Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dawn At Emberwilde


Dawn At Emberwilde
Sarah Ladd
Thomas Nelson

Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady yet unexciting role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would provide her a steady environment to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a striking stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with mysterious rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. And perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde, Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.

     One thing I genuinely love about Sarah Ladd's books is their gentle gracefulness and sweetness; her books are just right to read on a cozy day with a blanket and a cup of tea.

     I enjoyed the plot of this books, especially the mysterious forest aspect of it. Sometimes I did get a little annoyed with Isabel, since I didn't always agree with her methods of raising Lizzie and even agreed with her difficult aunt upon a occasion. So while I admit that Isabel did take a little while to grow on me, I certainly had sympathy with her situation. (There's no question that I liked Colin, though!)

     At any rate, this is a lovely historical read for romance fans.

Rating: 8

I received this book through litfuse publicity. It did not affect the honesty of my review in any way.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Murder Comes By Mail


Murder Comes by Mail
A.H. Gabhart

A Cozy Mystery Complete with a Small Town Full of Charming, Quirky Characters 
Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane doesn't particularly enjoy being touted as the hero of Hidden Springs after pulling a suicidal man back from the edge of the Eagle River bridge in front of dozens of witnesses--a few of whom caught the breathtaking moments with their cameras. But the media hype doesn't last long as a new story pushes its way into the public consciousness of Hidden Springs' concerned citizens. 
Photos of a dead girl arrive in the mail, and Michael becomes convinced she was murdered by the man he saved. With a killer one step ahead, things in Hidden Springs begin to unravel. Now Michael must protect the people he loves--because the killer could be targeting one of them next. 
Readers will love racing along with Deputy Sheriff Keane as the clock ticks in this page-turning mystery. 

     This book did not get off to a great start with me, I'm afraid. I got this one because I was in the mood for a small-town mystery, but I sadly didn't connect with most of the characters, and I found some of the content, mostly in the beginning, vaguely problematic. (That is, as a Christian reading a piece of Christian fiction, I didn't care for certain behaviors/ideas of the Christian characters).

     I eventually set this one aside to focus on other things because I just couldn't get into it. I did get back to it eventually, and I found that it did pick up once the murders commenced. The mystery plot itself was interesting (although I did solve the mystery by the middle of the book) and was what kept me reading, although I wasn't entirely satisfied with its conclusion. However, this novel wasn't really to my taste. It felt a little bit like one of those Hallmark channel made-for-TV mystery flicks.

Rating: 5

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Simply Calligraphy


Simply Calligraphy
Judy Detrick
Watson-Guptill Publications 

     I've always been interested in and fascinated by different types and methods of lettering. Italics is one of the simplest and more recognizable forms of calligraphy, and that is what this book focuses on. While there isn't much that makes this book different or unique among calligraphy how-tos, I do like how simple and to-the-point it is. I was especially grateful for the little 30-degree angle illustration, since the right angle of holding the pen has always gotten me confused in nearly every other calligraphy book I've tried. I do wish that this book had come in a set with all the materials needed, though.

     It's definitely a beginner's book (as it says in the subtitle) but being a beginner, I can appreciate that. :)

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

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Beautiful Pretender


The Beautiful Pretender
Melanie Dickerson
Thomas Nelson

What happens when a margrave realizes he’s fallen in love with a servant?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble-born ladies from around the country to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina is only responsible for two things: making sure her deception goes undetected and avoiding being selected as the margrave’s bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences. Will Avelina be able to stop the evil plot? And at what cost?

     I mentioned in my review of The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest that my favorite character was the Margrave....and I got my wish for the next book in the series to be about him. That's always nice.

     I really liked the plot of this one. I thought it was going to be based solely on "The Princess and the Pea," but there's a good bit of "Beauty and the Beast" in here too, which is always a good thing in my book :) It does share a lot of similarities to some of the author's other retellings, so I might have enjoyed it a tad more if I hadn't read them, so it wouldn't have seemed quite so similar.

     The characters are likable. However, I do wish there was a bit more depth and development in the characters/plot, and a little less repetition in the writing. Altogether, though, I'd still definitely recommend this one to Melanie Dickerson fans; it certainly contains all of the elements her readers continue to enjoy. Sometimes a girl just wants to read about virtuous maidens and noble heroes, and Mrs. Dickerson never seems to fail in that regard. :)

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from booklookbloggers.com in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Together At The Table


Together At the Table
Hillary Manton Lodge
Waterbrook Press

Three months ago, Juliette D’Alisa’s world changed.

In a bittersweet series of events, her mother’s health took a turn for the worse. Juliette and her brother opened their restaurant together to rave reviews, but her romance with Memphis immunologist Neil McLaren ended in anger and tears.

As autumn sweeps into the Pacific Northwest, Juliette feels that she’s finally on the cusp of equilibrium. The restaurant continues to thrive, and her family is closer than ever. She and sous-chef Adrien are seeing each other, both in and out of the kitchen. Just when she thinks her world might stop spinning, a trip to the waterfront lands a familiar face into her path.

