Review: Then, Again by Karen Stivali

Then, AgainTitle: Then, Again
Author: Karen Stivali
Genre: Romance/ Foodie Romance
Grade/Rating: 4 out 5

Synopsis:

Sometimes you have to lose it all to find what you really need.

Photographer Kay Turner is dealt a double whammy when she flies home for her grandmother’s funeral to find her boyfriend with another woman. Now with two losses to mourn, she retreats to her newly inherited beach house to clear her head.

Everything at the beach is familiar: the sounds of the ocean, the scent of her grandmother’s perfume—and the irresistible smile of James Margolis. The man Kay spent her adolescence pining for is every bit as charming as she remembers.

James always thought of Kay as “a nice kid”, but he feels something very different for the woman she’s become. Especially when he asks if she’d be willing to part with some of her grandmother’s recipes for his new restaurant—and they wind up sharing much more than culinary secrets.

But as their relationship deepens, Kay finds herself caught between the demands of her dream career as a travel photographer, and a chance for happiness with the one man she’s wanted for a lifetime.

Warning: This foodie romance contains sensual scone baking, a heroine who discovers one bad apple hasn’t spoiled her appetite, and a delicious hero you can’t help but crave. Blend well, serve hot.

My Review:

                Then, Again is a story of love and strength but also finding and then holding on to what matters most in life. 
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Child of Mine

Review: Child of Mine by Judy Mollen Walters

Child of Mine coverTitle: Child of Mine
Author: Judy Mollen Walters
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction
Grade/Rating: 4 out 5

I’m not one who shops based on book covers (it’s usually never paid off in the past) but I will admit that this particular photo did catch my eye and pulled me in enough to read the synopsis.  Now, there is where I found my true tether…even in the short blurb that accompanied it, a nerve of mine was struck and I felt compelled to read it. And my ever-true “gut” told me I’d like it…

In this story we meet Katie.  A bright woman living a good life with the love of a devoted, supportive husband and a promising career where she finds pure joy on a daily basis as a successful midwife.  Part of Katie’s character is that she is adopted and was blessed with a loving adoptive family, which she has never questioned.  Until now.  Although she has never openly sought the answers to her biological identity, she has always wondered about it and through this story those pesky little questions churn quietly in the background as she grows further into her adult life.  It’s that urge for a biological connection that fuels Katie’s desires to have a family of her own. However, the path she must take is not easy and it tests hers and her marriage’s limits.  As a midwife Katie finds that experiencing countless births is bittersweet as she struggles quietly with her own fertility speed bumps and she finds herself even facing pregnancies that are unwanted or disappointingly unplanned.  What started as a career full of joy and wonder begins to turn into a daily reminder of how “unfair” she feels her life has been.  As a reader and mother I felt sorry for her but knew that her vision of her life may not be what her life was meant to be.  My heart ached for her from time to time and I wanted to rush to the end to see if she was ever blessed with the joys of motherhood.

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Review: Rachel McClellan’s “Fractured Light” (Fractured Light #1)

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Title: Fractured Light (Fractured Light #1)
Author: Rachel McClellan
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Book Description:

I’m dying, I thought. This was unexpected and not at all how I envisioned my death. I was supposed to die gardening in a flowerbed as a hundred-year-old woman, not as a seventeen-year-old trapped in a lake beneath inches of ice.

Llona Reese is used to living on the run. After the Vykens killed her parents, she knew they would eventually come for her too. She can’t take any chances. But when she starts to make friends for the first time in her life, she gets careless and lets her guard down. Big mistake.

As an Aura, Llona can manipulate light and harness its energy. But if she wants to survive, Llona will have to defy the Auran Council and learn to use her power as a weapon against the Vyken whose sole desire is to take her light. Now she’s caught in something even bigger than she can understand, with a power she can’t wield, and no one she can trust, except, just maybe, a mysterious stranger.

In this breathtaking and romantic adventure, Rachel McClellan delivers a truly mesmerizing story that will keep you guessing to the very end.

Review:

Rosette: All Llona wants to do is to remain unnoticed during her last year in high school.  She has no real friends, she doesn’t go out, and never participates in any extracurricular activities.  She’s satisfied being the quiet one.  Llona believes that by being inconspicuous no one will know her secret.  The power of the Light that lives within her is growing, but she continually fights  to hide it. Orphaned as a child, she lives with her Uncle, who is more like the big brother she never had. The premature deaths of her parents’ affects her greatly and Llona refuses to suffer their fate. If no one knows about her secret, no one will try to harm her, or at least that is what she believes. So Llona lives life under the radar.

