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Friday, August 4, 2017

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen



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The Secret of the India Orchid
by
Nancy Campbell Allen

Blurb:

"Anthony Blake, the Earl of Wilshire, is in love with his best friend's sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover shy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies--including his own--has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honorable earl for the facade of a flirtatious playboy. Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most distant regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn't as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned. She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won't confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?"

My Review:

Wow! Although this is a proper romance, it could very well fit into the mystery section as well! This proper romance isn't all flowers and love notes; it has it's fair share of romance, for sure, but it's so much more! There's murder, betrayal, kidnapping, and lots of secret keeping. Sophia is a strong female character. She holds her own against the men who sometimes desire her to look pretty and do nothing else. I liked her spunk, independence, and compassion. Anthony is also a good, strong character. He may have a soft side underneath all that military/spy persona, and it kinda peaks out every once in awhile. Predictability aside, I enjoyed this book. It has everything you want in a proper romance: a few stolen kisses, a little bit of cheese, some great "Awwwww"s, and a mystery to boot! What could be better?? It's definitely the most edgy proper romance I've read (more violent-not more racy), and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the mystery, the secrets, the search for the culprit, and that it took the book past just cheesy romance, and elevated it. I recommend this book.

Rating: PG-13 (There isn't any "intimacy," except for a few brief kisses, and there isn't any profanity-to my recollection. There is a murder, but you don't read about it as it happens, you find out after it has occurred. There are a couple of scenes where characters die, some in kind of graphic ways.)

Recommendation: YA (13+) and Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton


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Lilli De Jong
by
Janet Benton

Blurb:

"A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her. Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can't accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive. Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. 'So little is permissible for a woman,' writes Lilli, 'yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.'"

My Review:

I cannot imagine what it must have been like for single, unwed mothers like Lilli in the nineteenth century, or earlier. I know it must be tough now, when there are a lot more resources. Honestly, neither this topic nor the topic of wet nurses really ever crossed my mind. I suppose I have thought about wet nurses briefly, as my mother was not able to nurse. We always wondered what would have become of all six of us children without the marvelous invention of infant formula. That's about the extent of my curiosity, however. I like it when the topic of a fictional book peaks my interest and makes me think. Lilli's narration through her diary entries is well written; her voice draws you in and allows you to see into her most intimate thoughts and feelings. It's as if you're there with her through her struggles, heartbreaks, and rare contentedness. The women who run the charity home where she delivers her baby are saints in my book. I enjoyed getting to know them and thought they were good, strong supporting characters. The other women at the charity home become your friends as Lilli stays there, and you find yourself hoping that they'll all be ok. Clementina and Albert Burnham made quite the pair. Each of them were well developed and written. Clementina's attitude toward Henry broke my heart; I did not like how she treated her son. However, there were a couple of brief moments that brought her a bit of redemption, and surprised me. I was suspicious of Albert from the beginning. He seemed nice on the surface, and I felt bad for him because of the situation he was in. However, as the story progressed, I did not like him at all. There were a few bright spots: Margaret, Mrs. Baker, Frau V., and Mrs. Bernstein come to mind as women that gave hope to Lilli when she was in her darkest moments. I did like that about this book-I liked how there were a few women that stood out as loving, caring, and helping when hope seemed lost. There is still good in the world. This book shows a different side of unwed mothers, poverty and begging, and assumptions. It teaches that we may think we know the whole story and be able to righteously judge, but we don't know. We do not know why the beggar on the corner ended up there. We don't know how that young woman came to be pregnant and alone. And our job is not to judge, but to help and care for those in need. If we don't do it, who will? Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is definitely not the happiest book out there, but it does make you ponder, and I came away much more grateful for all that I've been blessed with, and with a greater desire to look outside my own life and struggles to find those who really need care and love.

