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30 September 2014

Review: Between Us Girls by Sally John

Good Points and Not-so-good

Waitress Jasmyn Albright lives in the tiny town of Valley Oaks, Illinois, in the same house her mother and grandmother lived in. She’s stuck in a rut and knows it, until a catastrophe forces her to makes some life changes—one of which is a vacation in sunny San Diego. But even that doesn’t go according to plan, and she finds herself in the care of Liz, and a temporary resident of the Casa de Vida Cottages, just a few block from the beach.

There were parts of Between Us Girls. I liked, especially the slightly offbeat character of Liz, the intelligent yet shy engineer Samantha, the mysterious Keagan, and Beau, the gentle giant. I also liked the way both Jasmyn and Samantha were able to better come to terms with their family backgrounds, and to begin to develop relationships with God.

But there were things which detracted from my enjoyment, like the way the beginning was rally providing background rather than getting into the story, the way the story moved from Illinois to San Diego with no warning, and the list of residents at the Casa de Vida Cottages—there were a lot of characters to keep straight, and I got lost more than once. I also wasn’t especially keen on Jasmyn. I didn’t know why she’d stayed in Valley Oaks all those years when she said she never fitted in there. I understood why she left (and why she loved San Diego—who wouldn’t), but if she was that unhappy, why hadn’t she left years earlier?

I’m in two minds about Between Us Girls
. The writing was excellent, there was a solid underlying Christian message, and I loved the San Diego setting, but overall I felt it took too long to get going, it was too easy to put down, and the complexities of multiple character relationships made it hard to pick back up again. I can usually finish a novel in a day, or two at the most, but this took me a week.

I’d be interested in knowing what happens next for Jasmyn, Sam and the other Casa de Vida residents, but next time I’d like it to get straight into the story rather than having the first few chapters feel like an extended prologue.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Sally John at her website.

29 September 2014

Review: The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron


The Butterfly and the Violin takes place in two timelines: the present, in which Manhattan art gallery owner Sera James is searching for the original of an enigmatic painting she saw when she was just eight years old. Her search leads her to William Hanover, the almost–heir to a $100m estate, who has a copy of the painting and is also searching form the original. The past is the story of Adele Von Bron, the beautiful Aryan daughter of a high-ranking member of the Third Reich and solo violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic.

I’ve read novels with two timelines before, and there is often the temptation to skip one of the stories in favour of the stronger one. There was no such temptation with The Butterfly and the Violin, as both stories were equally compelling. It’s soon obvious that the painting is of Adele, and that the past story is going to solve the mystery of the present, and the present story is going to reveal the secrets of the past.

Adele’s story was made even more compelling by the fact that it didn’t move strictly forward in time. First we were in 1942, then 1939 … it jumped around (which did mean I had to pay close attention to the dates at the beginning of the Adele chapters). Hers was a story of love, sacrifice, and hardship almost beyond enduring. The present story of Sera and William might have seemed weak in comparison, except that it was so closely linked with the past story, and it worked.

There were a couple of writing glitches (although I was reading an advance ecopy, so these might not be in the final book), but it’s a testament to the strength of the characters and the dual plot that I barely noticed them. A huge amount of research has gone into writing The Butterfly and the Violin, and while the level of detail (often unpleasant) made this obvious, it was never overwhelming, it was always relevant, and nothing felt out of place (which I sometimes find in historical novels. Some authors try too hard to incorporate everything, to the detriment of the story).

Basically, I thought this was one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’ll be on the lookout for more books by Kristy Cambron. Recommended, especially for those who enjoyed Saving Amiele by Cathy Gohlke or other good World War novels.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

26 September 2014

Cover Reveal: Dangerous Love by Kara Leigh Miller and Jody Holford

Dangerous Love banner


by Kara Leigh Miller and Jody Holford

Anaiah Press is proud to present the cover of a romantic suspence novel by Kara Leigh Miller and Jody Holford

Dangerous Love!
Release date: March 3, 2015

About the book:
He’s fighting to forget his past while she struggles to remember hers...
Doctor Josh Parker lives with guilt about his wife’s death every day.
He believes himself incapable of ever loving again, but when a
mysterious woman arrives in the Emergency Room, brutally beaten and
left for dead, he starts to feel something he hasn’t felt in far too long:
Alessandra Matthews has no memory of the events that led to her being
hospitalized. Worse, she has no idea who hurt her or why. Although she’s
uncertain of who she is, she is fully aware of one thing -- she’s falling
for her doctor.
Sometimes, what you don’t know can kill you...
As Josh and Alessa work to solve the mystery surrounding her past, she
soon realizes just how much danger she’s really in, but Josh refuses to
let her face the darkness of her memories alone. With each of them
struggling to put their pasts behind them, theirs is a DANGEROUS LOVE.