Rather than dwell on her personal life, Juliette throws herself into work and research. After reading her grandmother’s letters from war-torn Paris, she still wants to know the full story –  and she’ll travel across countries and oceans to find it.

But even Juliette can’t outrun the man who stole her heart. As she finally uncovers the truth about her family history, what will it mean for her own chances at lasting love?

     Argh. So. Many. Mixed. Feelings. All right, I think I'll sandwich what I didn't like about this book in with what I did like, so I don't come off too strong. (Which sounds more ominous than it is, since I certainly didn't hate or even strictly dislike this book. It was MUCH better than the previous one, although if you've read my review of that one it will probably give a hint to what my problems with this one were.)

     First off: the food. This book made me so hungry because everything in it sounds so good! I also find Juliette's life in and of itself fascinating. Portland, Oregon quite honestly seems more like a foreign country than a city in a different state sometimes! (Maybe that's why I relate to and "get" Neil so much more than I do Juliette, because his world and personality seem a little more like my own. Also, we share a love of Doctor Who, so that helps.)

     What I still really have a hard time with in these books is just how much kissing there is between people who aren't married. It's not descriptive, not overly sensual, but they just do it so often. It drives me nuts, especially since, personal convictions aside, as a person not given to expressing lots of physical affection, it just seems really weird to be so willing to kiss someone you're not sure about marrying. Just, ick. I'm not a person who's really into emotional drama, either, and Juliette and I have such different views and reactions to things that it's easy for me to get frustrated with her. Not that she's really unlikable; she can just be a little maddening. And...I didn't really like Adrian. So there's that, too.

     But I really, really liked the last part of the book where things get wrapped up with the story of Juliette's grandparents. Her story was heartrending but also sweet, and as a person who loves history, I found that I connected much more to that part of the book than I did anything else. I think the first book, A Table By the Window, was by far the best in this series, but overall, Together At The Table wasn't bad either.

Rating: 7

I received this book from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Traces of Guilt


Traces of Guilt
Dee Henderson
Bethany House 

A Riveting Cold-Case Mystery from Dee Henderson 
Evie Blackwell loves her life as an Illinois State Police Detective . . . mostly. She's very skilled at investigations and has steadily moved up through the ranks. She would like to find Mr. Right, but she has a hard time imagining how marriage could work, considering the demands of her job. 
Gabriel Thane is a lifetime resident of Carin County and now its sheriff, a job he loves. Gabe is committed to upholding the law and cares deeply for the residents he's sworn to protect. He too would like to find a lifetime companion, a marriage like his parents have. . . . 
When Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois, it's to help launch a new task force dedicated to reexamining unsolved crimes across the state. Spearheading this trial run, Evie will work with the sheriff's department on a couple of its most troubling missing-persons cases. As she reexamines old evidence to pull out a few tenuous new leads, she unearths a surprising connection . . . possibly to a third cold case. Evie's determined to solve the cases before she leaves Carin County, and Sheriff Thane, along with his family, will be key to those answers.

     I feel that labeling this "An Evie Blackwell Cold Case" might be a bit of a misnomer; Evie is only one of several main characters who all have pretty substantial amounts of time dedicated to them in this novel. That didn't bother me, since I enjoy large casts of characters; it was just different than what I expected. In that same vein, I wouldn't say it was really romantic suspense either, since the main characters themselves were never in danger, and while there were hints of romance, there really wasn't much of it. Again- this didn't bother me, although there was a lot more talking and exposition than action, which could drag things out. The mystery was more of a puzzle than anything else, which I loved. That being said, I found the ending rather disappointing. SPOILER the solutions to the trio of cases weren't as elaborate as I'd hoped, and the last one almost seemed completely unrelated to any of the leads they'd had. Maybe that's truer to life, but it just didn't seem very satisfying to me as a reader. *END OF SPOILER*

     The characters were likable, probably a lot like the people you'd wave and say 'hi' to at church or the grocery store (although I felt that it was much easier to get a handle on the male characters and their personalities more than the female ones.) All in all, though, this was a heavy book. Not only because of the particular nature of the murder/missing persons cases, but also because nearly every character had a tragic backstory. Perhaps this was part of the reason the book didn't really win me over, although it kept my attention and I'm sure that fans of Henderson will enjoy the appearances and mentions of some of her characters from other books.

Rating: 7

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Elements of Pizza


The Elements of Pizza
Ken Forkish
Ten Speed Press

     I really, really like pizza.

     I mean, I think most people do, but I just felt the need to admit that I, too, am not immune to the charms of this dish. It's the one thing I just can't seem to get enough of, and I can keep up with my three teenage brothers on the amount of it I can eat. And since my family actually does make homemade pizza on a pretty regular basis, I thought that this would be a good book to give us some more knowledge and tricks in the making of this blessed gift from Italy.

     There's a lot of background information packed into this book, and I think it might be for a person who's slightly more serious about pizza-making (I did skip some of it), although I did find some of the historical information interesting. A lot of the recipes look really good, and I liked how many different styles of pizzas are included (I also like the simple sauce recipes, which I'd like to try). Overall, if you're in to making pizza (or you'd like to start) this one would be a good one to pick up.

I received this book for free from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for my honest review.
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