Honeyflower And Pansy, by Esmé James

honeyflowerHoneyflower And Pansy is the debut novel of Esmé James.  The story is billed as a teenage romance, but it is really so very much more. Despite the fact that the story’s author is only 18 years old, Honeyflower And Pansy is an emotional and satisfying read.  Perhaps some of the story problems come to a much more satisfying and tidy end then similar problems would in real life, but that is the nature of young adult fiction.

Amanda Daryl is an engaging and proactive character.  She is concerned with the welfare of her family, her friends, and her autistic little sister Sage. As such, Amanda takes steps to help each of them with their various predicaments.  She helps her friends plan a dance; she helps a drunk reclaim his life and his business; she helps her father raise her little sister Sage; she helps the community get a new school; and she helps the mysterious Tristan with a difficult good-bye.

Sage Daryl is presented very realistically in the story, the triumphs and challenges of being autistic shine with authenticity because Esmé James has an autistic sibling.  Clearly writing from her heart, James details the complex communication, fixation, and aversion/avoidance issues that face autistic children and their families, but she does so with a very deft touch, enlightening the reader without detracting from the main story.

Honeyflower And Pansy is a love story, but the primary focus of the story isn’t on Amanda and Tristan’s budding relationship, or on Amanda’s drive to secure a school for autistic children like Sage.  This is a love story about love, and how it can change a life, save a soul, and rebuild a community.

I rate this book a 4 on my 1 to 5 scale.  It looses one point only because from time to time Ms. James gets so caught up in “writing” that she forgets she is also storytelling.  Some of her lovely, lovely prose is actually too artistic, and interferes with comprehension.  I suspect several of her words were swept from a Thesaurus and used based on their formal definition rather than their colloquial meaning — or perhaps the occasional stiltedness is merely differing shades of connotation between Australian and American word usages.

Honeyflower And Pansy, by Esmé James is well worth the $2.99 Amazon purchase price.  I look forward to more offerings from this talented, young storyteller.

I was given a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

Queen, by Heather Gray

Queen, by Heather GrayQueenQueen, by Heather Gray   Today I read Queen (Regency Refuge Book 3).  It was the perfect way to spend a quiet Sunday — with murder’s, thieves, cut-throats, and traitors.  The twists and turns of this story — of the entire series, in fact — has kept me on the edge of my seat, and flipping pages as fast as I could read.

Each book in the series can stand alone, but together they form a rich, suspenseful tale of spies, counter spies, traitors, friendship, loyalty, and faith. Heather Gray paints vivid word pictures that bring her characters and story to life as they struggle with faith, loyalty, trust, forgiveness, and honor.

Gray does an excellent job of making each character’s faith walk an integral part of his or her character.  The stories never come off as preachy and their faith is never forced.  There are currently three books in the series, book one: His Saving Grace; book two: Jackal; and book three: Queen.  With each book the story grows more and more complicated, and more and more compelling. I don’t know what the title of book four will be, but I am sure it is coming — and I am wishing it were already here.  I’d love to spend another day reading a Heather Gray story.

Imagine That (Covington Falls Chronicles), by Kristin Wallace

Kristin Wallace is an exceptional writer.  I read “Imagine That (Covington Falls Chronicles) Book 3” in one afternoon — cover-to-cover — without stopping.  I carried my eReader into the bathroom with me, and I propped it up on the drier as I folded laundry.  I loved the story.  I was ready to give it a 5 star review right up until the last page.  I suppose I will probably give it a five star review anyway since Amazon won’t allow me to give it a half star less, but the ending left me feeling decidedly uneasy.  Things were brushed aside that should have been more closely examined.

