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6 July 2015

Review: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth Vogt

Good Characters, Good Concept ...

Paramedic Vanessa Hollister married Logan Hollister (yes, same last names) when she was eighteen and divorced him two years later for reasons unknown (we did find out later in the book. It would have been nice to have understood this earlier, but no. This kind of information was disclosed through flashbacks which I found annoying because they were disrupting the present-time story).

Vanessa is now living in Denver and engaged to Dr Ted Topliff, who has the idea to have a romantic destination wedding in Destin, Florida, to coincide with a medical conference he will be attending. Yep. How romantic. Vanessa doesn’t think this is a good idea, not because of the obvious sign that her husband-to-be isn't exactly making the wedding a priority, but because that’s where she met Logan. Sure enough, when she visits Florida to plan the wedding, she runs into Logan, and things don’t exactly go as planned …

This was a sweet romance along the lines of Sweet Home Alabama (with a destination wedding theme), about rediscovering love and second chances … At least, it was a sweet romance as long as I didn’t think about it too much. If I think about it, the romance suddenly seems too fast, and not entirely convincing. I could see from the flashbacks how and why eighteen-year-old Vanessa and Logan fell in love, and I could see that twenty-eight year-old Logan still loved Vanessa--although I suspect he loved eighteen-year-old Vanessa, because he really didn’t spend enough time with the twenty-eight-year-old one. But I wasn't convinced by Vanessa. As a result, I just wasn’t convinced by the romance.

Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. To find out more about Beth Vogt, visit her website.

4 July 2015

Friday Fifteen: Brandan C. Hadlock

Friday Fifteen: Fifteen books which have influenced your life or your writing. Today, a warm welcome to Brandan C. Hadlock, who has recently released his first novella, Working With The Enemy (which was free when I checked yesterday - click on the link to get your copy).

Welcome, Brandan!

(Yes, I know it's Saturday for those of us Down Under. But it's still Friday in Utah, where Brandan lives.)

Fifteen Authors Who Have Impacted Me:

My favorite author is one that probably goes without saying for all, or at least most of Iola's readers. As to other authors, here is my attempt at 15—ish.

Baroness Emma Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel was once a favorite book of mine. I was amazed by Baroness Orczy's command of the English language. More than that, the story showed the incredible importance of communication between spouses.

E. Nesbit

A favorite of my youth.

Bryan Davis

I haven't actually read his books yet, but I love his online videos about writing.

Michael Ramsdell

His book, A Train to Potevka, influenced my writing on my first published novella.

Chris Stewart

His book, Shattered Bone, also guided the writing of my novella.

Madeleine L'Engle

Years ago I was told that my writing used words that were above my potential readers' understanding, or at least, the readers' normal usage. Then, in an article posted after Madeleine L'Engle passed away in 2007, I read a quote from her. I haven't found the quote since then, but in essence, L'Engle said she didn't dummy down her vocabulary for her readers. That was a great support for me. Why should we write at an elementary school level just because educators and professionals tell us to? Let us raise each other, not lower each other.

L.M. Montgomery

I had the opportunity to participate with my children in the stage version of Montgomery's beloved Anne of Green Gables. I also got to choreograph some of the dances. (Now I need to read the book :)

The U.S. Founding Fathers

Those great men who crafted the Constitution of the United States of America have blessed and influenced my life without measure.

That's a new one for Friday Fifteen, but I can absolutely agree with the sentiment!

Mary Leona Jolley and Joel Hills Johnson

They were two of my ancestors who were true to their faith in God . . . . Perhaps my writing gene came in part from them.

Brandon Mull

I enjoyed the Fablehaven series. And Brandon has a great name :)

Joel Rosenberg

Action and faith. I enjoyed the Last Jihad Series.

C. Terry Warner

I read Bonds That Make Us Free as part of a college class. Very insightful.

Dave Ramsey

For those who want to make sound financial choices.
(Isn't that everyone?)

Carolyn Keene

Yes, I know this is really a pseudonym for multiple authors, but I'll count it as one author.

Iola, thank you for the invitation to share this Friday Fifteen and for taking the time to review books.

My novella, Working With The Enemy, is available at Amazon.

Twitter: @HadlockMedia

I'd love to hear from my readers!

3 July 2015

Review: A Midwife's Tale by Delia Parr

Fails to Deliver

Amazon Description

Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives who have served the families of Trinity, Pennsylvania, for generations. A widow with two grown children, she's hopeful that her daughter will follow in her footsteps, but when Victoria runs off, Martha's world is shattered.

Worse, a new doctor has arrived in town, threatening her job, and she can't remember a time when her faith has been tested more. Still determined to do the work she knows God intended for her, Martha is unprepared for all that waits ahead. Whether it's trying to stop a town scandal, mending broken relationships, or feeling the first whispers of an unexpected romance, she faces every trial and every opportunity with hope and faith.

My Review

I didn’t realise when I selected this book to review, but it’s actually a reprint of A Place Called Trinity, published by St Martins Press in 2002 to mediocre Amazon reviews (including a four-star review from Harriet Klausner, who reviews an average of six five-star books a day across a range of genres. I usually discount Harriet’s reviews, but when she—or her minions—give less than five stars, I wonder what she/they disliked so much).

I don’t know why Bethany House decided to publish a medicore reprint when there are a lot of better first-time novelists begging for a chance to be published through Bethany House or one of the other major CBA publishers. Contractual reasons? It doesn’t seem like it’s undergone any changes since the original version—the writing, frankly, isn’t up to the standard I expect from Bethany House, and I sincerely hope the NetGalley ebook wasn’t the final edited and proofread version (tattoo and tatoo in the same sentence? Please.)

