps. It's a great book to read to kids who are interested in learning Spanish. 

It's also a great book to read to kids dealing with a mother or parent's second marriage, especially if the other parent died. I liked that it didn't focus too much on the absentee father, but slowly showed Juana's changing feelings towards her new step-father and towards the imminent move to another house.

I read the book on a black and white Kindle, so I don't know what the coloured illustrations look like, but I am sure they are lovely. Even the black and white ones were beautiful. It's a great chapter book for kids, but it can be equally enjoyed by adults.

5*

I received a free e-book copy of the book from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Silent Days, Holy Night - by Phyllis Clark Nichols: Book Review

Title: Silent Days, Holy Night
Author: Phyllis Clark Nichols
Pages: 240
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
Release Date: October 30th 2018
Genre: Christmas, Christian
Format: Kindle

I was expecting this novel to be a romance, for some reason. I kept waiting for "the one" to show up, but fortunately no such thing happened. It almost felt like a middle grade novel. I enjoyed it very much. 

It is the Christmas story of an 11 year old girl who changes the life of a blind 70+ old man, overlooked and feared by his community. The novel starts with the main character as a 20-something young woman getting ready to throw a Christmas gala and it goes back in the past to show how everything started.

It gave me all the warm and fuzzy feelings a Christmas novel should, but at the same time it had the serious aspect present. I loved the family and I wished I could visit with them. As for the little girl, I see how she could be obnoxious and too much a miss know-it-all compared to her teenage brother who seemed to have got the dumber genes in the family. However, the girl is endearing. All in all, it was a lovely Christmas read.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Roots and Sky - by Christie Purefoy: Bookreview

Title: Roots & Sky. A Journey Home in Four Seasons
Author: Christie Purifoy
Pages: 208
Publisher: Revell
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Genre: Christian Nonfiction, Memoir, Essay
Format: Kindle

I got to know a bit more about Christie Purifoy because of her podcast which she co-hosts with Lisa-Jo Baker, Out of the Ordinary. It's more a mom podcast, but I like listening to it and take what applies to my life. As we should do with mostly everything we listen to and read about. #justsaying

This book is very poetic. If you are not at all familiar with Christie this might be surprising. She reminded me a bit of Ann Voskamp and her ability to turn the mundane into poetry. This is what Christie does: she takes the normal, ordinary, every day things and looks at them through a deeper and more profound lens. You need to pay attention to her words, not approach the book feeling tired and just wanting to get this book over with. There is a lot of good stuff in here and she offers quite a few thoughts to ponder.

I liked how she structured the book in four parts, each for one of the four seasons. The first one is autumn because that was the season when she and her family moved into Maplehurst, the house her husband and her had dreamed about for a long time. Autumn is also the time of year when her youngest daughter, Elsa was born. I liked her take on each season and how she relates to them and how these look like in a new city and a new house. I tried as much as possible to read a season in one sitting, or at least to not let too much time to pass before I moved to another one because I wanted to see what she saw in each one. The book reads like a collection of journal entries. A few times she talks in the present tense and I had some moments where it seemed that some ideas made sense to her, but were a bit more tricky for me as a reader to get them and be able to be keep up with them. As I said, the language is quite poetic, you need not rush in reading it. I enjoyed reading her take on some things, although I don't necessarily agree with her completely. I kept imagining what she was describing and I so wish I were able to visit Maplehurst myself!

She has a new book coming out this year called Placemaker. I hope it get to read that one as well.

I received this book a long, long time ago from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Of Mess and Moxie - by Jen Hatmaker: Book Review

Title: Of Mess and Moxie. Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life
Author: Jen Hatmaker
Pages: 286
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publishing Date: 8.08.2017
Format: Kindle

I have wanted to read this one ever since Jen started talking about it. I knew it would be funny, along the lines of For the Love, another book of hers. It was funny, despite covering topics not necessarily of great importance in the life of a late 20something girl. 

It felt at times as if she gave advice to younger girlfriends, letting them in on the ins and outs of life, but without scaring them. This is only the second of Hatmaker's books that I've read, and after having followed her on Instagram for a while now, I know her sense of humour. Be warned, it's not for everyone. She talks in long sentences, uses not-for-everyday-speech words, and sometimes you need to be in a certain mood for it. But the good news is that often you can relate to her stories, which is always desirable from authors.

I appreciated that she mixed three important aspects in this book: she approaches serious topics in one chapter, then switches to a lighter one, a pattern kept throughout the book, and every few chapters she shares a recipe because food is one of ther love languages. I skipped those because I most certainly don't see myself cooking them anytime soon, despite the dismissive they-are-easy-to-make-just-try. Nope, ma'am. 

I don't agree with her on all she talks about, but I like her personality, her normal-ness, and her willingness to talk freely about what she cares about. She is bubbly, despite being an introvert. Her large family is quite a tribe. All her family stories are adorable and I appreciated her sharing them with the reading public. I do believe she has a knack for the written word, more so than for podcasting or public speaking; she seems more free to share what she needs to in writing.

I will definitely read more from her if given the chance. 

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.