But she can no longer ignore the signs of danger that has finally followed her.  Someone knows what she is and even the power of the Light won’t be enough to keep her safe. With the help of her Uncle and several unusual and interesting friends that she has grown to trust, she just may survive.  Changes start to occur in her life and Llona is no longer satisfied living in a solitary existence. Her new friend Christian quickly develops an interest in her and she wants to reciprocate these feelings. But the new and strikingly handsome student is a mystery, and Llona is not sure what to make of him.

It was a pleasure to review this book. The characters were both convincing and very likeable and I believe young readers will be delighted at the interesting twists and turns that this novel has to offer. The concept of the Light was quite intriguing and I was quite happy to see Llona’s character develop throughout the story.  She grew from being a fearful young woman, barely existing what was to be the best years of her life, into the tenacious and confident individual that was not afraid to take the offensive in difficult situations.  Christian, her love interest, is a capable young man who can be quite overbearing at times.  He quickly becomes a protective confidant.  How he fits into Llona’s world is quite confusing to her at first, but as she matures, she is able to reconcile his place in her life.  She has a circle of fascinating friends who Llona later discovers to have surprising lives of their own. Each character introduced to us has their own unique stamp, their individuality adding to the already strong and vibrant storyline.

This is a brilliant first book to what will surely be an exciting new series and I am very much looking forward to the next one.

Tiffany: Rosette does a great job of telling you how wonderfully captivating Fractured Light is. This story will keep you on your toes! You won’t want to put down! Someone is after Llona and she fights to stay alive, but one thing (or one person) keeping her motivated is her new admirer, Christian. ;) There are great plot twists & surprises that are very smart and make the book even better. For someone who is a fan of paranormal, or who wants to begin to read the genre, this is a great choice to pick! Llona herself isn’t aware of what she is truly capable of and thanks to new friends and family, she is learning more about herself and her past. I’m a big fan of all the characters and their uniqueness. Even though it’s a fantasy story, their personalities are very real. Truly great read and can’t read the rest more from this series and author!

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5e6d2e4f2f2f0a7e9d9a2a.L._V166095549_SX200_Author Information:

Rachel McClellan was born and raised in Idaho, a place secretly known for its supernatural creatures. When she’s not in her writing lair, she’s partying with her husband and four crazy, yet lovable, children. Rachel’s love for storytelling began as a child when the moon first possessed the night. For when the lights went out, her imagination painted a whole new world. And what a scary world it was…

Find more about Rachel on her website & follow here:

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Review & Giveaway: Margaret from Maine by Joseph Monninger

Margaret from Maine Author: Joseph Monninger

Title: Margaret from Maine

Publisher: Plume (Penguin)

Release date: December 24, 2012

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Description:

The end of Maine Guardsman Sgt. Thomas Kennedy’s conscious life is ushered in by a flash of light on a plain in Afghanistan. While he languishes in a veterans’ hospital, Thomas’s devoted wife, Margaret, is raising their son on a dairy farm in rural Maine. She receives an invitation to Washington, DC, to meet the President of the United States as he signs a bill in support of wounded veterans with war veteran and West Point graduate Charlie King as her appointed escort. Charlie and Margaret’s shared circumstances inspire them to confide in one another. Suddenly, the pair creates a private world all their own, leaving the effects of war behind them. Margaret’s vows to her husband linger, raising a series of harrowing choices.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 3.5/5

In this story we are given a woman living her day to day life on a dairy farm in Maine with her son Gordon and father-in-law Ben, keeping herself together and poised as ever.  She’s a simple woman, not wanting for much, and considering which direction her life has taken, that says a lot about her character and strength.  Unfortunately we never really get to “meet” her husband, Thomas, because he’s now just a shadow of the man he once was.  He joined the Reserves, just like countless others do, to help support their life and possibly do something bigger. But, life had a different plan for him.  He is now considered an injured veteran and with that label comes a very tricky and sometimes treacherous path to be on. Being married to an injured veteran with Tom’s specific condition, Margaret is invited to attend a bill signing in Washington D.C. that is meant to improve the lives and care options for these tattered soldiers.  With that invitation came Charlie King, her assigned escort.   It’s when Charlie and Margaret are together that we see just what she is missing in her life and I felt empathy for her.  Yes she is a married woman, and those vows I do not take lightly, but I could also see her daily sacrifices slowly destroying her and I knew deep down that embracing her feelings and thoughts towards Charlie was the right choice for her.  Charlie opens a door to a world Margaret knew little of and with that he also awakened something inside her she did not realize had been dormant.  She is not just Margaret the dairy farmer/mother/caretaker…she is a woman with needs and yearns for the things taken from her before she had time to really enjoy them.  There were times I found myself wishing there was a bit more internal conflict from each character considering certain situations that they were presented with but I was satisfied it wasn’t all sweetness and roses.  The subjects dealt with between them deserve an honest light and in order to feel connected with the characters, I need to be able to feel their feelings but also place myself in their shoes.  I struggled at times to do that but I never found myself bothered or annoyed with the situations completely.

