Review: Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick

20140112-094215.jpgThe cover got me. As soon as I saw this sad yet beautiful illustration I needed to know more. Described as a “gripping yet poignant novel about a boy and his dog trapped in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina”, I was immediately intrigued.

Twelve-year-old Zane has been sent to visit his newly discovered great-grandmother in New Orleans. Not a fan of the city he calls “Smellyville”, he nevertheless begins to enjoy the time spent getting to know his long-lost relative. As luck would have it, however, his visit coincides with one of the worst natural disasters in history. After the levees fail, he and his grandmother attempt to leave the city. Zane gets separated from his grandmother and is rescued by a kindly musician and his young charge. Along the way, they encounter much of the horror and lawlessness that pervaded the city during this time. As a young man of mixed race, Zane’s eyes are opened to many societal and racial issues he’s never seen in his home state of New Hampshire.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. Realistic fiction is always a favorite of mine if it’s packed full of historical facts, and this books fits that description. Although Zane is a fictional character, much of his experiences are based on factual information gathered by the author and others. The book explores the issues of economic and racial disparities without being preachy. There’s no question that people are often treated differently because they’re poor or black. Mr. Philbrick did an excellent job of researching facts and conditions of that horrible time in America’s recent history. As a Newbery Honor author, he knows how to speak to his audience of young readers. Although this book’s intended audience is listed as 10 to 14 years, don’t let that dissuade you from reading it.

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina

Review: The Yarn Spinner (a Crossroads Cafe short story) by Deborah Smith

20140222-232044.jpg This short story, part of Smith’s Crossroads Cafe series, is as quirky and eccentric as the novellas that came before it. The Yarn Spinner focuses on Lucy, a woman recovering from a brutal attack that almost left her dead. Cousin Delta’s biscuits — and the unconditional Appalachian love of Crossroads Cove-ites — save Lucy’s heart and soul.

What I love about Crossroads Cove is that even though I don’t readily identify with any of the characters, and even though I get confused with how everyone is related to each other and cousin Delta, the loving and healing nature of Delta and her family touches me deeply. These are people who have needed saving, been saved, and now are the first to step up and save the next ones who need it.

Deborah Smith writes soulful, joyful friendships. I’ll read any amount of quirkiness to experience such heart. And lucky for me, Deborah Smith will deliver another biscuit-laden bit of loveliness sometime this year.

–Calliope

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Review: Bare Essentials by Jill Shalvis and Leslie Kelly

20140222-230439.jpg Bare Essentials is two 2002 novellas put together under one cover. The first one — Naughty but Nice by Jill Shalvis — is about Cassie, much-maligned daughter of the town vixen. Cassie returns to her hometown to start a racy “women’s shop” to spite all the gossips. I loved that she was up for fun with Tag, the new sheriff, while keeping her heart safe. Shalvis wrote some very steamy scenes here, running the gamut from a fling-y diversion all the way to making love because Cassie was falling in love. The plot is simple, the secondary characters pretty flat, and the sex toy conversations a little over the top, but the romance won me over. I rooted for Cassie and Tag all the way to the happily ever after.

The second novella — Naturally Naughty by Leslie Kelly — parallels Cassie’s story but tells it from Kate’s point of view. Because again the secondary characters play such small roles, there is no repetition or redundancy. The story seems new, with a touch of familiarity. The flirting and the sex are graphic and steamy, matching Kate’s outspokenness and sense of fun. Kate and Jack were happy living the single life… until they found each other. They enjoyed each other’s, ahem, company so much that they didn’t even realize they were falling in love. While I found it hard to relate to Kate, and her friendships with the other female characters were awkward, I enjoyed watching her grow as she learned about her family history.

Shalvis and Kelly did a bang-up job writing novellas from the viewpoints of two best friends. They succeeded in creating sexy romances with strong female characters. And with the help of hot heroes, they let Cassie and Kate develop from sullen victims of hometown gossip to women who had something to contribute to Pleasantville. The girls finally realize that how they thought the people of Pleasantville perceived them was really only how they had perceived themselves.

