Review: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

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What FUN! 1930s England, vacationing at the shore, a rocky marriage, social climbers, and a MURDER!

This reminded me so much of Agatha Christie, but with a contemporary bent. The inclusion of romance and implied social commentary on marriage… brilliant.

I loved the travelling, Amory’s husband Milo’s gracious loyalty, Gil and Emmaline’s warm sibling relationship, and the obnoxiousness of some of those guests at the Brightwell. You can’t even make this stuff up. (Well, okay, Weaver DID make it up, but it seemed pretty real to me!)

Love, hate, selflessness, mayhem, sweet nothings … You get much more than a mystery with Murder at the Brightwell.

-Calliope

buy MURDER AT THE BRIGHTWELL

Review: Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

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I loved this sweet YA novel about two teenagers – Amish Zach and Englisch Micah. They start out as pen pals, have a big misunderstanding, and end up as friends (with a hint of maybe more).

This is a perfect, clean, appropriate relationship story for ages 11 and up. Carlson makes the dialogue come to life, and shows authentic teenage emotions and behavior. I was invested in Zach and Micah’s relationship. I wanted their friendship to work out. Carlson provided a wonderful balance of heartbreak, emotional baggage, family obstacles; and authoritative understanding, blessings, and reaping what you sow.

I especially enjoyed the contrast in the dynamics between Zach/his mom and Micah/her dad. Zach’s actions showed integrity and courage! And even despite teenage angst, mutual respect and a happily ever after won in the end.

Trading Secrets is a fun, smart, contemporary take on the Amish and their relationship to the Englisch world. Its characters are relatable and flawlessly written. It’s neither preachy nor smarmy. I certainly hope this is the beginning of a series so I can keep reading – and then place on the coffee table for my pre-teen daughters.

-Calliope
buy TRADING SECRETS

Review: The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle

*1I have to think about this book a bit….but off the top of my head I really didn’t like it. It seemed to me that the characters started off perhaps being ignorant, but they weren’t racist….by the end of the novel it seemed that all sides had turned so racist. There was little hope for anyone….not from page one and certainly not on the last page either….I kept waiting for someone…ANYONE to do the right thing….but it never happened. Yes, one can say that bit at the end….but I disagree….I think it was reflex and something that happened without thinking….it seemed that anytime a character took the time to think about their circumstances that it never ended positive. Only America seemed to think things out and look for the positive….but life certainly wore that poor lady down, didn’t? If Candido had time to think at the end, I believe he would not have reacted as he did…that’s right….I think he simply reacted to the situation…

Now having said all of that, where does it leave us? It seems to me that the nature of how the media portray these things really is part of the problem. Sure…just about every one can agree that children are born colour blind. They don’t see other races, they only see other humans….but think about how the media has portrayed immigrants in the last ten years. Is there any positive reported? How long does someone listen to negative reports day in and day out about abuse before they see only that? How long before someone that is judged day in and day out actually become what others automatically judge them to be? It was obvious that many of the characters in this novel didn’t start out as they did….others influenced their actions and ultimately changed their minds about how they perceived someone simply by the colour of their skin….

How long before you and I stop taking every thing we are told by the media at face value and actually step outside and talk to our neighbors? How long before we cross the street, not to avoid someone, but to actually help that person of a different colour? Just as others can change our perception of someone wrongly….we also have the power to change, not only our own, but also someone else’s perception….

Don’t let the negative be the guiding force in your life….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle

Teen/YA books

Have you noticed lately that the YA books seem to be creeping into the NA realm?? Well, as a parent of a couple of tweens, I sure have. And let me tell you, I am not one bit happy.

I don’t want to shelter my kids too much, but I would like them to remain innocent for as long as possible. There is no reason for YA books to have excessive language or sex in them, whether or not it’s a closed door scene. I’m not trying to be a prude, but I have a real problem with this. It seems that all the books geared toward girls, have a heavy dose of romance and many go a bit overboard. Since my almost 13 yr old daughter wants to read “more YA and less ‘kids’ books” (her words), I wish there were more teen books out there. I have been reading a few with her lately and here are a couple that I think are absolutely perfect tween/YA books.