Charlie is a very honorable and giving man to me and I never once considered him aggressive or opportunistic, which could have been easily done given his particular role in Margaret’s life.  He showed true compassion and never failed to put everyone before himself which is a must in my yes column.  He has ties to the Army as well as a unique connection to the situation Margaret finds herself in.  I won’t spoil the story here, but I will say that the way Mr. Monninger connected Margaret and Charlie was thoughtful, respectful, and never once did I find myself questioning the purpose.

Margaret and Charlie embark on a journey together and the style of descriptive writing used here both enhanced it and overshadowed it at times.  It took me a moment or two to really get into the story at the beginning and I did find myself wondering why certain elements of the background were included the way they were.  By the time I reached the end of the book I realized that although they weren’t necessary to push the story forward, they were elements that added to my overall experience within the story.

For the last three sunsets the prism had caught fire and it did not disappoint her this night. It sparkled bright white for just an instant, and she thought of Thomas, and she thought of good grace falling over the farm, and she hugged Gordon as the prism accepted light, bent it, and sent it on its way. She felt a lesson rested in its performance, that she, too, must accept what came toward her and pass it on its journey, but that seemed too grand an idea for the moment.”

Although Margaret and Charlie are mean to be modern day people they did speak and have thoughts that seemed slightly outdated but it did not detract too much from the story for me.  If anything I considered them polite and proper, with maybe even a touch of southern style.

I was drawn to this book for one reason…Margaret is a military spouse.  As one myself, I am always interested to see how authors handle this very different life we live.  Which aspects are covered and which are barely touched out of fear of the unknown are typically the first thoughts I have when I read a synopsis that includes any mention of military married life.  Most people have ideas of what military spouses face but I can say, without a doubt, their ideas don’t even scratch the surface.  Regardless of the branch of service their spouses serve, they all have had to face the same trials and tribulations in some form or another.  Long separations, the worry of unknown dangers, and carrying the responsibilities alone that most share with others are a constant presence in a military spouse’s daily life.  There are sacrifices made by both the active duty member as well as his/her spouse but the focus and point of discussion is typically only on the soldier’s side of the spectrum.  I’m not implying that a soldier’s sacrifice is in any way lessened because it’s their sacrifices that keep our country safe from harm, and that in itself is the biggest one a person can make.  Even after these troops return safely to their families, there are even more obstacles and worries that must be overcome in order to find peace with what each has experienced during a deployment.  It’s a very tricky situation to be in and their inner strengths are tested again and again long after the battle has been fought.  War changes people regardless of the uniform or responsibilities held during it.  It forces us to accept a reality that most would like to ignore and pushes our strength and resolve beyond every limit we felt existed.

This story highlights just a fraction of what our troops and their families face upon their return but it was done with tastefulness that I respect.  I will say that Mr. Monninger handled the role of a military spouse with class and dignity, never once casting Margaret, or other military spouses, in a poor or weak manner and I certainly appreciated it.  I enjoyed this book and felt that it ended appropriately leaving the imagination to do what it was designed to do.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to step into the delicate but muck covered shoes of a military spouse.

***

She did, in fact, believe her husband Tom had acted bravely, but she did not see it in quite the same light as others wanted to see it…..She knew her husband—saw him bracketed by his son on one side, his father on the other—and she did not believe he would have acted courageously for a concept as vague as patriotism. No, it made perfect sense that he would raise his arms and try to protect a fellow soldier, but that had nothing to do with God and Country and flag waving.”

 ***

“Did you believe in the war, Charlie?” Margaret asked softly, her eyes studying the statue.

“Which one?”

“Is there a difference really? I suppose there is. I’m cynical. After Thomas, I don’t have much faith in any of it. I imagine I did at one point.  We were told so many lies and I believed them.”