–Calliope

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Review: A Cadence Creek Christmas by Donna Alward

20140222-225544.jpgEvent-planner and entrepreneur Taylor takes a winter trip from Vancouver to Cadence Creek to plan her brother’s wedding – and spend Christmas with her family. During her take-charge week of wedding plans she meets rancher and business owner Rhys. Taylor and Rhys both feel chemistry, but they have more fun verbally sparring with each other. Though they keep hurting each other’s feelings through judgement and thoughtless wisecracks, something meaningful runs deep, something they both want to explore.

The dialogue in a Cadence creek Christmas was wonderful. Taylor and Rhys joked with and snapped at each other realistically… They reminded me of my husband and me when we are annoyed with each other but still feel the strong, deep undercurrent of love. I also found very natural Taylor’s worries, her chats with her family, and her willingness to help others in a pinch. Taylor’s a doer. She doesn’t sit around waiting for other people to do something. She just takes change and gets things done. I admire that in Taylor, and I like that Rhys saw through the bossiness and appreciated her hard work and efficiency, too.

Rhys was a little bit of a unique hero. He doesn’t rush in and save the day. He fulfills obligations quietly. He does a lot of things without explanation — which confuses Taylor! This reminds me of someone I know and love, so I really felt Taylor’s frustration and confusion. But Rhys is dependable and loyal and honest. And that’s just what Taylor needs.

The hand-holding, snow-falling, and cocoa sipping was all very romantic. The airport scene was a terrific surprise, and the last scene at the diner was perfection. Alward’s characters stayed true to themselves and because of that they felt real. And so did their love.

–Calliope

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Blog Tour and Giveaway: Once in a Lifetime, by Jill Shalvis

1

SOMETIMES WRONG IS OH-SO-RIGHT
After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he’s back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she’s not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben – even though he has absolutely no idea what she’s done . . .

Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?

Can I tell you how much I love Lucky Harbor?? I seriously do. I wish I could live in a place like that. Small towns appeal to me. I want to know EVERYBODY!!! Plus, all those hot guys would be a nice perk. But I’m getting sidetracked here….

Ben and Aubrey bicker every time they see each other. They just don’t like each other. But love likes to strike those who least expect it. And these two most definitely do NOT expect it.

Ben was hired, by Aubrey’s uncle, to help her remodel the bookstore she is trying to get back on it’s feet. She doesn’t want his help, but she can’t stop him. She doesn’t want him around, because she keeps having these crazy feelings for him. And Ben finds more ways to be around her, and he has no idea why. He doesn’t want a relationship, especially not with someone like her.

Aubrey feels unloved. She always felt that way. Listening to her remember her past, broke my heart. She as seriously misunderstood and wrongly accused for a lot of things. But she wasn’t an angel either. So, as she tries to make amends with those she wronged, she feels more guilt over Ben than anyone. But he has no idea why.

On a side note, watching Ben interact and react to Pink and her sister….total swoon. I fell in love even more. I mean seriously, who couldn’t?? And when he brought them in for cookies…*sigh*

As they grow closer, and their relationship, or whatever it is, grows more and more saucy, I was sitting at the edge of my seat wondering when the other show was gonna drop. But when it dropped, and she told him her secret, I never saw it coming. I felt horrible, for both of them!! I wanted to reach in a hug them both.

Can the past stay in the past and not effect your future??

Excerpt
“You’re incredible, Ben, you know that? You’re an insensitive, first-class jerk, and–”
He leaned in. “And what?” he asked, voice dangerously low.
“And…” Stymied at her ridiculous and constant reaction to him, Aubrey put her hands to his chest to give him another shove, but somehow got her wires crossed and she fisted his shirt instead.
“Dare me,” he said softly.
Oh, how she hated how well he knew her. “I dare you to kiss me,” she whispered, and then to make sure he did, she put her mouth on his first…

I seriously can’t wait til the next one!!

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Buy Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor)

Once-in-a-Lifetime-Blog-Tour

Review – The Good German by Joseph Kanon

147326There have been thousands of books written about WWII, but not as many focus on the immediate aftermath, let alone set in immediate post-war Berlin. In The Good German, Joseph Kanon explores the many different facets of war, the intricacies of motive, and the ethical dilemmas one can be faced with when carrying out actions in the name of love and war.