Having said that, I would rate this book 3 stars instead of 4 stars because of a few scenes that were overly graphic and way too detailed for my tastes. I thought they were inappropriate and disgusting. There's an "intimacy" scene at the beginning that was a bit too detailed, but at least it was sweet. There are a couple of later "intimacy" scenes that were way too graphic and detailed; I thought the one, especially, was disgusting and inappropriate. I guess it kind of showed you the true character, but that could have been shown in much better and less appalling ways. There really wasn't a whole lot of language or violence, but there were some difficult to read pages describing the conditions of an orphanage. If scenes like those described above do not bother you then you will enjoy the story and learning about the strength of human will. However, if you are not a fan of detailed "intimacy" scenes, then I cannot recommend this book. 

Rating: R (This book is NOT appropriate for younger readers. There really isn't any profanity or violence, but there are some very graphic and detailed "intimacy" scenes that I found disturbing and disgusting.)

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

     

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Letter To My Readers

I just wanted to take a minute and let you know how sorry I am that I have not been keeping up with my blog this spring and summer. My 15 year-old son has been super sick since the beginning of April. He missed the last seven weeks of school, spent four days in the hospital, and had a feeding tube for over a month. He is slowly recovering, but it is going to be a long, slow process to full recovery. My family comes first, and taking care of him has been my first priority. Consequently, my blog has suffered. :( I haven't even had a lot of time to even read, which is so sad. Please bear with me for the next few months as I take care of my family. I'll post as much as I can; I have many books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, so hopefully I'll be able to get back to normal soon! 
Keep reading!!!

~Monica

Monday, June 26, 2017

Quotes


How many times have you stayed up late to finish a book?
Me? Too many times to count, but still not enough. :)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Nic of Time (Phoenix Cycle Series Book #3)



Nic of Time
(Phoenix Cycle Series Book #3)
by
Mark Minson


Blurb (from amazon.com):

"After leaving Will to pursue the removal of Paul from The Council of Magic, Nicole finds the tables have turned. When she finally returns to Will's house, he has disappeared leaving her a mystery to unravel. 

Meanwhile, Kyle, Will and Leroy find themselves neck-deep in the ongoing war with MAIM. 

Can any of them survive long enough to prevail?

The thrilling conclusion of the Phoenix Cycle Series!"

My Review:

First a little disclosure: for those of you who may not remember my reviews of book #1 and book #2, Mark and I are friends. We've been friends since high school, and in fact, had creative writing together. If you want dirt on Mark, I'm sure I can think of something (On the flip side, I guess that means he could probably find some on me :). Anyway, he knows I'll be just as honest with his book as I always am, so no worries there. I have enjoyed this series from the start. The magic is fun and entertaining, the characters are interesting and well developed, and the story is full of action, adventure, and magic! The concept of the magic in this series is different from other fantasy books, and I've enjoyed Mark's take on it. I especially liked learning how Will came up with and made the spells in the last book. There's not as much of that in this book, unfortunately. Other things do make up for it though. I loved how this book combined the two story lines and brought it all together. I read the first book quite awhile ago, so it did take me a minute to remember who those characters were and how they fit in, but it wasn't a big deal. The characters get better with every book, and it's fun to see how they grow and evolve as the story continues. Mark's writing has also gotten better; however, I have to say that his grammar has not. There are a lot of grammatical errors. That particular problem is easily fixed though. I think I need to learn a few of the spells for myself (The travel spell in particular, would be awesome.) The characters worked well together, the ending was great, and I thought it all came together well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the series. I definitely recommend it. This series would be perfect for summer!

Rating: PG+ (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy" in this book, but there might be a kiss or two. There is quite a bit of violence, and several people die. It's a magic war, so there are casualties. It's not overly graphic in describing those scenes though.)

Recommendation: 5th grade (10-11 years old) and up. I kept it at this level because even though it is somewhat violent, it isn't any worse than Harry Potter, and most kids have read that by 5th grade.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Friday, June 9, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean



A Bridge Across the Ocean
by
Susan Meissner

Blurb:

"February 1946. World War II is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Devereux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...