Now, a couple of these are christian romances, but they’re teen romances. These kids don’t need to read about adult feelings and emotions. They need to be kids and be silly, not be subjected to books about things they can’t possibly understand yet.

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Edenbrooke, by Julianne Donaldson

This is one of my daughter’s absolute favorite books. I had to go out and order a signed copy for Christmas last year, because she had to hold in her hands. She was in love with this book.

To quote my review, “This book was so full of sweet romance that my eyes were prickling the whole entire time. I fell in love all over again. I feel like twirling with my eyes closed.”

I think I may need a reread of this one soon. Go HERE to read my full review.

Up next is another by Julianne. This one is my favorite of hers.

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Blackmoore, by Julianne Donaldson

Is it possible to have too much love?? Well, this story surely did.

For the last 20% of the book I don’t think my tears stopped falling. This story was about love, love, and more love. Love that hurts. Love that rips you up. Love that puts you back together.

I loved the emotional turmoil and the gut retching feeling I had. Although I almost had to stop, it was too much for me.

I think my daughter even shed a couple of tears. I love books like this.

Go HERE for Clio’s full review.

Up next is my daughter’s all time favorite. She even read it twice in two days. If I’d let her, she’d keep reading this one over and over again.
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Eyes of the Woods, by Eden Fierce

This is a paranormal YA romance that was written by a 14 yr old!! So I knew it would be perfect for daughter. ANd I was right.

“The action was fantastic! My nerves did get the better of me a few times. I was so very curious to what happening, I couldn’t put it down. There were a couple of sad parts that may be hard to read. But as I thought about what these kids watch on TV or video games, they would be used to things much worse.”

Go HERE for my full review.

This is our current read.
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Matched, by Ally Condie

I read this series a few years back. So I don’t remember much of of it. I know that it’s romance, but I don’t remember any sex. So far we are up to chapter 10 and so far, she is dying to read faster. I’m pretty sure this is a safe read, but I’m not taking any chances. So as I read for myself, I am sneaking in 5-7 chapters of this each day.

It’s a dystopian book, so there isn’t any language I have to deal with. I love most dystopians, for that very reason.

I’m hoping to review this, when I am done. Meanwhile go HERE to grab a copy for yourself.

Well, I am off to read. I’ll keep you posted, if I discover any more. And if you find any, please let me know!

~Melpomene

Buy:
Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance

Blackmoore (Proper Romances)

Eyes of the Woods

Matched

Review: How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

20140629-113045-41445247.jpgA teenage boy is gunned down in the middle of a bad neighborhood. Was he a gang member? Was he armed? Why was the shooter, who happens to be white, released without being charged? These are all questions brought to light in the first several chapters of this thought-provoking book by Kekla Magoon.

The story is told from multiple perspectives. We hear from almost everyone involved. There are the boys Tariq, the victim, grew up with. Most of them have given in to the allure of gang life. There’s Tariq’s family, including his little sister Tina. We have a well-known reverend who has come to town to help shed light on what really happened while at the same time advancing his political career. There’s the shopkeeper who spoke with Tariq right before his death. And there’s the shooter himself. The only person we don’t hear from is Tariq, but he’s dead. Sometimes when a story is told by so many different people it gets convoluted and loses my interest, but not in this case.

So this is the kind of book that’s sure to evoke deep emotion in some people, controversy among others. At first glance, it’s hard to find sympathy for many of the main characters. They are, after all, hardened gang members who deal in drugs and death. But if the reader takes the time to think a little deeper about the story, this is really a commentary on how our society views and treats members of certain racial and economic classes. And although the book certainly does bear some similarity to the fairly recent Trayvon Martin case, incidents like the one described in the book are sadly common enough that the author could have been writing about any one of them. A great read for those willing to go into the story with an open mind.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: How It Went Down

Review: Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe by Rebecca Raisin

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Looking for a cozy, warm-hearted read on a chilly day? Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe is full of yummy baked goods, loving friends, and sweet romance… not to mention lots of snow!

