Katherine Reay’s Lizzy & Jane

About

Sometimes the courage to face your greatestfears comes only when you’ve run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrialoven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in thekitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She’s lost her culinary magic, andbusiness is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvycelebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shiftbeneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she’s losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelmingsense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapesavailable, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabethfinds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle asJane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature,Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can aNew York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she onceabandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?

Review

I was so impressed with Katherine Reay’s debut last year and I absolutely could not wait to get my hands on this novel. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The food. This book will make you want to eat, so have some food at hand. Elizabeth is a chef. The kind you see on the food network. Everything about her revolves around food. It’s how she connects with people, how she thinks of people, how she helps people. Elizabeth can even remember every food scene in every book she’s ever read. You cannot escape it, and I didn’t want to.

Austen. Anyone who has ever heard of Pride & Prejudice should know that Lizzy & Jane are the main sisters in the novel, and the author knows this as well. There are tons of Austen references (and Hemingway, go figure). And I love that I could catch them.

Lizzy and Jane. They are sisters who are not very close, but get closer over time. And they are so well developed. I felt like I knew what would upset them, what would make them happy, how they would react to different things. No caricatures here.

Spiritually, the novel stresses that God works everything for the good of those who love him. The novel is not heavy on spiritual things, it’s very subtle, but it’s there.

What I didn’t like:

This book took me days to finish. Not because the writing was bad, but because I got to the fifth chapter and realized that it was women’s fiction and not a romance novel. For me, women’s fiction = women trying to get along with each other. I don’t know if its because I have sisters or grew up with tons of female cousins, but women getting along together is not exciting for me. The book is beautifully done and a treat to read, but I wasn’t as involved in the plot.

Romantic Scale: 7

Overall, a very good second novel, but just not what I was expecting.

** I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

One of Those Weeks….

Hey guys, so it’s been one of those weeks, you know those weeks were reading feels like blah? I just completed my Goodreads goal of reading 300 books this year (yes, yes I have a job, but no, I do not have a husband or a child). And I think I’m a bit burned out! So I’m taking this week a little slow (never fear, there should be a review up on Friday). Until then, cover love!

Deeply scarred from a day he wishes he could forget during his military service, Thoroughbred trainer Jake Porter has given up on love. He struggles against symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, returns to their hometown of
Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake trusts her with his prized racehorse, Silver Leaf, then battles his hopes for his horse against his increasing fear for Lyndie’s safety.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country’s cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she’ll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them–or the faith they’ll need to maintain hope.

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Special Forces operator Salvatore “Falcon” Russo vowed to never again speak to or trust Lieutenant Cassandra Walker after a tragedy four years ago. But as Raptor closes in on the cyber terrorists responsible for killing two of their own, Sal must put his life—and the lives of his teammates—in her hands. Despite his anger, Cassie is ill-prepared for his resistance and the fallout when she must protect the one asset who can end the attacks. As allies become enemies and hostiles become unlikely partners, Raptor fights for its very existence.

They’re so pretty and I’m excited about all of them….particularly Becky Wade!

Monday Musings…Arguing Couples

A very common romantic trope is to take two people who initially don’t like each other and to make them fall in love with each other. It’s a fun trope, and if done well, can be truly romantic. But, lately, I’ve been reading about arguing couples and instead of feeling happy they their getting together in the end, I’ve felt worried. They argued too much. They criticized too much. And I wonder if they’re really supposed to be a couple. Here are some things authors should be mindful of:

1. They cannot still be arguing and you’re up to 85% on your kindle. They simply can’t. Otherwise, you don’t have love at the end, you have the beginnings of a potential dating relationship.

2. There must be respect. If at any point in the arguing one person does something that fails to respect the other, it’s a bit of a turnoff. Now I’m wondering what the draw is. Why are so attracted to this person who doesn’t respect you (or your job)?

3.If it’s a Christian book, I began to doubt the seriousness of their faith. If someone drives you that crazy, just walk away, do not engage. Not if they’re going to start making you sound ridiculous and act outside the tenets of your faith.

Is that to say that I’ve never found a book to be romantic in spite of the fact that the couple argued? No, there is actually one that I liked but their arguments came down to cultural differences, and so it felt believable (and the guy would do just about anything for the girl and vice versa). But generally, when couples argue in romance novels it comes down to who is in charge and so I find it a bit off-putting.

Thoughts?

Ronie Kendig’s Hawk

About

Raptor’s communications expert, Staff Sergeant Brian “Hawk” Bledsoe is struggling with his inner demons, leaving him on the verge of an “other than honorable” discharge. Plagued with corrupted intel, Raptor team continues to track down the terrorist playing chess with their lives. Afghan pilot Fekiria Haidary is devastated when a systems glitch on her aircraft forces a weapons launch on a safe target. And when the deadly bombing separates Brian from the team, he must make an impossible choice: save his brothers-in-arms, or save the woman and children depending on him to survive a brutal snowstorm.

