Friday, February 25, 2011

Divine Appointments, by Charlene Baumbich

This was an interesting novel. At first glance, it appears that it is going to be somewhat mystical and otherworldly. The story is engaging, however, and quickly draws you in. The characters are realistic and well-formed. The story provides a good message in a non-imposing format. It is definitely a book to lend to a friend.

Josie is strong and independent, and set in her ways. She is also single and menopausal. Watching her try to keep her life as fiercely controlled and regimented while things spiral beyond her control is humorous and something most of us can relate to.

Barb comes across as the typical grandmotherly figure. She is there for everyone and always has a treat and some advice for you. The glimpses into her personal life help round out and make her human.

Marsha's creative writing therapy is humorous when used in the overall narrative, but seems out of place when chapters of her fiction are placed in between chapters of Baumbich's novel. Overall, Marsha was my least favorite of the primary characters.

Overall, this is a clean book, and one that I would (and did!) loan to a friend... my mother. :-)

You can find your copy of Divine Appointments here at Barnes and Noble or here at Amazon.  I was forwarded a print copy for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Pirate Queen, by Patricia Hickman

This was the first of Hickman's books that I have read.  The description on the back cover was interesting enough to cause me to pick it up and start reading.

The Pirate Queen opens with a Southern Living party at the magazine-worthy home of Bender and Saphora Warren.  Saphora is in the midst of plotting her escape from the world in which she lives.  Just as she is about to be free, Bender comes home and informs her that he is dying and he wants her to take him to their vacation home to die.

Hickman's story is a tale of love lost and love found, forgiveness, faith discovered, and family.  The plot was strong and engaging.  I was hooked and didn't want to stop reading before I found out how it all ended.  The characters were well formed and realistic.  The dialogue was also realistic and, with few exceptions, flowed smoothly and did not feel forced.  All in all, this is a well-written novel.

Hickman places Saphora in many situations that are similar to life situations most people face frequently.  It's nice to see Saphora struggle with the choices she must make, and to see her deal with outcomes that she did not want.  It's easy to identify with her as we all do the same in our lives.

Ultimately, I liked The Pirate Queen.  I will certainly encourage others to read it and will be loaning my copy to friends.  It's clean and touches on being spiritual.  I would classify it as a vacation book.

Here's where to find it on Barnes and Noble as an ebook, and here's where to find it on Amazon.  I was forwarded a print copy for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Smash Cut, by Sandra Brown; Tough Customer, by Sandra Brown

I've said it many times:  I will pick up and start reading anything.  Most of the time, I enjoy whatever it is and am pleased with my decision to read it.  Occasionally I am thrilled to find a new series or author to add to my ever-growing list of "must-reads."  Rarely does it happen that I regret reading anything.  I may dislike the book, or the author, or the story, but I rarely truly regret reading a novel. 

I borrowed a copy of Sandra Brown's Smash Cut from my mother-in-law.  I've read other novels by Brown and, while not my favorites, they were enjoyable enough.  I considered Brown to be a fairly decent author and her books have been good enough that I would read one when my favorites were between new releases.  Smash Cut was one of the more difficult books for me to finish.  I'm not sure why.  The plot was decent enough, despite being predictable.  The characters were realistic.  It was the type of story I typically enjoy.  There was suspense, murder, romance, etc.  It just fell flat for me this time.  It may have been because the one mystery that wasn't explained in the first half of the novel was the least important.  It could have been my mindset at the time.  I don't know.  I do know that I struggled to finish it.  I would find excuses to put the book down.  I actually read another book while reading this one.  Three days after starting it, I finally finished it.  I felt more relief for having completed it than anything else.

To convince myself that Smash Cut was an anomaly, I began reading the sequel, Tough Customer.  It doesn't continue the entire story, but carries on the characters.  I found it even harder to make myself read and finish.  It seems to me that Brown was nearing her deadline and forced a book that wasn't ready out to print.  It took me longer to finish Tough Customer than it did Smash Cut

I have taken Sandra Brown off my list of back-up authors.  I am sure that, in the future, I will read something of hers and enjoy it, but that day will be a while in coming.  It doesn't happen often, but I have to admit that I regret reading Tough Customer.  I disliked Smash Cut, but it was my own fault that I picked up and began reading Tough Customer. 