Lily and Damon must plan their wedding among the ups and downs of real life. I liked that Damon was so supportive and loving, but it was a little too convenient that he always walked into the cafe at just the right moment!

Lily’s friendships and family relationships were believable and fun. Her woes seemed real and would have me on the same emotional roller coaster she was riding! The characters dealt with heartbreak – from whatever cause – although things did happen a little more neatly than they do in real life. (Of course! Or else it wouldn’t be a romance!)

My favorite part of any romance is the happily ever after. Here, there are some predictable twists and turns on the way, along with a very interesting wedding cake.

It was a little bizarre reading a British romance set in a small, northeastern American town with an important character having a southern American dialect. And even more bizarre when I would read British vocabulary (braces for suspenders) after reading a southern accent in a northern town! But I managed through it for this charming Christmas romance.

-Calliope

buy CHRISTMAS WEDDING AT THE GINGERBREAD CAFE

Review: Mr. Beautiful, by R.K.Lilley

01bea LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!!! James Cavendish is my guy. That other guy, in the new movie, has NOTHING on him. If I was single and actually liked going on a plane, I’d totally consider being a flight attendant, just to find my own Mr. Cavendish.

Synopsis
I’ve been remade four times in my life.

It is a distinct feeling. Impossible to mistake. The very marked sensation of being unraveled and reknit into a new thing, a new person. It can be good or bad, helpful or harmful, but above all, it is unstoppable.

I was remade when my parents died, went from a happy childhood, into navigating a very dark world, with endless responsibilities, surrounded by enemies, and despairingly alone.

It happened again at the hands of a cowardly predator. I’d become angrier with that one, more cynical, and it undoubtedly turned me into the kinky f**k I was today.

The third happened swiftly. One day I looked up into a pair of pale blue eyes and saw the other half of my soul. Checkmate. I went from a completely controlled existence, a life where I made every decision with cold calculation, to a man overcome with feelings and emotions that were foreign but somehow wonderful.

And all too soon after that cataclysmic change was this fourth one, this one where I begged a God I’d never entertained to spare the life of a woman that I could not live without.

Right off the bat, this story took us a ride of love and loss and healing and forgiveness. This is a retelling of the past three stories, but with a twist. I was very happy with the path that R.K. took in writing this. I was always wanting to hear the guy’s feelings. I love guy’s POVs. So I am completely happy with all the glimpses she shared with us.

“Somehow, I knew, just knew, deep in my gut, where certainties held the most sway, that I would never have enough of her.

I was lost. I was found.”

I have been dying for this!! James beats and other Dom, in my eyes. So I am thrilled to read his past and present pov. So many things going on in his dirty little mind. Who knew how insatiable that man really was!! Whew! That is my favorite part of him. ;) I also love how protective he is of Bianca. Some could say he’s overprotective, but he loves her and wants no one getting between them.

“I saved her life. She saved my soul.”

Reading Stephan’s POV was downright emotional. I had no clue the life he had. I am so glad he meet Bianca, when he did. She saved him just as he saved her. He had the weight of the world, on his shoulders, from his actions, but he moved past them, to be the other part of her soul. Without him, Bianca would not have survived.

Since the timelines all intertwine, we get to see Tristan and see behind the scenes as he works towards getting Danika’s trust back. I liked seeing that. Poor Danika had no choice. Tristan was determined and was going to get her.

The best part for me was seeing the future. I won’t say anything that happens, but I’m glad to see they’re all happy and still a bit crazy. I found myself cracking up at their lives and how they’re all still friends, even many years later.

“I’d hold onto her with the last breath in my body. My final thought would be that I hadn’t gotten enough, I just knew it.”

*swoon*

~Melpomene

Buy Mr. Beautiful (Up In The Air Book 4)

Get caught up first:
In Flight (Up In The Air Book 1)

Mile High (Up In The Air Book 2)

Grounded (Up In The Air Book 3)