“I think a lot of my friends still believe in the cause,” Charlie said, not sure of himself where he was heading with it, “because to go back on it now makes us…what? Murderers? Professional assassins? I’ve had trouble with it.”

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About the Author

MargaretMaine.Monninger.credit Ted Taigen Joseph Monninger is the author of Eternal on the Water and The World as We Know It, as well as several award-winning young-adult novels. A professor of English literature, he lives in New Hampshire. Visit him online at http://joemonninger.com

You can find Joseph Monninger on these social media sites:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joseph-monninger
Twitter: @joemonninger

Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon GroveReview: Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Author:
Karen Russell
Genre:
Short Stories
Publisher:
Knopf
Release Date:
February 12, 2013
Rating:
4.75/5

Have you ever held off finishing a story because you were too afraid to do so?  Has that ever happened eight times in a row?  That’s what happened with me as I read Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell.  The aforementioned book is a collection of eight short stories.  Each varying in genres.  You get a little bit of a western, vampire, science fiction, humor, and contemporary drama.  There’s something for everyone.

I can honestly say that the stories get progressively better.  The first short story, the namesake of the novel, put me in Russell’s groove.  She has a way of leading you to conclusions; letting your mind fill in the blanks.  I suppose Russell’s signature is to leave the story a bit haunted.  It’s what is unwritten that frighten me.  My mind went to the worst conclusions.  At the same time, the author had me wondering about humanity.  It’s odd to hope that a vampire will resist temptation or to feel his emotional pain as he speaks of love, but you do.

Not only did Russell increase my vocabulary, but she also validated that some people were born to write.  The way she puts words together, the way she describes scenes, the way she has the reader become emotionally involved and committed to characters in a short story amazed me.  Some passages have stayed with me.  I can only hope that the homunculus (new word!) narrating my story describes me similarly. Take a look at this quote that I saw instead of read from the story The New Veterans.

He walks into the room with an actual swagger, that sort of boastful indifference to gravity that Beverly associates with cats and Italian women.

While reading, I kept wondering how Russell was able to move between genres so easily.  It would seem that she has focused on honing her writing skills on science fiction, but the next story has you reading about rooting for plankton against whales in Antarctica.  I imagined her conducting research on different subject to perfect the legitimacy of each story.  As imagined her work ethic, I realized just how brilliant of a writer she is.

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Review: J.B. McGee’s Conspiring (Book #2.5 “This” Series)

conspiring-final-smTitle: Conspiring (Book #2.5,”This” Trilogy)
Author: J.B. McGee
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Synopsis: “When Bradley refuses to take Veronica to his cousin’s wedding, she finds herself in the company of the charming and attractive Ian. There is no denying that Veronica and Ian have an intense, mutual attraction which draws them together like magnets. But what neither of them realizes is that their attraction isn’t the only thing pulling them together. It is a small world, and it’s about to get a whole lot smaller when an innocent fling turns into an intricate plan to conspire.”

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Finally! It seemed like forever till I got to read about Gabby and Bradley! Well I am still waiting patiently because this story was a great refresher to help me with my withdrawals. I wasn’t sure at first how I would grasp the idea of reading about Veronica and Ian’s story because I’ve read Gabby and Bradley’s side of the events. However, I must say I really enjoyed about how they came to meet and become a couple! I could sympathize with Veronica’s pain over losing Bradley (or her loss because she never really had him) and her way of coping. On the opposite side, I felt like I was cheating a little bit because I realized how likeable Ian is, despite all the drama he caused for Gabby.

This is a definite must read for those who are anticipating the next installment of the This series! You won’t be disappointed; it’s a short story that will certainly satisfy your cravings!

Get your copy NOW of Broken (Book #1), Mending (Book #2) and Conspiring (Book #2.5).

Also, enjoy the playlist to Conspiring :)

Review: Broken (Book #1, “This” Trilogy) by J.B. McGee

brokenTitle:        Broken (Book #1,”This” Trilogy)
Author:   J.B. McGee
Genre:    Contemporary Romance
Rating:    4 out of 5 Stars

Synopsis:  Gabby’s life has been anything but easy. She is surrounded by friends who seem to have everything she doesn’t: money, social standing, and happily married parents. While dealing with the loss of her mother, she experiences her first heartbreak. She commits herself to her studies and runs away from any emotions that aren’t safe. Bradley Banks, a confident CEO and commercial architect, who has long time commitment issues forces Gabby to feel again, but will he be her next heartbreak?

Adult-content rating: This book contains content considered unsuitable for young readers 17 and under, and which may be offensive to some readers of all ages.