If you read or have read either of these, I hope you enjoyed them more than I did.  If you want to check them out for yourself, Smash Cut is here on Barnes and Noble and here on Amazon.  Tough Customer is here on Barnes and Noble and here on Amazon.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Lydia Bennet's Story: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Odiwe

Like most women, I enjoy Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice, and not just for the images of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy it brings to mind.  Since I enjoy the story so much, I am typically eager to read any new books that tell more of the Bennet/Darcy tale.  I've purchased many and borrowed just as many from my mom, who is responsible for this aspect of my character.  Imagine my surprise then, when browsing the ebooks online, to find Lydia Bennet's Story:  A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice available for free.  It is on Barnes and Noble for free here, Kobo is also free here, and Amazon here.

This is not exactly a sequel, as it begins during the story of Pride and Prejudice.  It tells Lydia's side of things from the time that Elizabeth is visiting Charlotte Collins and Jane is with their aunt and uncle in London.  To see Lydia's logic behind her choices makes for a new and different twist on the classic.  Odiwe's novel continues beyond the marriage to Wickham and on in the future, continuing the stories of the rest of the family as well.  This is worth reading if you enjoy Pride and Prejudice.

I will point out that Ms. Odiwe tried to write in a style similar to that of Jane Austen, but she was unable to completely achieve that goal.  While remaining completely clean, she was not able to be as completely innocent as writers in Austen's time were.  However, most of these incidents of impropriety were from Lydia herself, which is appropriate given her character.  One other observation is that, when mentioning locations, Odiwe wrote out the full name, as opposed to Austen and her contemporaries who would use the first letter followed by a line (H--).  While nice to have the full name to read, I found I missed the discretion of the original.  That's a personal preference, though, and had no bearing whatsoever on the novel itself.

Overall, I would encourage you to download a copy of Lydia Bennet's Story:  A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice while it is still free.  Much like Pride and Prejudice can be read at any time, this can also be read and enjoyed just about anywhere.  I have classified it as a vacation book because it is light and silly and has romance and comedy, but is serves as a mental vacation on it's own.  I will warn you, though, once you read this you will want to pick up your copy of Pride and Prejudice and read it again!  (it's available for free from all the major ebook sites:  Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Amazon.)

I hope you enjoy this one; please let me know what you think!


Friday, February 4, 2011

The Centurion's Wife, by Janette Oke and Davis Bunn

Yesterday I finished reading The Centurion's Wife.  I meant to post about it last night,but discovered I needed more time to think on it before I did.

I've read other books by Janette Oke.  I have found her writing in the past to be somewhat simplistic and repetitive.  While the stories were good, they were not soul-stirring.  The Centurion's Wife did not have that problem.  I was hooked.  I found the story to be thought provoking and very well written.  Of all her books I have read, this is my favorite.  I am looking forward to continuing the Acts of Faith series (this is book one; books two and three are focused on secondary characters from this one).

When I downloaded this, it was a free download on Kobo.  When I went back today to find the link, I found it is no longer free.  I still encourage you to buy this book.  It is available as an ebook on Kobo here and on Amazon here and in print from Barnes and Noble here

Oke used a simple woman in Pilate's household to show a new side of the story of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.  Her retelling of THE story is fascinating.  Having the people from Jesus' story brought to life makes it that much more real.  What I liked the most was the fact that Leah and Alban were both looking for the truth of what happened to "the prophet" and neither were followers of Jesus.  Without changing facts from the Bible, Oke created a story that tied so many major and minor characters together to bring it all to life.

Personally, I think this is a great book to read during the Easter season.  I also think it would be a great companion to a Bible study of the same time.  While you can read this book as merely a story and take it lightly, I found that nearly impossible to do.  To me, it was much more than just a story.