Review

Because I loved the first book in The Quiet Professional series, I could not wait to get the second book. My thoughts:

What I liked:

I was back with the Raptor team. I just love these guys. I love their dedication to their country and their dedication to each other. Even when they get into trouble (ahem, here’s looking to you Hawk), they still take care care of each other.

Hawk. I’m so glad that he’s different than the other guys on the Raptor team. With series like these, you run the risk of having all the guys eventually turn into the same person. Not so with this one. Hawk has a distinct personality which influences every decision he makes. I really liked him and rooted for him the entire book.

Fekiria. I liked that she was in the first book also. In the first novel, you learn that she’s hiding something, and what a secret she has! I thought it was particularly fitting because recently the news did a piece on a female Afghan pilot.

Action. The book is non stop action, I was completely involved in the story, wanting to know what would happen next.

Spiritually, Fekiria and Hawk learn to know and trust Jesus.

What I didn’t like:

The romance. Let me clarify, I liked that Hawk and Fekiria get together. It’s just that Hawk and Fekiria really don’t spend time together until the last 30% of the novel and when they do, they generally argued with each other the whole time. Did I believe they were attracted to each other? Yes. Did I think they really respected each other? Not enough for anything long term. I think at the end of the day I felt like the romance was added at the last minute.

The book switches povs between Hawk, another person, and “the bad guys.” I will admit that I always skimmed “the bad guys” dialogue. I wanted to get back to Hawk!

Romantic Scale: 7

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced, action filled, and I didn’t want to put it down! So excited for the next one!

** I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

Leslie Gould’s Becoming Bea

Beatrice Zook knows God wants her to learn patience toward others. When assisting a family overwhelmed by triplets proves surprisingly successful, her confidence in dealing with others, both young and old, grows.

One person she’ll never be able to find peace with though is Ben Rupp. They’ve known each other forever, and Ben understands precisely how to antagonize her. What neither she nor Ben will admit is that beneath all their bickering, attraction awaits. When friends decide to try and bring the couple together, will the pair be able to find true love? Or will they damage their relationship beyond repair?

Review

I’ve read every other book in this series, so I decided to finish out. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Leslie Gould is a fabulous writer. It took no time at all for me to be invested in the story and invested in the people. Whenever I sat down to read the novel, I read far more than I had planned. Not to mention, that when some authors write about the Amish, it’s not unusual for me to put the book down and think what a strange group of people. But when Ms. Gould writes about the Amish, I think they are just people who live Amish.

Being with all the familiar characters again. Because it’s the fourth book in the series, I felt like I was familiar with just about all the people and it was good to interact with some of the characters again.

I will admit that I have not liked Bea much in the other books, but I wanted to see if the author could make me like her. Though it took a while, I did find myself rooting for Bea in the end (however, there was one thing Bea said that as a reader made no logical sense to me and I just realized I wouldn’t ever completely understand Bea).

Spiritually, the novel deals with pride and how pride can really destroy relationships if you let it.

What I didn’t like:

The romance. I had been really looking forward to Ben and Bea getting together because they were always arguing, and I thought it would be cute to see them together. The problem, for me, was that pretty much the whole book they still argued. At first, I really liked Ben and was irritated with Bea, but then I started to like Bea and was irritated with Ben….I wasn’t sold on their romance. They were too much into themselves and not enough for the other person.

Romantic Scale: 7

Overall, the writing was very good and I definitely wanted to finish the book and know what happened in the end. However, when the novel was finished, I was just confused, and honestly I think the characters might have been too.

** I received a copy of this novel from BethanyHouse. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

Monday Musings….Most Memorable Heroes

When I decided to tackle this thought, I am almost stopped before I started because I’ve read a ton of fantastic heroes over the years. But then, I thought, that’s just it. What heroes have managed to stay forefront in my mind in spite of the many books I’ve read? Thus, you get my list of the most memorable heroes I’ve ever come across. I’m talking about the guys in books you read just to be in their world again, regardless of whether or not you liked the book. In no particular order:

Matt from My Stubborn Heart. In a word: brooding.

Tanner Richardson, Duke of Cambridge from Who Brings Forth the Wind. Very Alpha male. And did you see the part where he’s a Duke?

Red Shirt from Courting Morrow Little. My heart is on the ground…

Honestly, just about every man Elizabeth Camden writes, but if I must pick one, Bane from Against the Tide. His brilliance cannot be contained.

