Friday, December 31, 2010

Unexpected Love by Andrea Boeshaar

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Unexpected Love
by Andrea Boeshaar

ISBN-13: 978-1-61638-192-9
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms
Released: Jan. 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Lorenna Fields always taken her job at Chicago's Mercy Hospital seriously, determined never to becomes personally involved with her patients. But when a mysterious man with eyes like onyx is admitted after a shipwreck on Lake Michigan, she develops a connection with him that she can't deny.

Slowly her patient regains consciousness, but to Renna's dismay he has lost both his sight and his memory. Dubbed "Mr. Blackeyes" by her, the two build a strong, trusting friendship as they search for clues to his past. But part of her dreads the day of his recovery, convinced that his memories will take him away from her and his regained sight will reveal a secret about herself that Renna has been trying hard to hide.

My Review:
Unexpected Love is a historical romance (with the emphasis on the romance) set in 1866 in Chicago and Milwaukee. This book is the third in the series, but you can understand it even if you haven't read the previous novels. However, the main characters in the second novel play a large role in this novel, and the male lead in this novel was a main character in the previous novel, so this novel does "spoil" the previous one.

The romance was predictable; I never doubted they'd get together and it hit all the common beats. However, the "romance novel misunderstanding" was nicely set up and more realistic than most: Renna couldn't believe that a 'playboy' rich man who could have any woman he wanted would be interested in a middle class girl like her who had an ugly birthmark on her cheek. "Mr. Blackeyes" was drawn to her earnest personality but felt that he had to lie to soothe her fears or he'd lose his chance to get to know her better. But the lie becomes increasingly difficult to keep up.

There was a nice level of historical detail about the setting and everyday life woven into the story, but it's not as heavy on these details as some historical romances. The suspense was created by the relationship tensions, some physical danger, and some uncertainty about "Mr. Blackeyes" being able to resume his life after being thought dead for several months.

Many of the characters were Christians. Several Bible verses were quoted. The characters did get a bit preachy at each other at times, but it was in-character and flowed naturally.

There was a very minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel to those who like heart-warming romances.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Chicago, Illinois, September 4, 1866

"Do you think he'll live, Dr. Hamilton?"

The gray-haired man with bushy whiskers pondered the question for several moments, chewing on his thick lips as he weighed his reply. "Yes, I think he will," he finally said. "Of course, he's not out of the woods yet, but it seems he's coming around."

Lorenna Fields breathed a sigh of relief. It had been two whole days with nary a sign of life from this half-drowned man, but finally--finally--he showed signs of improvement.

"You've done a good job with this patient, Nurse Fields." The physician drew himself up to his full height, which barely met Renna's five feet six inches. "I don't think he'd be alive today if you hadn't given him such extraordinary care."

"Thank you, Dr. Hamilton, but it was the Lord who spared this man and the Lord who gave me the strength and skill to nurse him"

The old physician snorted in disgust. "Yes, well, it might have had something to do with the fact that you've got a brain in your head, Nurse Fields, and the fact that you used it too, I might add!"

Read more from chapter one.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Simonsen

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The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy
by Mary Lydon Simonsen

ISBN-13: 9781402240256
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Released: January 1, 2011

Source: Advanced Reader's Copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
In an attempt to get out of dancing, which he dislikes, Mr. Darcy snubs Miss Elizabeth Bennet. A little later, when he gets a better look at her beauty, he regrets his tactless words. He doesn't think he'll ever see her again, though, so he doesn't take the time to apologize. Still, he can't stop thinking about her.

When he hears that Elizabeth is in Kent, he makes an unexpected visit to his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. One evening, on impulse, he makes Elizabeth an offer of marriage while thinking through the cons of such a match out loud. Yet again, he's unintentionally offended Elizabeth. In a private talk with his cousin, Anne de Bourgh, he confesses that he proposed to Elizabeth and was rejected.

Anne wants to remain single, so she comes up with a scheme to bring Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth together again. She urges Elizabeth to visit Pemberley during her upcoming trip and causes Mr. Darcy to return home earlier than planned. Surely Darcy and Lizzy will see that they're the perfect match, but little goes as planned...

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy is a historical romance set in 1808 in England, and it's a Pride and Prejudice re-write. The author referred to several historical events occurring outside of England and had them affect the characters in the story, but she generally didn't delve deeply into the day-to-day historical aspects.

The characters weren't faithful portrayals of those in Pride and Prejudice. In this version, Mr. Darcy had a couple of mistresses before meeting Lizzy. The author made Lizzy's family poorer and of lesser social class. And while Lizzy had wit, it's a different kind of wit. The characters also forgave all wrongs and fell in love much more quickly than in the Pride and Prejudice timelime. In fact, multiple events were changed slightly though the overall framework was maintained.

The author did assume the reader was familiar with the original story. She mainly filled in the scenes that Jane Austen didn't write. She also created a number of new characters and had them play major roles. Even though the story "wasn't really Pride and Prejudice," I enjoyed her characters and her version of events. Overall, the story was quite engaging.