I hope that you enjoy The Centurion's Wife as much as I did.  Let me know what you think of it!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter, by Lisa Patton

As 2011 began, Mom loaned me Lisa Patton's Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter.  Naturally, I read it.  It was funny - laugh-out-loud funny.  Even though the stories are not the same, it reminded me of the movie Hope Floats.  Honestly, I think this is because I envisioned the lead character as being portrayed by Sandra Bullock.

Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter, is, as you may have guessed, about a Southern belle who has been transplanted up North where she must survive the winter.  The story follows Leelee as she follows her husband and his dream of owning a bed and breakfast in Vermont.  The environment and culture shock make Leelee want to turn tail and run home to Memphis, but her steel magnolia spirit pushes her to stay the course.  I found myself cheering for her accomplishments and could easily envision just how one would come to such a place in life.

This is certainly a book to loan to a girlfriend.  It deals with heartbreak, finding yourself in the least likely of places, true friendship, and the ability to find the fun and funny no matter what happens.

Barnes and Noble offers this an an ebook or in print; click here to purchase.  Take a copy with you on your next vacation - you won't regret it!

Let me know what you think of Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter!


Ladies and Gentlemen... The Redeemers, by Michael Scott Miller

Sometimes I come across a book listed in the free section of Kobo that is a Smashwords Edition.  This makes me wary.  These are the books that are self-published.  They are written by unknown authors and are available for free or almost free download.  Occasionally they will pop up on and you can order a printed copy for $10 or so.  I'm glad I took the chance on this one.

I read the description of Ladies and Gentlemen... The Redeemers and it sounded promising.  A story about a group of has-been and wannabe musicians trying to make it big was something I could appreciate since I enjoy going to hear up-and-coming bands play live.  This book has heart.  It's funny, it's sad, but most of all, it's real.  It's a story of hope, a story about a leap of faith, and a story about letting nothing stop you from your dreams.  It's a tale of redemption.

Unlike the other books I've read lately, this book has no spirituality or religion in it.  It has some mild language, but not much.  (I think I counted 5 curse words in the entire 71,000 words. *thank you Smashwords for the word count.*)  Overall, this is a clean book.  It's a fun story.  This is a book a man or a woman could read and enjoy.  I read the book in one night (which isn't saying a lot, I know).  I didn't want to put it down.  I was rooting for Bert to get the band together and to make it big.  This book was written so well that I became emotionally invested in the characters.

I will definitely be looking for more of Michael Scott Miller's writing.  I urge you to download a copy of Ladies and Gentlemen... The Redeemers.  The Smashwords website has several download types available for free here.  Just find the one that works with your reader.  Let me know what you think of it!

** per the author, there is a printed version of the book available here on Amazon.  Thanks for the information, Michael!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fools Rush In, by Janice Thompson

Last night's book was another cute, flirty comedic romance.  It was also very clean and had more emphasis on Christianity/spirituality than the others I've read so far this year.  Best of all, like many of the others this year, it was a free download on both Barnes and Noble and Kobo.  Click here to find it on Barnes and Noble's website. 

Fools Rush In is the first book in Thompson's Weddings by Bella series.  If the other books are as delightful as this, I will certainly check out the rest of the series!  Bella and her family are Italians who first lived in New Jersey and have landed on Galveston Island, Texas.  One of the family businesses, a wedding chapel and reception area, has just been handed down to Bella, who decides to branch out and offer themed weddings.  This story follows her as she plans her first big wedding and tries to avoid all the mishaps along the way.

The story is sweet, slightly predictable but not in a bad way, and is laugh-out-loud funny.  Several times I found myself reading passages aloud to Dave because they were so entertaining.  This is certainly a book I would share with a girlfriend and one I would suggest for a vacation.  It's a fun, easy read.  The 330+ pages fly by.

Please, let me know what you think of Fools Rush In or any of the other books in the Weddings by Bella series.