The plot follows Jake, an American reporter that is on his way to Berlin to write an article on the post-war efforts to re-build the city. Once in Berlin, Jake stumbles upon the body of an American soldier and finds evidence that all may not be what it seems. Along the way, Jake encounters a host of characters that he will later reunite with further in the story. The plot essentially is split up between a love story and a mystery; Jake has a secondary reason for going to Berlin, which is to seek out his former Girlfriend, Lena, who he had met on a previous trip. Rest assured though, there are many plot twists and diversions in order to save it from becoming a two dimensional experience.

What I loved most about this book, apart from the entertaining plot, was that it really made you question your already strongly held morals. It presents both sides of an argument and doesn’t necessarily side with either argument. What you once thought hypocritical, might actually make sense. What you once found acceptable might now be unacceptable. What you once found abhorrent might now be not so abhorrent. There is no right or wrong answer set in stone. If you want a book that will question and challenge your views/morals and not a cozy mystery that will sit you around a camp fire, with you signing kumbyah, and present you with a box of answers with a nice bow tie on it (I don’t knock any that type of book – sometimes we need that!), then do yourself a favour and pick up The Good German.
Hope to see you next week for another review!
~ Pegasus.
The Good German

Review and Blog Tour: Midsummer Sweetheart by Katy Regnery

My review: Aah the romance of Montana summers. This was such a satisfying read. Katrin and Erik complemented each other perfectly: he being exaggerated in size and power, but gentle in spirit; and she being small in stature but powerful in her convictions.

My favorite parts of the novel were Katrin and Erik’s dates. Full of banter and flirtation, lots of conversation, and swoony hand-holding, the picnics and walks and drives felt so real to me.

I’ll be honest, the beginning of the book was awkward. The dialogue was forced, the writing was repetitive, and I felt like I was reading a soap opera.

Then at about chapter 5, the writing tightened up and Regnery found a groove. I was pulled in emotionally and intellectually. I was IN Montana. The suspense was awesome, and the love story had me sighing dreamily.

Though Regnery might have had difficulty with the beginning of Midsummer Sweetheart, she sure has a wonderful way with endings. This happily ever after was sweet, and perfect.

As a language lover, I REALLY had fun reading (ok and trying to pronounce!) the Swedish and Norwegian endearments. Thank you, Miss Katy!

This review was posted on Amazon and goodreads on 22 February.

-Calliope

Buy Midsummer Sweetheart



BLURB:

During the annual Montana festival of Midsommardagen, a law enforcement official must protect a beautiful nurse from her past, thereby breaking his own vow to never risk his heart.
SYNOPSIS:
Erik Lindstrom never had much faith in love. He saw his parents’ marriage collapse and vowed to avoid the same anguish himself. His fiercely protective nature drew him to a career in law enforcement, where he’s managed to keep himself and his heart safe…until now.
Katrin Svenson is in danger. After leaving her home in secret, her only hope for safety seems to lie in the hands of a man who has steeled himself against her deep blue eyes and sunny smile. But sparks fly between the nurse and her handsome protector, and those sparks become fire as Katrin melts the ice surrounding Erik’s heart. That fire will ward off the dark force determined to keep their sweet midsummer nights from being an impossibly perfect forever.


Author Bio:
Katy is a 2013 NECRWA First Kiss and 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations contest finalist who
has always loved telling a good story and credits her mother with making funny, heartwarming tales come alive throughout her childhood. A lifelong devotee of all Romance writing, from Edwardian to present-day, it was just a matter of time before Katy tried her hand at writing a love story of her own. Katy lives in the relative-wilds of northern Fairfield County, Connecticut where her writing room looks out at the woods, and her husband, two young children and two dogs create just enough cheerful chaos to remind her that the very best love stories of all can often be the messy or unexpected ones. Katy has a Paranormal alter-ego: KP Kelley –
https://twitter.com/KPKelleyAuthor
Her
Paranormal It’s You is
scheduled for a Winter 2014 release. 
Goodreads:

Purchasing Links ==> will be provided when they become available.




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