“I have more baggage than baggage claim. I’m damaged goods. I’m not good at…” she released him for a moment and fingered between the two of them “this.”

I had recently seen Broken come through on my Facebook news feed and decided to look it up on Amazon, as I had never heard of it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that J.B. McGee (a first-time author) had just penned this book and recently moved to the Georgia area and close to where I live. So, of course, I really wanted to check out this author who was living in the same state!

The book revolves around Gabby and the struggles she has faced in life, especially with the loss of her mom, which is something I can definitely relate to. Gabby’s heart has been broken on more than one occasion, and she is extremely gun shy. She doesn’t want to go through the pain and suffering that she has experienced on more than one occasion. She doesn’t have a relationship with her father, and she doesn’t want to commit to anyone with fear of having her heart ripped out. But, you never know when love comes knocking on your door, and you have to open up to the possibilities that “this one” may be “the one!”

I liked how J.B. wrote Gabby’s character as she was so sweet, although timid, and I enjoyed the relationship she had with her older sister, Sam. Enter Bradley Banks into the picture, the confident and wealthy business man who is used to getting any girl he wants, and we have a sweet story about love and second chances.

Broken is written simultaneously between the past and the present, alternating back and forth. I wasn’t sure about this type of writing to begin with, but I really did end up liking it. As I got more involved and eager for each present chapter, I would then be taken back to the past in the next chapter…maybe it was just a cool-down period. Either way, I thought it worked well.

What I truly enjoy about first-time Indie authors is to see the progress of their FIRST book from the beginning to the end! And this is one book that is no exception. It’s almost as if I get to witness an author grow up and blossom right before my very eyes. Yes, there were some editing issues, especially when it came to the dialogue between characters. However, it still did not prevent me from enjoying this book and understanding what was happening. But again, a big difference in the writing from the beginning to the end as the dialogue seemed to flow much smoother. Nice job J.B.

I am anxious to see where Gabby and Bradley’s story goes in Mending and hopefully we’ll get a glimpse into Bradley’s past to find out how and why he became such a playboy. I’m also eager to learn more about Gabby’s non-existent relationship with her father and as well as her past, which has left her so “Broken.”

Broken was provided to me in return for an honest review. Thank you J.B.

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We previously took part in the Broken blog tour.  Click HERE to check out our author interview, book trailer, and a special recipe from the book Broken.

Since it’s our LAST day in our Christmas Reads week we have one more giveaway! It is only going to be up for 24 hours; and who ever wins gets not one..but TWO e-books by J.B. McGee! The winner will receive both Broken & Mending!

ENDS MIDNIGHT!! HURRY!!
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Review: Boycotts & Barflies by Victoria Michaels

Boycotts & BarfliesTitle:        Boycotts & Barflies
Author:   Victoria Michaels
Genre:    Young Adult
Rating:    5 out of 5 Stars

What can I say about Boycotts & Barflies? You all might know how I’m pretty obsessed with Victoria Michaels and both her books; but this one I could not stop reading even AFTER I finished it. Yep that’s right…I would not be able to go to sleep without reading one of my favorite scenes and then by the time I knew it, I was already halfway through the whole thing! No book has made me do that, keep me up late because I couldn’t stop thinking about it and making me hang out with the gang again. :)

Boycotts & Barflies is a fun read about Grace and her two girlfriends that are through with dating weird guys, so they make a pact to only attract the worthy ones. To make the bet a little more interesting, they decide to raise the stakes by adding eternal bragging rights and money for…. Wait for it….A BRAND NEW PAIR of shoes for their first date in the New Year! Heck yes and good luck! BUT to make it even more motivating, they can only have ONE true kiss and nothing more. (although closed lip kissing is fine – loop holes) Yep, they must abstain from anything they wouldn’t want to catch their parents doing. *shudders*

Meanwhile Michael and his two best friends are in the same sort of predicament. The only girls that are in their radar are the barflies that hang out at their workplace. Much like the girls do, the three guys decide to find a nice girl that they can call their girlfriends. *swoon* So what happens when these six strangers meet and start to fall for one another? How can they all stay in the bet and find true love at the same time? The ending will surprise you!

This book is definitely one I can never get sick of and it’s because of the funny banter and cool characters. Even the parents I loved! Oh Susan how I absolutely adore you! Like I mentioned, there’s nothing I didn’t love about this book. It was fun, sexy, genius, impressive and…exquisite! ;) (The last two you’ll notice when you read the book)

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