The beginning was slow, as it covered sixty years of medical history in the town of Trinity, and it never got faster. A lot of the story was told in the past rather than being shown in the present—Parr has midwife Martha Cade thinking about a conversation she’s just had rather than showing us the scene in which the conversation occurred. This felt old-fashioned and boring. Yes, I know the book is set in 1830, but it doesn’t need to feel as if it were written in 1830 as well.

The most distracting thing in The Midwife's Tale was the dialogue tags. It seems plain old “said” is too difficult. Instead, the characters gushed, suggested, murmured, whispered, simply said, ventured, argued, offered, spat … and that’s just one conversation. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the tags fit the characters, but gushed sounds like a modern teenage girl—a cheerleader, perhaps—not a staid middle-aged housekeeper or a widowed midwife in 1830. Modern Christian writing has been criticised for obeying the "rules" to the point where individual voice is removed from the writing. This novel is a good argument for the rules.

There were flashes of brilliance in the writing, like “a skein of good intentions that tangled her hopes with disappointment”. But these were outweighed by the ever-present explanatory dialogue tags and excessive telling, which made it hard to see the story. I know there are people who enjoy this kind of writing and storytelling, but I’m not one of them.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

1 July 2015

Review: Hidden Identity by Carol J Post

2015 Reading Challenge: Mystery or Thriller

I’m always a fan of a good romantic suspense story, and this one ticks all the boxes: intelligent heroine with a secret, handsome and godly cop, and more twists than I usually find in a full-length novel, let alone a shorter Love Inspired Suspense. Even better, I didn’t see the twists coming …

Meagan Berry faked her own death and moved to Cedar Key, Florida, to escape her ex-fiancĂ©. But then her face makes the news after she rescues a man from a plane crashed in the water … a man who turns out to be a senator. Now strange things are happening, she’s convinced her ex is here to get her, and she doesn’t want to end up like his last fiancĂ©.

Police Office Hunter Kingston is attracted to the town’s pretty new resident, but he’s soon convinced she’s hiding something (duh). And she’s not a Christian. But that doesn’t stop him wanting to protect her … especially when it seems someone is after her.

Meagan and Hunter were both excellent characters. Hunter’s only problem was that he was perhaps too larger than life, too perfect, but that fault is easy to forgive in a romance novel. Meagan was a more complex character as we didn’t find her secrets all out at once, which added to the tension. She had plenty of struggles, both personal and spiritual – growing up surrounded by abusive men meant she found it hard to trust men at all—even the almost-perfect Hunter—and she found it even harder to trust God. If He's really on her side, why do all the bad things happen?

Anyway, Hunter was the perfect hero for a woman with issues about trusting men and trusting God, and I enjoyed getting to know him and see the way he was able to both keep Meagan safe and show her that not all men were abusive. There was also one powerful scene where he did show himself as less than perfect, and I liked the way that threw even more conflict into his relationship with Meagan.

This is the second book in the Cedar Key series (following Deadly Getaway), but can easily be read as a standalone novel. It sounds like a great location for a holiday, as long as you don't mind all the murderous crazies the town seems to attract!

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

29 June 2015

Review: Firefly Summer by Kathleen Y'Barbo

Excellent Contemporary Romance!

This is the third Kathleen Y’Barbo book I’ve read, and it’s taken me a while to try again after I didn’t enjoy the first two. One was the last book in a series, which made it harder to pick up. The other was the first book in a series, but I didn’t like it because the back cover copy gave away two major plot points within the book, and I found it difficult to engage with parts of the plot. They felt a little ‘off’ to me (I later found out it was badly-marketed—it wasn’t historical romance, as I’d thought, but steampunk, which explained those aspects I felt were ‘off’). I also read hints that Y’Barbo herself hadn’t been pleased with the way the book was marketed, which inspired me to try her writing again. She’s now changed publisher and moved to contemporary fiction, a move which can only be for the better given her previous publishers substandard effort on the earlier book.

What about Firefly Summer?


The story starts shortly after Sessa Lee Chambers’s husband dies, leaving her distraught and with a five-year-old son to raise alone. It then moves forward in time by a couple of decades to mature Sessa, who now has a successful business restoring wooden carousel horses, a dream she’d shared with her husband. But life takes a few unexpected turns and she finds herself caring for her infant granddaughter … and befriending the man who killed her son.

Sessa is a fabulous character. She’s gone from the so-distraught-she’s-good-for-nothing widow to the strong woman with a healthy social life and thriving business. It’s also good to see a character who’s had a less-than-perfect life: her son rejected his Christian upbringing and his mother, which is something Sessa blames herself for. That’s rare in Christian romance, probably because most novels don’t feature characters old enough to have adult children, or grandchildren. It was especially good to see a romance featuring a mature couple—a reminder that romance isn’t just for the young.

Both Sessa and Trey had issues with the perceived and actual sins in their past, and with forgiveness for both themselves and each other. This aspect of the plot had the potential to be awkward and cringe-inducing, but Y’Barbo’s writing prowess shone through and it was excellent. The one thing missing was tying up the loose end about the red cowboy hat (you’ll have to read it to know what I mean).

Overall, an excellent novel and I’ll look forward to reading more from Kathleen Y’Barbo in the future.

Thanks to Redbud Press for providing a free ebook for review.