Monday, June 16, 2014

Torn Canvas by Donna K. Weaver


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



Modern-day pirates took more than Jori Virtanen’s friends; they stole his face. Not only does the twenty-four-year-old former model have to confront months of reconstructive surgery, he discovers his previous life was as superficial as his looks. Jori struggles to make a new life for himself as an artist while evading the press. They expect a hero, but he knows the truth. His beauty masks a beast. Olivia Howard’s given up a normal life for her job, and the sacrifices are finally paying off. The twenty-six-year-old talk-show host’s ratings are heading to the top of the charts. Her dream is to make a difference in people’s lives, but the studio wants mind fluff—like interviewing hot model Jori Virtanen. When Olivia learns the guy helped rescue passengers on a cruise excursion from kidnappers, she knows this is the story she needs to make her case. The only problem is the hero was injured, and now he’s disappeared. The more Olivia learns about the man behind the scar, the more intrigued she becomes. But Jori is no girl’s happily ever after. Once she finds him, Olivia has to free his heart and heal the beast. (book jacket summary)

I really enjoyed the A Change of Plans the first book in these series, and so jumped at the chance to read Torn Canvas. This book covers a lot of the same events as the book Change of Plans, but tells the story from the perspective of Jori Virtanen the mysterious and interesting model that Lyn befriends on the cruise. Jori has a major perspective shift after returning home from the traumatic pirate attack. He has to confront many inner demons and finally has the courage to pursue a career in art. I really liked reading more about one of Weaver's more interesting characters Jori Vertanen and how the author portrayed his journey to find healing from his past experiences.





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Friday, June 13, 2014

Family Size by Maria Hoagland


Family Size by Maria Hoagland
"Jessica loves being the mom of an ever-expanding family, but when an ultrasound throws her a curve, can she adapt with grace?


Dragged away from home, Maya feels deserted by her workaholic husband in a land of confusing accents and church cliques. What will it take to acclimate and save her marriage—or does she even want to?
 

Sloane is an algebra teacher and runner who would give up both to be a mom, but no matter what she does, pregnancy remains elusive. Can she adjust her thinking and find purpose in her life?

 

As their lives intertwine, can friendship and faith help these women hurdle expectations of an ideal family size?" (summary from author's website)

Family size tells the story of three women going through trials. Sloane is the math teacher that just can’t get pregnant, Jessie the worn out mother, who has a pregnancy with dangerous complications, and Maya, who deals with chronic pain while her husband is often away on speaking engagements for his new book. I  thought the author did a really good job of dealing with a lot of sensitive issues very realistically and honestly. From prescription drug dependence to infertility and adoption she leads her characters through their trials with sincerity and realism that makes the reader relate to and understand their choices.
That being said I think the author relied too much on offensive comments to fuel the tension for her scenes. The trope began to feel old hat about halfway through the novel to the point that it started to feel unrealistic. Another thing is that I thought the author could have improved many scenes by giving the reader critical details to set things up. For example we are never told that Jessica’s husband is an OBGYN and we have to just infer that from the context. He is also part of the bishopric, I think, but that never really factors into Jessica’s point of view as a reason for why she is so overwhelmed all the time. That is kind of a significant impact on Jessica’s family and I thought that should have been treated as thoughtfully as the rest of the challenges in the novel. 

Despite these weaknesses I still felt like the book was a worthwhile read and would be willing to read more books written by the author.
Find out more about Maria Hoagland at her website.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fresh Courage Take by Dean Hughes


Fresh Courage Take by Dean HughesThe United States turned a blind eye when the Mormons were driven from Missouri to Illinois and finally out of the country altogether. How can the government—and Brigham Young—now be asking the Mormons to come up with 500 able-bodied soldiers to assist in the war with Mexico? And how can Will Lewis be asked to join the Mormon Battalion when it means leaving Liz and their two little boys on their own in the wilderness? How many sacrifices will be required in order for the Saints to create Zion? And in modern-day Nauvoo, Jeff and Abby Lewis are facing challenges of their own. Juggling family priorities, professional responsibilities, and Church callings becomes and almost impossible feat. It is clear that building Zion in the latter days will require sacrifices, just as it did in the time of Jeff's ancestors. In this concluding volume of the Come to Zion trilogy, beloved novelist Dean Hughes provides a unique perspective on the struggles and sacrifices—and ultimate joy—of faithful Saints in any generation. (book jacket summary)