 

Imagine That, Covington Falls Chronicles, by Kristin WallaceYou have probably read hundreds of stories, but even so, I bet you’ve yet to read the exact same story that an author wrote.  No, I am not talking about the demands of editors and copywriters who insist on changes for this, that, or any other reason.  Every reader — and writer — brings his or her own personal experiences and/or biases to a story.  Every single person on this planet acts and reacts to everyone and everything else through their own personal set of filters.  In every review I have read about Imagine That, the reviewer has said the book moved them to both tears and laughter.  My experience was the same.  The emotions portrayed in this book are wrenchingly real, both the good and the bad.

Imagine That alludes to memories of domestic violence.  Thankfully the reader is not subjected to the violence, but for those of us who have lived with domestic abuse (which can be physical and/or mental), a memory is all it takes to trigger real fear.   Logically, as a mentally healthy,  healed adult (and a writer) I can understand that after the main characters finally confessed their love for one another, Wallace wanted to tie the story up with  a neat bow and get to the “happily  ever after,” but I think this story’s happily-ever-after promise came at least one necessary conversation too soon.

Nate, our hero, definitely shows the potential to become an abuser.  He also voluntarily takes steps to deal with his anger issues before he ever comes close to harming anyone.  Those are very great signs of hope, but if Nate and Emily were real people the way this book ended would leave me with serious concerns for the future of their relationship.  Emily’s own childhood taught her to expect abuse.  Would she be able to recognize the gradual onset if Nate did slowly give in to his darker nature?   I have good reason to suspect she wouldn’t since when Nate does try to talk to her about his feelings, she tells him he isn’t his grandfather or his father, so they have nothing to worry about.  They DO have something to worry about.  Nate knew that, that’s why he sought counseling — and now he has fallen in love with an enabler. Bad, bad, bad news.

If you don’t have any of my baggage, go ahead and read the novel.  As I said, it is a wonderful page turner right up until that one little, tiny hiccup on the last page.

*I was given a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

All New Kindle Fire HDX 7″ Giveaway

January Kindle

 

Win a Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash ($229 value)

 

This is a joint AUTHOR & BLOGGER GIVEAWAY EVENT!

Bloggers & Authors have joined together and each chipped in a little money towards a Kindle Fire HDX 7″.


The winner will have the option of receiving a 7″ Kindle Fire HDX (US Only – $229 Value)

 

Or $229 Amazon.com Gift Card (International)

 

Or $229 in Paypal Cash (International)

 

 

 

January Sponsors

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Sign up to sponsor the next Kindle Fire Giveaway:

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Giveaway Details

1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire 7″ HDX (US Only – $229 value), $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash (International).

There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire HDX 7″.

Ends 2/9/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Nowhere for Christmas, by Heather Gray

gray coverNowhere for Christmas, by Heather Gray is a laugh-out-loud story.  I found myself chuckling often, totally captivated and delighted by the main characters.  Avery, a newspaper reporter who has a shot at national syndication, her teenage son, Eli, and, Gavin, a photojournalist find themselves traveling to Nowhere, Oklahoma to capture a heart-warming small-town Christmas for the newspaper.  Their rental car didn’t look like much, but they were assured it was reliable so they set their skepticism aside and pulled onto Interstate 40 full of optimism — and ptomaine poisoning, which had them pulling right back off the interstate and into a rest area.  The entire journey was one mishap after another.  I’m not going to spoil the journey for the reader by listing them all, better you climb into the car with Avery, Eli, and Gavin and experience the road trip with them.  Strap on your seat belt and prepare for a wonderful ride.

Heather Gray is an excellent writer.  As I said, this story made me laugh-out-loud and I couldn’t wait to turn the page and see what would happen next.  I loved the spirited conversation between Avery and Eli.  The mother-son relationship was realistic, complete with edgy tempers, smart remarks, and unconditional love.  The attraction between Gavin and Avery unfolded slowly and naturally.  Every character in this novel, from the bait shop mechanic (yes, I wrote that correctly, read the book you’ll understand) to the small town cop were well defined and believable.  From beginning to end, I loved this story.

Amazon Book Blurb:

Anything can happen on the road to Nowhere…
A journalist and single mother, Avery is used to being in control though she tries to remind her-self to let God take lead in her life. Eli, her son, is happy as long as he has his music, plenty of food, and the occasional adult on which to practice his rapier wit. Gavin, a virtual stranger, is a photojournalist who mysteriously dropped off the scene a few years ago.

The trio ends up together for a Christmas road trip to the small town of Nowhere. An eight hour drive in a rental car turns into two days of misadventure and calamity as bad luck seems to stalk them. They get a flat tire, the bumper falls off, the car overheats – and that’s only the beginning! Along the way they meet some interesting people – from a bait shop owner who moonlights as a mechanic to a chatty preacher’s wife and a highway patrolman whose wife and mother can’t agree on the best way to remove a skunk’s stink.

Hungry, cold, and tired, the three finally reach Nowhere only to discover the town is nothing like they expected. They learn that reaching their destination doesn’t necessarily mean the journey has ended.

About the Author (Amazon Bio):

Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing. Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell. Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.

Astraea Press is a royalty paying e-publisher dedicated to supplying clean reading material to an eager public. I bought this book with my own monies. This review was not purchased and reflects my honest, unsolicited opinion.

The Toymaker, by Kay Springsteen


springsteenI spent Christmas Day reading, “The Toymaker” by Kay Springsteen.  Springsteen’s prose is so smooth it all but disappears, letting the story take center stage.  To me that is the mark of an excellent writer.  Her words painted vivid pictures in my mind.   The story’s main characters, Lady Ivy and Philip Green — or rather, Noel Phillip Vincent Greenstone, the Twelfth Duke of Greenbriar — are vividly drawn, very human, and very likable.   I very much enjoyed reading this book.

“The Toymaker” isn’t a page turner.  I had no trouble putting it down as I moved through the day, but every time I paused the gentle story called to me. The romantic stumbling block in the story was a little contrived and could have been solved easily, but that seems to be a time honored romance story tradition and was easily forgiveable.  All-in-all, “The Toymaker” by Kay Springsteen  was the perfect, leisurely Christmas Day story and for the most part I read it while sitting in front of the fireplace draped in a fluffy blanket.

Amazon’s book blurb:

Lady Ivy Plumthorne, elder daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Wythorpe, is a worry to her parents. Desiring only that she be as happily wed as her younger sister, they’ve spent the past year parading prospective suitors in front of her. When she finds none of the suitors… suitable, her parents despair she will ever find the perfect husband. With Christmas approaching, they find one more prospective suitor, the Duke of Greenbriar. Only problem is, Ivy’s already met the man of her dreams… and he’s a toymaker. Noel Phillip Vincent Greenstone, the Twelfth Duke of Greenbriar, wasn’t cut out to be a duke. He preferred crafting toys that made children happy. So that’s just what he did. And as Phillip Green, he traveled freely about, visiting shops and orphanages, and making no child went without a toy of his or her own. But a few chance meetings with Lady Ivy and he knows he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. The problem is, she needs to marry a nobleman and she only knows him as Phillip the Toymaker. He needs a plan, and fast. The world needs to meet the reclusive Duke of Greenbriar, so Phillip plans his own coming out. But how will Ivy react when she learns the truth?

About the Author (Amazon bio)

k springsteenKay Springsteen is a romance junkie and a chocolate addict, who makes her home in Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains. She can and does write anywhere, and often incorporates little oddities of her every day life into her stories. Her family has learned the hard way to maintain a low profile in order to stay off her radar, for fear they will find themselves crafted into her latest novel. Kay is a Christian, who is passionate about all life. She has been an outspoken advocate for homeless persons, shelter pets, the environment, military and first responder personnel, community outreach, education, and people of all ages who have disabilities.

Kay can often be found taking long hikes in the mountains with one or two of her terrific rescue dogs, but she’s just as content to stay home gardening or simply spending time with her wonderful family. You might even find her at Starbucks writing. But if she sees you, watch out! You might just end up in one of her books. She believes in magic and real-life fairy tales, and the romance of life, and knows everyone has a happily ever after waiting out there somewhere. But until you get to it, why not pick up a good book and think about the possibilities?

Astraea Press is a royalty paying e-publisher dedicated to supplying clean reading material to an eager public.  I received this book free of charge from Kay Springsteen and with no strings attached.  This review was not purchased and reflects my honest, unsolicited opinion.

Two Room Flat, by Jill Urbach

Two-Room Flat"Two Room Flat" is totally romantic, a little bit spicy, a little bit risque, yet a sweet, smut-free read. I thoroughly enjoyed Jill Urbach’s debut novel. Claire is a fun and funny character, and Adam is dreamy and exasperating all at once. The story progresses naturally and I found myself turning pages quickly, laughing one minute, holding my breath the next, shedding tears, then laughing all over again. Urbach’s deft hand at balancing tension and humor impressed me. Her pacing was impeccable.

If you are a Princess Diana fan you will doubly love this story because you will find kindred spirits in both the main character (Claire) and the author (Urbach). While the many famous London settings and historical details enhance “Two Room Flat,” they do not over-power it, so even if you aren’t a fan of England’s royal family chances are good you will still be charmed by this story.

UrbackJill Urbach is a woman of many talents. She is an novelist, an actress, a singer, a song writer, a girl scout leader, a gardener, and a third grade teacher — which all come after her her first passion — being an outstanding wife and mother. Jill lives on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest (you can read a bit about it in her novel).

Amazon book blurb:

Spicy fiction made novelist Claire Gissler a star, but she can’t pen a sentence to save her life since her husband’s accidental death two years ago. Now, deeply in debt, her only hope of reviving her crumbling career is to flee small town America for big city London. Trouble is, she can’t afford the move. That is, not until hand-some Adam Lambright — her husband’s best friend and the man she blames for his death — offers to let her stay in his flat… with him.

Adam Lambright used to know how to smile, how to have fun, how to love, but that was before watching his best friend die and his wife wither away from cancer. Now, ticked off at God, he’s vowed never to love again. That doesn’t mean he can’t help out his best friend’s widow. Besides, her life’s more of a mess than his own.

Seeing no other possible option, Claire moves to London. In that exciting city, she faces the challenges of rebuilding her career — and the attentions of her sexy English publicist. But, it’s her growing feelings for Adam that present the biggest challenge: learn to forgive or face heartbreak once again.

Jill’s book trailer for Two Room Flat shows off her many talents — and the talents of her family as well. Watch the credits carefully. You’ll find the names of both her daughters and her husband.

To learn more about Jill Urbach, be sure to visit her website, JillUrbach.com (radio and text interview spots, and video from assorted singing gigs, including a great duet with her handsome husband, Andy) and like her Facebook page.

Twerp, by Mark Goldblatt

twerpTwerp is a Random House Book for Young Readers — or the young at heart. This was a rollicking read. Julian Twerski is a wonderfully fun character and I loved the time I spent in his neighborhood. While Julian was busy figuring out what it means to be a friend, and what it takes to have friends — and enemies — I relived my own childhood.

The story begins when Julian, who was suspended from school for bullying, is instructed to write about the incident. Julian thinks he’s been given a great way to get out of reading Shakespeare, but the assignment, which turns into the diary of his sixth grade year, leads him to look at his friends in ways he had never before considered. Suddenly he’s looking at his best-friend, Lonnie, and seeing someone he isn’t certain he likes. Then a beautiful girl comes along and complicates things even more.

I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages, especially adults who have fond memories of their own childhood. If you enjoy reliving the angst and elation of your formative years, Twerp is definitely the book for you.

A Reading Tale

A Reading Tale

By Kathy Carlton Willis

I’ve always been a lover of books—the opportunity to visit a new world, a new time, a new way of life. What’s your rite-of-passage reading story? I’ll start with mine.

As soon as I started school, Mother encouraged me to learn to read. She was a voracious reader, eager for me to develop the same love of books. This Chatty Kathy enjoyed every form of communications since my first spoken word. The written word was no different—I took to it like gravy goes with biscuits. Remember those Weekly Reader magazines (oh, the delicious smell of the ink and paper!)? The SRA Reading Lab inspired me to read not just for speed, but for retention.

When I received my first public library card around age 6, Mom walked us to the library several times a month. Yes, it seemed like it was two miles uphill both ways, but it was worth it! Our little town of four thousand was blessed with a Carnegie library (built in 1905) full of well-loved books. Mom taught me how to follow my favorite authors—I read all their titles. I knew how to thumb through a card catalog and recite the Dewey decimal system. By the time I outgrew the children’s section, I had read every book and graduated to the “grown-up” shelves.

Most avid readers say their idea of a time-out from stress and life involves curling up with a good book—claw-foot tub or blazing fireplace optional.

My favorite reading tip is this: Don’t waste time on a mediocre book. When reading for recreation, remember that you aren’t in school anymore. You aren’t being graded for reading every word. So if a book doesn’t appeal to you, put it down! Grab a different one. We have only so much time in life—definitely not enough time to get bogged down with a boring book or confusing storyline.

Just because a book earned rave reviews doesn’t mean it’s the right book for you, any more than gorgeous size 7 shoes will fit size 10 feet!

Think about your own reading tale. What was it like when you learned to read? When did you discover your local library? Do you recall the favorite authors of your early years? Who inspired you to read more? What challenges you today in your reading? We all have a story—even a reading story!

 

Kathy Carlton Willis Bio:

Kathy Carlton Willis

Kathy Carlton Willis

Kathy Carlton Willis gets jazzed speaking for women’s events and writers conferences across the country. She’s known for her practical and often humorous messages. Kathy enjoys fiddling with words as a writer and also coaches others. When not reading or writing books, she serves as a happy pastor’s wife.
Web: http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com

The Widow’s End

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is an excellent writer.  Her voice, in The Widow’s End is period perfect.  I didn’t stumble over a single phrase or find a comma out of place.  Reading her prose was a pleasure.  It flowed smoothly from page to page and pulled me through the story to the end of the book.

I chose to review The Widow’s End because the book blurb piqued my interest:

When widow Katie Lafferty arrives at the Pythian House, a home for widows and orphans, she has little hope for the future. She soon learns the reality offers more grueling work than she could have imagined. One of the few bright spots in her daily drudgery is Latin Master Everett Brown at the school across the street. As Katie struggles to conform to the rules and settle into her new life, she looks forward to her chance meetings with Mr. Brown When she fails to meet the standards of the home, her future becomes even more uncertain. If she has a knight in shining armor, it’s Everett Brown.

That enticed me to read the first chapter, which was offered free on the review site.  The first chapter hooked me.  I wanted to learn more about Katie Lafferty, the Pythian House, her conflict there, and the knightly Latin Master, Everett Brown.   I downloaded the book, I read it from end to end in just a couple of hours, and put it down still wanting to know more.

The conflict in the book had great potential, but in every instance it was defused before I had ample reason to grow concerned.  Not once did I find myself wondering how Katie was going to get out of her predicament.  This was a gentle, sweet, story and I do not consider the time I spent reading it wasted, but it did not tug on my emotions.

Everett Brown’s dramatic rescue of Katie from her confinement in her room at the Pythian House would have been much more swoon worthy if Katie had actually been in her room for more than a few hours, had missed more than one meal, and had a more concrete consequence hanging over her head then being put out of a home she had no wish to stay in anyway.  Even Everett knew she wasn’t in serious trouble, because he took the time to secure Katie safe lodging before rushing to her rescue.

In short, this novel has the potential for excellence, but it hasn’t been fleshed out enough.  I will definitely read the next Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy novel, in hopes that her story crafting has grown.  I know it will someday match the excellent quality of her prose.