Present Day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides--and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings."

My Review:

I have heard about the Queen Mary, but I did not know that it transported troops during WWII and their war brides after the war. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for those brides to see the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline come into view. Some of them hadn't seen their husbands in a very long time; it must have been quite the reunion! I enjoy historical fiction books that have a connection to present day (Blackberry Winter and The Firebird), and  so I was excited to read this one. Let me say, I had a few hesitations, especially with Brette's character, but I did not need to worry. Even though I didn't fully believe Brette's ability (nope, not really a believer), it didn't matter. I completely got caught up in the story, the characters, and the events that led them together. Each of the women in the story had a completely different story; they came from different places, they were different nationalities, they experienced the war in different ways, they had different family structures, and they had different likes and dislikes. And yet their lives intertwined at this particular moment and place. It was fun to watch their friendships grow, and to get to know each of them better. I felt as if I were on that ship with them. The characters were well developed, realistic, and compelling. Ms. Meissner's writing style is easy to read and understand, although it does take a minute to figure out who is who and where each of them is at that point. There's mystery, friendship, love, war, secrets, tragedy, sacrifice, and hope. I thought it all came together well, and once I started I couldn't stop! The title is well written, and I love the cover picture! I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There is a graphic rape scene, a murder, and an abusive relationship. It's war, so there are also war atrocities. There's not any profanity.

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Almost Missed You



Almost Missed You
by
Jessica Strawser

Blurb:

"Violet and Finn were 'meant to be,' said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can't help thinking that she can't believe her luck. Life is good. So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach--just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare and faced with the knowledge that the man she's shared her life with, she never really knew at all. Caitlin and Finn are best friends going way back, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin's doorstep with the son whom he's wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn't, Caitlin faces an impossible choice. Told through the alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn, and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser's Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother's love, a husband's betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn't have been kept, and spaces between what's meant to be and what might have been."

My Review:

Wow! What a ride! This book caught my attention from the beginning, and I couldn't put it down. The writing is well done, the characters come to life on the page, and the story has so many twists and turns that whiplash is real possibility. I liked all of the characters for most of the story; each of them had a moment where past choices and secrets came to the forefront, and in those moments the characters were not all that appealing. However, no one in real life is perfect all the time, so this did allow the characters to be more realistic and easier to relate to. I just had to keep reading to figure out why....Why?? When you get to the why it's hard to believe that someone would choose to go that route rather than the more sane and less criminal one, but I guess desperation will make people act ways that they normally wouldn't. The writing is captivating and engaging. It was a bit difficult at first to figure out who everyone was and the time period they were in, but it got easier as I kept reading. The title of this book is well chosen. As you read the book, the title changes meaning a little bit. It means something different at the end than it did half-way through. I liked that. I ended up really liking this book, but I didn't love, love the ending. It was realistic, but not what I had hoped. 

Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There are several "f" words and adult themes. Intimacy is discussed. There isn't any violence except for a car accident.)  

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Dark Talent (Book #5 in Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians)


The Dark Talent
(Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians: Book #5 )
by
Brandon Sanderson

Blurb:

"For years, the Evil Librarians have managed to keep this book under wraps--but Alcatraz is back at last with an all-new adventure! Alcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and his friend Bastille is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the Highbrary--known as the Library of Congress to Hushlanders--the seat of Evil Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all?"

My Review:

So here it is-the last book! Sad! I always get mixed emotions when I read the last book in a series; I'm excited to see how it ends, but I don't want it to end. This has been such a fun series, and I enjoyed every book. So what did I think about this book? You need to read it! Someone please read it and then email me so we can talk! Did this book answer all my questions? Sadly, no!! What?? I know. Seriously. I'm left hanging. Did Alcatraz end up like he said he would? Sadly, yes. :( Mr. Sanderson (aka Alcatraz) did discover footnotes though, that was awesome. The cover art is great, the story is action-packed and full of surprises, and even though I still had questions, it was a great final book. If you have read the first four, go get on amazon (my affiliate link is at the bottom of the review so it's very convenient to click right now...) and order it right now!! If it's daytime when you read this then the library is also a good option. Just please someone read it and let me know so we can discuss!

