Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tomorrow's Garden

Tomorrow's Garden, Amanda Cabot, 978-0-8007-3326-1
Tomorrow’s Garden
Amanda Cabot
Harriet Kirk is certain that becoming the new schoolteacher in Ladreville, Texas, is just what she needs--a chance to put the past behind her and give her younger siblings a brighter tomorrow. What she didn't count on was the presence of handsome former Texas Ranger Lawrence Wood--or the way he affects her fragile heart. But can Harriet and Lawrence ever truly conquer the past in order to find happiness?

Book 3 in the Texas Dreams series, Tomorrow's Garden is a powerful story of overcoming the odds and grabbing hold of happiness.

I was once again excited to return to the Texas Dreams series to see what this next book had in store. Though I didn’t particularly care for Lawrence in Scattered Petals, I really liked him in this book. Harriet was a little more difficult to like…she was a little headstrong and very stubborn (although I admit I didn’t mind her stubbornness one bit when it came to discouraging a *certain* suitor) True to my personality, my favorites in this book were the secondary characters of Ruth and Sterling. Although putting their names together like that is now giving me American Girl flashbacks (good ones, I promise you!)

Though Tomorrow’s Garden is probably my least favorite of the series, I still enjoyed the book. I’m saddened to leave, and I can’t help but hope that Amanda Cabot may sometime return with a new series about Ladreville so I can catch up with all of its delightful residents!

Objectionable content: To the most of my memory, I’m pretty sure there’s really only one or two kisses in here, and that’s all that would be considered objectionable, although it is stated that Harriet’s father had been a drunkard.

Rating: 7

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Scattered Petals

Scattered Petals, Amanda Cabot, 978-0-8007-3325-4
Scattered Petals
Amanda Cabot

Longing for adventure, Priscilla Morton leaves Boston in 1856 and heads for the Texas Hill Country, never dreaming that the adventure she seeks could have heartbreaking consequences. Although attracted to her, ranch foreman Zachary Webster knows Priscilla deserves a cultured East Coast gentleman, not a cowboy who's haunted by memories of his mistakes.

When necessity draws them together, Priscilla and Zach begin to forge a life filled with promise. But then the past intrudes.

Book 2 of the Texas Dreams series, Scattered Petals weaves a tale of drama, love, and second chances as beautiful as the Hill Country itself.

Though the first book in this series dealt with some tough issues, this one was definitely harder to get through. Priscilla and her parents are on their way to visit Texas when their coach is attacked. Within moments, Priscilla’s life is ripped to shreds as her parents are murdered and she is brutally attacked. As such a horrendous thing happens in the first chapter of the book, this novel’s mood was definitely more subdued than Paper Roses. But at the same time, the book retained a beautiful hopefulness throughout. Priscilla and Zach’s love story is so sweet, and though the story was serious, small slivers of humor kept the book from becoming depressing. I was especially pleased to see Isabelle’s story worked out the way I suspected (and hoped!) it might. Though the author kept the scenes from being graphic, Priscilla’s experience wounded her terribly emotionally, and it’s not something I would recommend to younger readers. However, I think Scattered Petals was a beautiful story about two people who learned to love each other amid devastating circumstances.

Objectionable content: At the beginning of the book, robbers murder Priscilla’s parents and rape her. This is not, as I said, written graphically, although Priscilla’s memories haunt her- for which I don’t blame her one bit. Another man is shot, and there is one kiss at the end.

Rating: 8

Friday, September 21, 2012

Paper Roses

Paper Roses, Amanda Cabot, 978-0-8007-3324-7

Paper Roses
Amanda Cabot

Leaving the past behind in Philadelphia, mail-order bride Sarah Dobbs arrives in San Antonio ready to greet her groom--a man she has never met but whose letters, her paper roses, have won her heart from afar. But there is a problem--Austin Canfield is dead, and Sarah cannot go back East.

As Sarah tries to reconcile herself to a future that is drastically changed, Austin's brother Clay wants nothing more than to shake the Texas dust from his boots, but first he must find his brother's killer. And then there's Sarah.

Something is blooming out in the vast Texas landscape that neither Clay nor Sarah is ready to admit, and the promise of redemption blows like a gentle breeze through the prairie grasses.

Book 1 of the Texas Dreams series, Paper Roses will sweep you away with a tale of love, loss, and tantalizing possibilities.

I’m normally not a fan of westerns/Texas/ranch settings, but I was intrigued by the description of this book. Oh, and I can’t deny I thought the cover looked pretty : ) Anyway, I loved the setting for this book. It was not a typical "western" town at all- it was settled by a group of German and French immigrants, which delighted me excessively because it was America-meets-Europe. Just the fact that the architecture of the town’s buildings reminded Sarah of something from a fairy tale made me ready to move there. Loved it!

The plotline was also interesting, and I enjoyed it- it reminded me, a little, of Cyrano de Bergerac (one of my favorite plays!) I did not guess the villain of Paper Roses. After reading several books were the bad guy was so painfully obvious I was groaning, this one made me so happy I was ready to skip. I slightly suspected the villain at certain points, but I admit the conclusion did surprise me. Yay!!!!

I liked Sarah and Clay, but I admit my favorite characters were the brother-and-sister duo of Isabelle and Leon. Though I was saddened to learn that neither of them are the main characters of the next two books in the series, I’m hoping we’ll still get to hear more about them! I also really liked Zach, and since he’s the hero of the next book in the Texas Dreams series –Scattered Petals- I can’t wait to start reading!