The story of Will and Liz continues in the third volume as they are chase out of Nauvoo and Will is called to serve in the Mormon Battalion. While we read about his long marches with no water, Liz is trying to survive in Winter Quarters without him. Finally, compelled to build her own house she manages to get her children inside for the winter. Jeff and Abby are facing their own challenges when Jeff decides to start his own handyman business, working from dawn till dusk to provide for his family. In this volume we follow the characters as they are pressed through their lowest times. I still really loved the honesty of the characters emotions in this book.  The ending of the book was sort of abrupt, but we couldn’t stay with the characters forever, I suppose. All the characters do make interesting journeys even if the ending leaves a lot of the rest of their saga untold. Hughes writes a story that is inspiring and relevant to our times. I would highly recommend this series to everyone.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Discover America by Julie Olsen

Discover America by Julie Olsen

This patriotic book if full of beautiful illustrations that accompany the text to the hymn "America the Beautiful." The illustrations tell the story of the journey of a little red balloon. A little boy lets the balloon go in California and the balloon makes its way across the country to the Statue of Liberty in New York. The book can be enjoyable for many ages, as the bright red balloon and captivating images will interest the toddler set, while the older set will enjoy guessing in what state various scenes occur. My three-year-old has already made me read this one over and over again.

A wonderful website has been created to accompany the book. There are book quizzes, lesson plans, coloring pages for each state, videos, and an interactive map activity. I can imagine using the book to introduce a lot of different aspects of American culture, history, and geography.
Thanks to Shadow Mountain for sending a book for me to review. To read more about the book visit www.discoveramericabook.com.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Prejudice meets Pride by Rachel Anderson

 
Prejudice Meets Pride by Rachael Anderson Book Cover  Prejudice Meets Pride by Rachael Anderson
After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie’s hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn’t about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome new neighbor, who seems to think she’s incapable of doing anything on her own.
Fun, compelling, and romantic, Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn't afraid to show him that he doesn't. It’s about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.
 
So, I was sort of thrown for a loop with this one. I thought it was a pride and prejudice retelling, but after having read it I don’t think it really was supposed to be. Sure the characters did do the whole pride vs prejudice character conflict thing, but it didn’t really have any Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen vibes. The author is just doing her own thing and not channeling Elizabeth and Darcy. So, I was a bit confused there for a bit, but the read ended up being enjoyable. Has all the beats of a sweet romance, and had a fulfilling ending.   
 
 
  Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 5/31/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 9, 2014

Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons by Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith


Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons by Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith

You’ve read the title, and now you’re scratching your head, wondering if this book is for real, right?
It is. Yes, the authors are bona fide Mormons. And hilarious, too! They call themselves Sistas in Zion. Did we mention they’ve got enough faith to move mountains? Well, they haven’t moved any mountains just yet, but that’s not stopping them from keeping right on praying and believing and knowing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is worth it. Their unique perspective on their own diary entries will have you laughing one minute and exclaiming “Amen!” the next. They talk about personal experiences and lessons they’ve learned about relationships, sisterhood, standing up for what you believe, embracing diversity, and dealing with adversity—what being a Christian is all about. The Sistas’ humorous and poignant outlook on life will strengthen your faith and remind you of the joy to be found in living a Christ-centered life. You’ll soon realize that the authors aren’t mad-mad—they’re crazy-mad, funny, and inspiring! (cover summary)


Two Mad Black Sisters explores general gospel topics with a upbeat, urban, voice that is fun and engaging to read. I felt like the diary aspect of the book come across a little awkwardly and made the organization of the topics really random, but the read was still fun anyway. I most enjoyed the engaging and funny personal stories that the authors shared about their life growing up, which they used to illustrate gospel topics. The book was lighthearted, humorous, and a real quick read. I liked reading about the testimony and experiences of these two sisters and enjoyed their stories.
 
Deseret Book is hosting giveaway as part of this blog tour. Check it out below!



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Friday, May 2, 2014

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron


The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

So, I read a review of this book at bloggin bout books and thought it would be the perfect match for my tastes. I chose wisely because I really enjoyed this steampunk novel. Katherine Tulman is sent by her aunt to commit her crazy uncle to insane asylum. When she arrives at the family property she discovers that the estate is much more that it appears on the surface, employing an entire village of people, who build her uncle's brilliantly designed machines. Her aunt is right, though, there is something wrong with her uncle, but underneath his odd ways lives a mind that is brilliant with numbers and engineering. How can Katherine put such a mind into an asylum and how can she destroy the livelihoods of people on the estate? Yet, to disobey her aunt is to ensure a tortuous future for herself. Unable to make a decision Katherine spends the summer on the estate getting to know her uncle, and enjoying every last moment of precious freedom that she has left. Yet, it appears that she may have more in common with her uncle than she thinks. Does she also belong in an asylum? As her mind grows more disordered and forgetful Katherine fears what it means for her future.

