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18 September 2014

Review: Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee


I’ve read a couple of novels recently set on or around reality TV shows—I suppose that tells you something about contemporary TV (I wouldn’t know. I’ve usually got my nose to my Kindle). Last Family is something a little different, and that’s what makes it special.

Getting a phone call from your best friend to say they’ve just seen your daughter on TV isn’t an everyday happening, but it’s something Monica Stanton never expected to hear. She gave her daughter up for adoption the day she was born, twenty-five years ago. Now her daughter wants to reunite—on a reality TV show.

Last Family Standing is close to perfect. Excellent opening. Solid writing. Well-paced. Great characters. Plenty of conflict, both internal soul-searching and the external conflict of attempting to establish a relationship with a complete stranger while participating in an elimination-style reality show on a tropical island with not enough food. A twist in the middle and another towards the end which gives it that real “wow” factor. And even a little romance (that’s the one failing. Perhaps not enough romance …).

The entire story is told by Monica in first person point of view. That’s sometimes a weakness, but Monica is a strong character, one with plenty of hidden secrets (like the identity of Jessica’s father), and a character who is well able to hold the novel without it getting boring. And the single viewpoint works well, because that way the reader is just as surprised as Monica when the twists come.

Recommended. I’ll certainly be looking out for more books from Jennifer AlLee.

Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jennifer AlLee at her website.

16 September 2014

Review and Giveaway: All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Don't miss Betsy St. Amant's latest fiction release, All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes. A "sweet" tale of two best friends and the choices they make between dreams and a possible "sure thing," St. Amant's novel is sure to satisfy your romantic-fiction craving.

Betsy is celebrating with a fun Kindle giveaway and a Love & Cupcakes Facebook party!
One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle
  • All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 18th. Winner will be announced at the "Love & Cupcakes" Author Chat Party on 9/18. Betsy will be hosting a "sweet" book chat, giving away prizes, and answering questions from readers. She will also share an exclusive sneak peek at her next book project!

So grab your copy of All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes and join Betsy on the evening of September 18th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 18th!

My Review: Surprise! It’s a romance involving cupcakes

Kat Varland is twenty-six, and works in Sweetie Pies, her aunt’s cupcake shop in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. She bakes the same vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry cupcakes each day because Aunt Maggie won’t sell any of those “weird” flavours … which leaves her testing them on her best friend, high school football coach Lucas Brannen. But things change when she’s accepted as a contestant in reality cupcake show (yes, really) Cupcake Combat, and takes Lucas to LA as her competition assistant.

It’s pretty obvious that there’s more between Kat and Lucas than simply being long-time best friends. Both would like the relationship to be more, but both are too scared to take the next step, for fear they’ll ruin their friendship, and the LA trip tests them in more ways that one when Kat realises the prize for winning the contest is a year-long internship in a famous New York bakery, and Lucas realises that winning the contest will mean losing Kat.

Kat lacks confidence in herself, which I thought was sad. Her father is a pastor, but it seems she’s always taken second place behind her sister, Stella, beauty queen. The focus of the story was on Kat so we didn’t get to see much of her family, but what we did see was glossed-over Christianity, where being seen in the right places and with the right people is what counts. Kat’s more than that, and Lucas encourages her. Usually.

While I enjoyed the story and the characters, I did feel it took a long time to get anywhere, and both Kat and Lucas engaged in a lot of introspection that didn’t exactly get them anywhere. This was exacerbated by the fact we could tell they were interested in each other from the get-go. If one had been interested and the other took a while to return the feeling, it wouldn’t have seemed so drawn-out. However, it was still an enjoyable romance with a food backdrop (always good), and I’ll be interested in reading more from Betsy St Amant.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Betsy St Amant at her website.

15 September 2014

Review: Hallowed Halls by Hannah Alexander

Excellent Medical Romance

Dr Joy Gilbert is getting to the end of her patience with her new boss, Weston Cline. Not only has her role as a “pain management specialist” turned into legal drug pusher, but he’s reluctant to let her take pro bono cases, and seems to expect more from their relationship than employer/employee. The only positive is her relationship with Tressa, his daughter, who is struggling with her parental relationships after their divorce.

An unexpected telephone call takes her back to her home town, where her mother has been admitted to hospital, and is under the care of Dr Zachary Travis, Joy’s ex-fiance. She arrives to find more than she bargained for—she has a stowaway. Tressa. Tressa, who is suddenly having fainting spells for no apparent reason.

Hallowed Halls is a combination of a medical thriller, and second-chance romance. There’s history between Joy and Zack, and there’s a story as to why she left her home town to work for Weston. There was so much unspoken backstory that I wondered at times if this was actually the second book in the series, but it’s not. While the medical aspect is central to the story, it’s well-written and not so detailed that I was grossed out (a distinct advantage. I had to skip pages in one novel recently, because the medical description was too, well, descriptive).

One thing I did keep getting hung up was Weston, who is a complete slimebag. Weston isn’t a common name, and the only Weston I’ve ever known was the complete antithesis of this fictional Weston, and it took me a while to get into the story for that reason. However, this improved once Joy got home and the focus of the story was more on Joy, her mother, Tressa … and Zack.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hallowed Halls. It was a good plot (especially the medical bits), and the characters were fascinating. Recommended.

Thanks to Hannah Alexander and Soul Inspirationz for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Hannah Alexander at her website (well, their website. Hannah Alexander is the pen name of husband-and-wife writing duo Cheryl and Mel Hodde).

12 September 2014

Review: Love, Justice by Elaine Fraser

Warning: Biased Review Ahead ...

I provided Elaine Fraser with manuscript assessment and copyediting services for Love, Justice (via my freelance editing business), so there is a degree to which this review might be biased. Or maybe I liked Love, Justice because I could relate to Justice, who seems to have more courage to stand up for herself than I ever did at her age!

Justice is seventeen, and finds most of the teens at school are shallow and more concerned about finding the right dress for the Graduation Ball than thinking about others. She’s got bigger dreams than her schoolmates, dreams to make a difference in an unjust world. When she meets Seth at a peace rally, she is inspired to be just like him, travelling the world and making a difference. But she soon finds there are opportunities to make a difference right at home … especially when her father springs a bombshell on the family.

I very much enjoyed Love, Justice . It’s written in a chatty voice which makes it an easy read, and easy to get involved in Justice’s life. Justice is a likeable character who is on a personal journey to find a way she can make a difference in her life, asking questions typical for this age group. (It doesn’t seem that long since I was a searching young idealist myself, yet now I have my own teenage daughter).

In many ways, Justice has gone out of her way to make sure she doesn’t fit in with her schoolmates, with her “unstylish” hair and Doc Martens. But as the story progresses she realises that she’s judged the “cool” kids (especially Perfect Mercy) based on the way they look as well, and she gradually learns that it’s what’s inside that counts.

While Love, Justice has definite Christian themes, I believe it’s a novel that any teen searching for their identity will enjoy. Love, Justice is the sequel to Perfect Mercy, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. You can find out more about Elaine Fraser at her website.