Rating: PG+ (This one is rated a little bit higher because a few prominent characters die. It's not overly graphic, but it is a bit more graphic than the other books. There is fighting. There isn't any profanity or "intimacy.")

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up


Monday, May 29, 2017

Summerlost


Summerlost
by
Ally Condie

Blurb:

"It's been a year since the devastating car accident that killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what's left of her family are spending the summer in her mother's hometown of Iron Creek and trying to mend their broken pieces. Memories surround Cedar, including strange gifts that begin to appear in the night--the type of small household items her brother Ben used to collect. Until one day a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike, and everything about Cedar's summer changes. Soon, Cedar not only has a job working at the renowned Summerlost theater festival, but also a growing friendship with Leo that will blossom as they piece together clues about the short and tragic life of one of Iron Creek's most famous residents. Emotionally resonant and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that explores the strength of family and the transformative power of friendship in the face of tragedy." 

My Review:

I liked Ally Condie's Matched series, so when I saw this book on the shelf at the library I was excited to read it. The characters in this book are very well written, and I fell in love with them. Cedar and Leo are both children, yet they are quite mature for their ages. Cedar has already experienced tragedy in her life, and Leo has a very grown-up goal that he's working towards. They work together well, and I felt like I was the third person in their little group. Cedar's mom and Leo's family are supporting characters, but they added a lot, along with the other employees at the festival. I definitely got caught up in this story. I thought it flowed well, it was well written, the characters were well developed, and the story line was engaging. It was fun to read a story that didn't include fantasy characters or lots of action; it's just a fun book about two children and their summer friendship. They weren't perfect, for sure, but that's what made it so realistic. Both of them tried hard, made mistakes, and tried to right their wrongs. It was fun to watch them grow over the course of the book, and to see how a good friend can mean the world to someone. I enjoyed this book a lot and I definitely recommend it.

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity, intimacy, or violence in this book. There may be a bully or two, but nothing overly graphic.)

Recommendation: 4th grade and up (It's a great middle-grader read!)




Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Confessions of Young Nero



The Confessions of Young Nero
by
Margaret George

Blurb (Taken from amazon.com):

"The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.

Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman—or child.

As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.

While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become—an Emperor who became legendary.

With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival."

My Review:

I enjoy learning about history, so when I heard about this book about the Roman Emperor Nero I was excited to read it. Learning the history was interesting because I didn't know much about Nero at all, but that's about where my interest ended. In the afterward Ms. George discusses how most of the characters are taken from real life, along with most of the events. She may have fudged dates a little here and there, and I think she added three minor characters, but other than that, the people and events were based on historical records. It was crazy that he was made emperor when he was only 16. Today 16 year-olds can barely start working at fast food restaurants, let alone run the country! Haha! I have a son who will be 16 this fall. Yeah, nope. He's definitely not ready to run a country. :) It was sad how Nero and his young bride had to wed so young, and how neither one of them wanted it. I felt bad for her, especially. Learning about Nero racing chariots and playing the cithera was interesting; however, once the story got into Nero's "intimacy" with many women other than his wife, and then especially the scene with his mother, I was done. This book is definitely not my kind of book. There was way too much "intimacy," in scenes and discussions of, and there was way too much graphic detail. The incest scene was horrible and made me want to vomit. Seriously. I think I could have liked this book without the profanity and the graphic "intimacy" scenes, but it was not meant to be. I did not like this book at all and cannot recommend it.

Rating: R (Is there anything higher than R?) (There is some profanity and minor violence, but the worst part is the "intimacy." There are many scenes, most of them are quite detailed and graphic, and he definitely gets around. His own mother is in one of those scenes. Yeah. Gross.)

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.