Paper Roses was a delightful surprise (especially after my last trip to the library, where I checked out a pile of books that all ended up being duds.)

Objectionable content: There are some murders that have happened previously in the character’s pasts, but they are not graphically described. There are two kisses.

Rating: 8

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Band of Sisters

Band of Sisters
Cathy Gohlke
Tyndale House

Hello, all! Today I am pleased to announce that I’m participating in my first blog tour! The book is Band of Sisters, a historical novel exposing the horrors of the modern-day slave trade and what not only the characters, but the readers, can do about it.

Maureen O’Reilly and her younger sister flee a shameful past and perilous future in Ireland, 1910. But, after surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that her American benefactor has died, and his family, refusing to own his debt, casts her out. Alone, impoverished, and in danger of deportation, Maureen finds employment in a prominent Manhattan department store, only to discover a secret that threatens every vulnerable woman in the city. With the help of an unexpected band of sisters, Maureen takes a stand against injustice and fights for the lives of those caught in peril.

Here's a link to the author's Website.

Cathy Gohlke is a master of powerful stories- after reading Promise Me This, I knew Band of Sisters was not going to be a fluffy, frivolous read. As it deals with such a tough subject, this really is not the best book for younger readers, but it is a powerful wake-up call to all of us. Band of Sisters is divided into two parts; I like the second half best. For the first half, I found Maureen a bit annoying. She had had such a hard, unforgiving life and I don’t blame her for her mistrust of men. All the same, I felt she was extremely bitter and stubborn, and frankly, hard to like. This is why I like the second half- she’s finally decided to trust. Instead of doubting everyone, the characters have started to realize what’s going on around them and what they need to do to stop it.

Olivia was entirely different than Maureen, and much more likable. Katie Rose, Maureen’s sister, was SO stubborn- that is a trait she and Maureen definitely shared. In part 1 of the book, I didn’t blame her. Personally, I felt her anger at her sister was in some ways justified, as Maureen was not being entirely honest in explaining to Katie Rose what was going on, and I was angry at her, too! However, after Maureen told Katie Rose what was going on, and then Katie Rose blamed Maureen for it, well, my frustration shifted subjects. The book did, of course, reach a highly satisfactory conclusion.

Overall, I felt Band of Sisters achieved what I believe the author set out to do- expose the terrible crime of human trafficking that is still going on today.

Rating: 8

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Over The Edge

Over The Edge
Mary Connealy
Bethany House Publishers

Seth Kincaid Remembers Almost Everything…except getting married!

Seth Kincaid survived a fire in a cave, but he hasn’t been the same since. Then he fought in the Civil War and returned to Colorado crazier than ever.

Somewhere along the line, it appears Seth got married. Oh, he has a lot of excuses, but his wife isn’t too happy to find out Seth doesn’t remember her. Callie isn’t a long-suffering woman. When Seth disappeared, she searched, prayed, and worried. Now she’s come out West to wrangle her long-lost husband.

Seth is willing to make amends. Callie is more interested in shooting him. Can they rekindle their love before one of them goes over the edge?

So this back description of Over the Edge kind of sounds like my writing after a long day when I’m in a sarcastic frame of mind, so I had quite a smile on my face when I opened this book (even if I’m not crazy about its cover- aside from the awesome fonts. Yes, I’m shallow.) I have a vague memory of reading a book by this author several years ago. I don’t remember much about it, other than the fact it made me laugh. When I saw this book available for review, I figured it would be enjoyable, even if I hadn’t read the first two books in the series. Normally, it’s usually not that hard to catch up on what’s gone on before, especially if you look up a short synopsis of the other books online.

Yeah. Not really. I was so lost for the first few several chapters of this book. I highly recommend reading the first two books first. Why doesn’t Seth remember Callie? What’s the deal with this mysterious cavern? Who’s this Jasper villain guy?

I figured it out, eventually. And I admit this book had some terribly funny turns of phrase that the author is great at. Still, there were things that fell a little flat for me. It didn’t really feel for the characters. Really, I think this would actually make a better movie than book. Except…ahem…for the mushy parts. (can you see my middle-schooler shiver? I always feel like a kid complaining about cooties when I say "mushy". But hey, that’s what it is, right?) Now, the characters were married, and it wasn’t as though the scenes were immoral, just…uncomfortable. Like I’m feeling right now writing about it. Let’s just say I skipped a few parts. okay...A lot of parts.

Ahem. Moving on.

I was a little apprehensive of whether or not I would like Callie, because sometimes "strong" heroines just come off as annoying, but I found her better than most. Seth was…interesting. You don’t often come across heroes who are a little nuts. I was having Jack Sparrow flashbacks. (Okay, okay, that’s an exaggeration. He wasn’t really that crazy.) Actually, I was a little worried at first, because Seth was acting oddly. But he won me over eventually.

Also, both my sister (who read the first few chapters) and I noticed that the writing seemed choppy in places, and as Emily noted, "it just doesn’t seem edited enough."

I think my main problem with this book was that it seemed unsure whether to be silly or sincere. After reading the back, I guess I kind of wanted something face-paced and laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes it approached this and made me smile, but it never really made me laugh. I guess that describes my reaction to this book it general: I liked it, but not enough.

Objectionable content: There were numerous kisses, and the book opens with an attempted stagecoach robbery which involves a lot of shooting and guns and all that jazz.

Rating: 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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