This was an awesome book from a point-of-view/characterization stand point. I think the author did such a marvelous job showing the character through how she thought about things. It was really interesting to read a Victorian--themed novel whose main heroine had an affinity for numbers and logical thinking. It really made her feel different and unique. Her Uncle also had some form of autism probably, which also made him an interesting character. In the end you are rooting for Katherine to protect this vulnerable and brilliant man from those that would cast aside his brilliance because it was abnormal. I highly recommend this one.   
 
 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Fortune Cookie by Josi Kilpak


Fortune Cookie  Fortune Cookie Sadie Hoffmiller has always liked things to be just so. A place for everything and everything in its place. Order over chaos. And of all things Sadie should be able to control, her own wedding is at the top of the list. With the big day just three weeks away, Sadie is busily adding the final touches to her wedding plans but the arrival of a mysterious letter from San Francisco changes everything. The only person Sadie knows in San Francisco is her older sister, Wendy, whom she hasn’t seen since their mother’s funeral nearly fifteen years ago. Sadie has faced off against murderers and criminals in recent years, yet the possibility of reconnecting with her sister is both overwhelming and frightening. Sadie soon discovers, however, that the letter is just the beginning when Wendy’s world turns out to be a place of unanswered questions, twisted truths, and more than one person with a motive for murder. The more Sadie digs into her sister’s past, the more she places her own future at risk.

The latest Sadie mystery takes place in San Francisco after Sadie gets a letter from her estranged nephew that informs her about her sister’s suspicious death.  I am always a little worried each time I start a Sadie mystery that they will feel like the same old thing, but I am always pleasantly surprised at how Kilpack makes her mysteries feel so fresh. I am always intrigued at how she weaves her character’s lives together in in convoluted ways. Sadie’s long lost sister Wendy dies and Sadie has piece together her life to find out who might have killed her. As Sadie digs into her sister’s life she discovers the picture of a woman who loved to bother and torment people the way she did Sadie while they were children. While finding evidence that her sister was mentally unbalanced brings Sadie some peace it makes it difficult to find her killer. She also has the opportunity to find out more about her nephew who, despite a terrible childhood, now runs a successful restaurant and heads a family dedicated to helping him run it. She comes to respect and admire this man, but when some of the clues point to his family’s involvement things get a bit tense. I really enjoyed this one and hated to put it down each time I had to stop reading.

 

Fortune Cookie Tour


Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 4/30/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway  


 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Fortune Cafe by Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson and Heather Moore



Fortune Cafe 
The Fortune Café
a novel in three parts
MIS-FORTUNE: Emma, a waitress at The Fortune Café will do anything to avoid opening a fortune cookie. Each fortune is rumored to somehow magically come true. Being a girl grounded in reality, she doesn’t have time for that kind of nonsense. But when trying to prevent a food fight at the café, Emma accidently cracks open a fortune cookie: “Look around, love is trying to catch you.” If there is one thing that Harrison, her former best friend in high school is good at, it’s catching her unaware.  


LOVE, NOT LUCK: Lucy has always been lucky . . . until her parents meet her fiancé’s parents at a disastrous lunch at The Fortune Café, and she breaks her lucky jade necklace. Even worse, her fortune cookie reveals that “True love is for the brave, not the lucky.” How is she supposed to read that? She’s always considered it lucky how she met her fiancé. But after breaking her necklace, Lucy’s luck takes a dive. And when her fiancé dumps her, the only person she can turn to is Carter, the unluckiest guy she knows.  


TAKEOUT: Stella is content in her new life of taking over her mom’s jewelry shop. No more boyfriend to worry about, and as long as she stays busy, she doesn’t have to dwell on her non-existent love life. When Evan comes into the shop with his young daughter, Stella is charmed. But she is reluctant to complicate her straightforward life, so when she reads her fortune after ordering takeout from The Fortune Café, she completely ignores it. After all, how can a fortune as vague as “Do the thing you fear and love is certain,” apply to her?




Novellas at their best! Seriously, this has been my favorite novella collection that I have read. The romances were all well-written with likable characters and interesting plot twists. They all follow the same set-up. The main characters order a meal at the fortune café and once they read their fortune cookie it comes true. I really liked how the stories intersected a little bit and we got to see the characters in each others stories. It is fun and gave a sense of the little California community they all live in.  All three of these authors are at the top of their writing game in this collection. Worth the read.


 

Fortune Cafe Tour



Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 4/30/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway