Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Change of Heart {by Sonali Dev}

 A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev
Title: A Change of Heart
Author: Sonali Dev
Genre: Adult Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: Netgalley

Dr. Nikhil 'Nic' Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.
Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.
Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy.  She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.
Delving beyond the surface of modern Indian-American life, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s page-turning novel is both riveting and emotionally rewarding—an extraordinary story of human connection, bravery, and hope.

While this book is a "romance", I was pleasantly surprised at how it was so much more than that, even more than her first book. Sonali Dev manages to weave a tale that is almost part mystery/thriller, suspenseful, and focused more on just the romance between our two MC's. Along with the infusion of Indian-American culture, and Dev has done it again.

Nic is a doctor, who has spent that last two years after his wife Jen's death on a cruise ship, hiding from the world and getting drunk. That is, until he meets Jess, a woman with his wife's hair and supposedly, her heart. And Jen apparently has a message for him. Jess just wants to get this over with and get home to her baby, but she needs Nic's cooperation to finish the job Jen started.

I will say, this book takes a bit of suspension of belief in the beginning. I mean, Nic is a doctor, he should have known that Jess's story was completely absurd. But Dev in her signature way, helps us to really feel and understand their emotions, the hopelessness and despair that both of our characters feel, that lead to the decisions they make.

I do love Dev's writing, as I feel that she writes emotions so well. And this is a book with a lot of emotions. Even when I felt some of the plot points were sketchy, she manages to draw you in with her writing. I also did like how this was more than just a romance, with the POV's of the others involved in the case, and trying to figure out how it all came together.

Again, I thought this was an interesting portrayal of Indian-American life in both India and America, and the infusion of culture (and food) was very nicely done. I enjoyed this book very much, and in fact it made me want to pick up the previous companion that I had originally DNF'd (while characters do appear from that one in here, it is a companion, not a sequel and can all be read as standalone).

Sonali Dev:

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mini Reviews, Four of Them

 The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen
Title: The Painter's Daughter
Author: Julie Klassen
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.
Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.
Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.
Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows? 

I was so excited for new Julie Klassen. I've loved all of her books, which is no small feat. While I still enjoyed this one, I don't think I loved it quite as much as all of her other books.

Of course, this one one starts with quite the scandal. Sophie has yet to tell anyone that she's pregnant, when she finds herself abandoned by the father. When his brother Stephen arrives to collect his stuff and find where he's gone, he proposes. Sophie accepts, and they return to his home. They are just getting to know each other, when Wesley comes back.

As always, Klassen writes her characters so well. I enjoyed Sophie and Stephen, and thought they were well fleshed out. I feel that we really got to know them. Klassen always does a really great job of writing secondary characters, and we get to know them just as much as the main characters. I always appreciate authors who do that, and love seeing the other stories and characters intertwining with our main story.

I usually do not like historical either, but Klassen always has a way of writing that draws me in. With her beautifully detailed setting, and surprising plot twists, Klassen's writing will hook you from the start. I wouldn't say this one was quite as plot twisty as her others, and there was nothing too unpredictable, but I still found this to be a great story.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Julie Klassen:

 Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund
Title: Undaunted Hope
Author: Jody Hedlund
Series: Beacons of Hope, #3
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won't be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can't help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him. 
Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she's the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

When I saw that the main character in this one was a secondary character from book 2, I was intrigued. Tessa was not the most liked character from that story, so I was interested to see how the author would turn the tables. And in fact, Tessa might have been my favorite of the MC's from this series.

Tessa has been running since the events of the previous book. She is trying to put her past behind her, and has matured into a lovely young lady. She arrives as a teacher for this new town, only to find that they are not willing to have a female teacher. She talks them into agreeing to let her stay through the winter, and then throws herself into proving she deserves to stay.

Tessa has become a very strong, independent character, and I loved her for it. She hates the way the townspeople are treated, and starts to do something about it. I loved seeing this change in her. She still has a lot to work through, but it's obvious she is now a very different person.

I loved the other characters in this one too, from the kids to Alex and his brother. I did have issues with Alex when he and his brother tried to make decisions for Tessa as if it was their right, but Tessa quickly put a stop to that, which I admired her for. All in all, I thought this was a great addition to the series.
This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Jody Hedlund:

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 At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings
Title: At Love's Bidding
Author: Regina Jennings
Series: Ozark Mountain Romances #2
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the furious family, her grandfather tracks it to the Missouri Ozarks and makes an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house if they promise not to sell anything until he arrives.
Upon their arrival, however, they discover their new business doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its manager, ruggedly handsome Wyatt Ballentine, is frustrated to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more cattle than they can count--but no mysterious painting--Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and salvage a bad situation getting worse.

This is only the second book I've read by Regina Jennings, and while I don't think I liked it as much as the first book in this series, I did still enjoy this second installment.

Miranda has always done what she is told. She just wants to be a good daughter and keep the peace. But when she is charged with accompanying her grandfather to find a lost painting, Miranda has to learn how to take charge. I liked Miranda. She was sweet, and just wanted what was best for her family. And we get to see her grow and learn what's best for herself as well.

I did like Wyatt, as well as the other characters, some of which we saw book 1. The plot didn't really hook me though, as I put the book down a few times, and wouldn't pick it up again for a very long time in between. The communication issues did frustrate me a little bit, as I was screaming at them to "just talk already". I also got a bit lost there at the end, with everything that happened. It seemed a bit fast, everything at once. However, I did think this was a cute story, and I did enjoy it.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Regina Jennings:

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 Every Bride Has Her Day by Janice Thompson
Title: Every Bride Has Her Day
Author: Janice Thompson
Series: Brides with Style #3
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: publisher

Katie Fisher is ecstatic. Pro basketball star Brady James has proposed, and she can't wait to start planning their life together. She's confident she'll make it down the aisle this time--but it still may be easier said than done. A high-society Houston bride has Katie and the Cosmopolitan Bridal team scrambling to get the perfect dress done in time for her spectacular wedding. Meanwhile, Katie finds herself bombarded with everyone's competing visions regarding her own special day--and she's beginning to worry that her own ideas will get lost in the crossfire. Will she ever manage to settle all of the details for "her" perfect day? Or will bridal shop chaos and overzealous friends and family make a mess of everything? 

I have loved this series, and I thought this was a cute, fun end to the series. I love Janice Thompson's books for how fun and sweet they are, and this one was no different.

I did have a few more issues with this one. I felt like...nothing happened. As in, there was no real plot. Yes, I know Katie is getting married, but it seemed very lacking. I felt like a lot of the conversations were repeated, even Katie's inner monologue. They were just saying the same things over and over again, and nothing was really happening. Also, I know it's a romance, and they tend to be slightly unrealistic anyway, but the amount of engagements/weddings/etc. in this one seemed over-the-top and excessive. I mean, I could see why Jane was feeling a little bitter.

But in true Thompson fashion, the story was hilarious and quirky and sweet. It was still a fun read, and I'm glad we got to see the whole gang one last time, all together. I thought it was super cute, and I can't wait for more from Janice Thompson.

This review can also be found on   Goodreads

Janice Thompson:

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hope and Red {by Jon Skovron}

 Hope and Red by Jon Skovron
Title: Hope and Red
Author: Jon Skovron
Series: Empire of Storms Trilogy #1
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
source: NetGalley

In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. 
A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance.
A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist.
When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.
It's been a long time since I've really red a true fantasy novel, much less an adult one. However this was just what I needed. It was interesting, it was fast-paced, with unique characters, and kept me intrigued the whole time.

My biggest issue with fantasy is often that I can't keep all the world-building straight, but I did not really have this problem. I found it interesting, this world of biomancers. I also enjoyed Hope and Red. They were worlds apart, and written distinctly. Hope is set on vengeance, payback for what happened to her village years ago. Red wants power. But when they have to learn how to work together.
I feel like Hope went through more growth and transformation than Red (but of course their story isn't over). She is still bent on vengeance, but she learns how to redirect it for a greater good. Both of them learn things about themselves and about what they want, for themselves but also for their world. I also loved all the secondary characters. They were fleshed out, and just as important to the story. I liked seeing the intertwining storylines. While most of the book is told from the POV of either Hope or Red, sometimes we get a different perspective that adds a whole new dimension to the story.
The story was fast-paced, and kept my interest the whole time. I think the end was a little too fast, and not as well put-together as the rest, but it was still good. It isn't so unpredictable or anything, but it is still a good story. This is a little more adult than I usually review, just throwing that out there.
All in all, I thought this was an excellent story, and I will be looking forward to the rest of the series.
This review can also be found on   Goodreads
Jon Skovron:

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Land of Silence {by Tessa Afshar}

Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar
Title: Land of Silence
Author: Tessa Afshar
Genre: Biblical retelling
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Source: NetGalley

Before Christ called her daughter . . .
Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .
Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.
No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul?

I enjoyed this story so much. When it comes to Biblical retelling, we see so many of the same ones over and over again, so I thought this was an interesting take on someone we've never really seen before.

Like always, Afshar's writing is vivid and beautiful, down to the details, making the reader feel immersed into this world. I love seeing different cultures and history, and I thknk that is something Afshar always does so well.

I loved the characters as well, and I feel that Afshar really brought them to life. Elianna's case is unusual, that she would be allowed so much freedom to work, etc. (although this is made clear), but I felt that she was written very well. It felt like reading about an old friend, and I got sucked in, feeling the highs and lows of every emotion along with her.

I admire Afshar's ability to take a few sentences from the Bible, and weave a beautiful, thrilling tale from it. No longer is she a nameless character, but someone full of beauty and life. Afshar is such a talented writer, and as always, I look forward to her next work.

Tessa Afshar:

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