Another author who writes awesome heroes, but Marcus from A Voice in the Wind wins for me. No words.

Alex from Save the Date. He is hilarious.

Lance from Secrets. He’s the opposite of the classic hero, and I love him anyway,

David from Mixed Signals. Endearing.

Levi from To Win Her Heart. Too much to say here.

Jessie from Spring for Susannah. Jesse makes this book.

Another author who writes amazing heroes. Had a hard time picking one, but my favorite book by here is this one, so we’ll go with James from Beyond This Moment. Now this is a romance.

Siri also writes amazing heroes. Who to pick? Who to pick? Cranwell from Chateau of Echoes because I just love this book.

Darius from Harvest of Rubies. That is all.

  When you think of your favorite heroes, what books come to mind?

Feature Friday….Karen Hancock

One of the hands down best Christian fantasy series I’ve ever read was written by Karen Hancock. Book one is good, but book two really takes the series over the top. If you start this series, you’ll want to read them all.

The series is un-put-down-able. So, if you get book one, try to have book two on hand, and then you’ll want book three, and then you’ll have to have book 4. Not only is Abramm a wonderful hero to follow, the romance in this series is just amazing and beautiful. So, Happy Reading!

Jennifer Hartz’s Realm

About

With one of the Heroes Of The Horde kidnapped by the demons, the remaining five members search aimlessly to rescue her. They face a huge obstacle…the most likely location of their kidnapped friend is inside the demon realm. The only Heroes member to breach the demon realm is the very one who had been taken. How can they enter the realm to save her?

Relationships crumble and morale is weak. The Heroes have reached a breaking point. Surprises lurk not only in the demon realm, but in the very midst of the Heroes as their powers grow. Throwing even more tension into the mix is a newcomer to the group who may hold the key to eradicating the Horde once and for all.

Review

Book three in the Heroes of the Horde picks up right where Siege left off. My thoughts:

What I liked:

By this time, I feel like I know all the characters and I know them well. Their voices have really strengthened and I feel like I can say that I know them and their personalities.

This book is about teens….and the characters really are teens. So many times I read YA and I’m very curious as to why the author would choose YA when what they really have created are adults who go to high school. But not here. Jimmy, Shelley, Mike, Cassie, Cooper, & Maggie are teenagers. They act like teenagers and they think like teenagers.

Romance. I like that it’s always fluid. Most of the couples in this series are not til death do us part, and I found that I liked that. I think most people don’t marry their high school sweetheart (not that it doesn’t happen!). And I like that there is romance because it adds a nice tension to the story.

Spiritually, there is, of course, the fact that they’re fighting demons. But you can tell by this one that they’ve grown spiritually and come to recognize the power of God.

What I didn’t like:

This really is a personal preference, but I’ve noticed with this book (and really with the whole series) that it reads almost like a comic book. You keep getting mini-snapshots of each character as they face different problems. This means, at least to me, that this is a more plot driven series, allowing you to get to know the characters over time. However, personally, I prefer more character driven novels, and so while the series is fun and unique, it’s not quite preference.

Romantic Scale: 7

Overall, a very nice addition to the Heroes of the Horde series. There are some surprises thrown in that I did not see coming and I think anyone who has read the other two books will see that things get shaken up a bit here. Again, fun and unique!

**I received my copy from the author. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

Monday Musings….Monotonous Reviews

The other day I was writing a review for a novel when I realized that the review I was writing sounded very similar to a review I had written the other day. And so it got me thinking, it is my reviews? Or the books I read? I made a decision a long time ago that unless someone gave me a book to review (or I requested it on Netgalley) I would not post negative reviews. And let me tell you, there are plenty of books that I have read, but just can’t post without sounding too disgruntled. This means that generally, my reviews are upbeat and positive….the same.

I’m not sure really, how I can change my reviews. Some people have star ratings (like 5 out of 5 stars) and I personally love this system. But I chose not to use it because I think my star rating might be harsher than if I just lay out there what I like and what I disliked. So, I don’t know. If you’re a blogger, what do you do to keep your reviews fresh? If you’re a reader of blogs, what style do you find most helpful when deciding whether or not to read a book?

Feature Friday…Hilda Stahl

One of the first Christian children/YA series I ever read was the Sadie Rose series by Hilda Stahl. I must have reread each book several times.

There are 9 books in the series. The only problem (if you can call it that!) is that Ms. Stahl died before she could finish the series, and what a lovely romance she had going (Sadie gets older in each book). Sadie Rose is a little bit Laura Ingalls and a little bit Anne Shirley with a lot of learning about God. Loved this series as a girl….and her adult romances aren’t so bad either!

Anyone else read these books?