And here's what we've all been waiting for – the cover!

Dangerous Love 1600x2400
Add Dangerous Love on Goodreads!

About the Authors:

Kara Leigh Miller

Kara lives in Upstate New York with her husband, three kids, three dogs, and three cats. When she's not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she's spending time with her family or attending one of her many writers groups. An active member of The Romance Writers of America and the CNY Writers Haven, Kara is also Managing Editor for Anaiah Press' Surge and Romance Imprints. She absolutely loves to hear from her fans and fellow authors, so feel free to drop her a line anytime!
Website     Twitter      Goodreads     Facebook

Jody Holford

Jody lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters. She is a fan of Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis, Rachel Gibson, and Rainbow Rowell. In reading and writing, she likes characters who are flawed, but driven toward the pursuit of love and happiness. In November 2013, she published A Not So Lonely Christmas with Foreward Literary. In December 2014, she published Forever Christmas through Kindle Direct.

Website     Twitter      Goodreads     Facebook

25 September 2014

Review: Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund

Excellent Historical Detail

Angelique Mackenzie lives on remote Michilimacinac Island, Michigan Territory, in 1814. The island is occupied by the British, and all the loyal American men have left, including her fiancĂ©, Jean Durant, but not her cruel step-father. With Spring comes the return of Jean’s handsome and adventurous older brother, Pierre … who Angelique had feelings for even as a young girl.

I don’t know what I think about Captured By Love. The writing was good, the research was excellent and I got a real feeling of time and place, but something didn’t work for me.

I didn’t like the love triangle. It’s not that I’m against the concept of a love triangle as a plot device, but this felt too contrived (especially as one character kept returning as if from the dead). Perhaps it was because I didn’t like the choice Angelique had to make: honour, or love (and I couldn’t help but think that it was never a choice she should have had to make).

I didn’t like Ebenezer. There was nothing redeeming about his character. It could be said that at least he financially supported his step-daughter, but I’m sure he more than recouped that with the bride–price he extracted. And none of the other characters felt real. It was as though they all existed merely to propel Angelique’s story along.

The Christian elements were a strange combination of not enough and too much. Not enough, because I never got the impression Angelique had any great (or even small) faith in God. Too much, because the climax depended on her supposed spiritual revelation. I wanted to love Captured By Love, and while I was totally engrossed by the historical setting and the war between the British and the Americans, I was less engrossed by the actual plot and characters.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jody Hedlund at her website.

23 September 2014

Review: Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Mathematics Meets Music

Miss Lula Bowman is the first female winner of the Donally Mathematics Award, which provides her with an income as a college lecturer, and the ability to further pursue her studies and become the first female PhD in the state. But her plans go awry when her brother-in-law dies, leaving her sister with four children and no way to support herself. Lulu is offered a job teaching high school music—which she can do—and coaching the girls’ basketball team—which she has no idea about.

Chet Vaughn is the school mathematics teacher, and coach of the boys basketball team. He has been hounded by previous husband-hunting music teachers, so is determined to keep this new female at arm’s length … until he meets Lula Bowman, who is determined to keep well away from him, and to leave town as soon as she can.

Playing by Heart was written in first person, with chapters alternating between Lulu and Chet’s points of view. This made it pretty obvious what the end result was going to be (a little surprise would have been nice), and I occasionally had to backtrack to remind myself who the viewpoint character was—it took a while before I was able to tell the difference. My other issue was that it took a while for me to tell when the story was set (World War One), which didn’t help my initial confusion.

However, once I worked out who and when, I found myself in the middle of an interesting story. I always admire intelligent characters, and Lulu was no exception, especially as the story progressed and we gradually found out more about her history and why she was so determined to escape her hometown and pursue her academic career.

I also found Playing by Heart had some interesting observations to make about parental expectation. Lula’s mother had encouraged her musical talent, while her father encouraged her ability to understand complex mathematical problems (I suspect these gifts are two sides of the same coin). It’s an important lesson we all have to learn, that we need to discover who we are in God, not simply to meet the expectations of those around us. A solid read, recommended for historical romance fans who like something a little different.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Anne Mateer at her website.