I found one stylistic thing confusing, though. The author would sometimes start a new section with a new point-of-view character but jump back in time without clearly indicating this backward time change.

There was a minor amount of British and American bad language. There were a few, very brief, vaguely explicit lustful thoughts on Darcy's part, but no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to Pride and Prejudice fans as enjoyable reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Summer 1808

Fitzwilliam Darcy paced up and down the side of the road. He had been within five miles of Netherfield Park, the country estate of his friend, Charles Bingley, when the carriage had veered violently to the right. After learning from his driver that the axle was bent, he had sent his footman in search of a horse, so that he might continue his journey.

A month earlier, Bingley had signed a lease on a handsome two-hundred-acre estate in Hertfordshire with a well-stocked lake and an uninterrupted view of the surrounding countryside. The manor house was the perfect size for Bingley and his small party. The rent on the house, which was owned by the Darlingtons, was reasonable, and above all, it had stables and pastures for Charles's horses.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Man From Shadow Ridge by Brock & Bodie Thoene

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The Man From Shadow Ridge
by Brock & Bodie Thoene

ISBN: 1-55661-098-X
Trade Paperback: 239 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Released: 1990

Source: Checked out from my local library.

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
The year is 1863. In the East, the Civil War rages on. The mountains of California seem remote and untouched by the struggle of the young nation.

Tom Dawson thought he left the political and social conflict behind when he joined his brother's little family beneath Shadow Ridge to help his brother run his small ranch. Then a stagecoach is robbed and six people murdered by a gang of Confederate sympathizers stealing Union gold for the South.

Tom and his brother unintentionally place themselves in the middle of the conflict when they take in a now-free slave child whose master was killed nearby. The Confederate sympathizers need certain papers, and they think that the boy knows were they are. And they're willing to kill anyone who stands in their way...

My Review:
The Man From Shadow Ridge is a historical (with some western elements) set in 1863 in California. The historical details of everyday life and Civil War politics were woven into the story. It's clear that the authors did in-depth research yet the details never overloaded the story or slowed the pace.

The suspense was created mainly by the physical danger that the "good guys" were in. The characters were varied, interesting, and somewhat complex. Tom, his brother, his family, and the local parson were Christians. There were some references to them praying or going to church or believing God would help them, but the Christian element was spotty and not lecture-y.

This novel was the first in a series. While it can stand alone, the ending was a bit quick and left some minor things to be resolved in the next novel. There were a few horse-related practical details that were wrong (including a boy being carried stomach-down over a saddle horn without sustaining internal injury) and parts of the ending felt improbable.

There was no bad language and no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel to those who like historical novels.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Harness leather groaned as the weary horses leaned into the last steep climb before Granite Station. The wagon was heavily loaded with flour, beans, salt and seed. Two sleeping boys and a bolt of calico cloth completed the freight.

Tom Dawson looked like a man more at ease on the back of a green-broke Indian pony than holding the lines of a team of farm horses. His rugged, sun-browned face was creviced from the weather like the landscape. His dark brown eyes matched the color of the hair that straggled across his forehead from beneath a black broad-brimmed hat. His features had the lean, angular look of a man by no means settled into an easy life, but the small wrinkles at the corners of his eyes betrayed the fact that he smiled on occasion, too.

It was late, past dark already. Tom had expected to reach his stop for the night hours before. The Army quartermaster sergeant who was to have met Tom early that morning had not arrived until midafternoon. The sergeant had sent Tom off with the warning that the stagecoach from Keyesville had been robbed. All five passengers and the driver had been brutally murdered.

Now Tom wished he had camped on the flat along the banks of Poso Creek with other travelers who had stopped for the night. His wagonload of goods might be just as tempting as gold to outlaws hiding out in the lower reaches of the Sierras.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway winner. Including Twitter entries, we had 50 people enter. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from your favorite bookstore or see if they have it at your local library.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway: Leaving Yesterday

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop

book coverAs a part of the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop, I'm giving away my copy of Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman.

Read my review to learn more about this Christian general fiction novel.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for LEAVING YESTERDAY by Kathryn Cushman."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

This giveaway ends Dec. 22, 2010 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on Dec. 23, 2010 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address so I can contact you or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman

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Leaving Yesterday
by Kathryn Cushman

ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-0382-4
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: October 1, 2009

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Alisa Stewart gives presentations on dealing with grief but feels like she's living a pretense. Her oldest son was beaten to death while trying to reach the lost for Christ. Kurt, her other son, started using drugs to avoid his guilt at not being there to protect his brother. Alisa's husband kicked Kurt out of the house two years ago and is now living apart from her because he blames her religion for the tragedy.

When a policeman asks Alisa about her son's whereabouts so he can question Kurt about the murder of a drug dealer, she's terrified. But then her son calls from rehab! He's turning his life around, and surely her son would never murder someone. Even if he did, he's a different person now and should be given his chance.

Then a violent young man is arrested for the murder, and Alisa learns that his family had a similar tragedy in their past. Alisa begins to question if she can live with always wondering about her son and feels guilt over the pain the other mother is suffering. But what will the truth cost her?

My Review:
Leaving Yesterday is a Christian general fiction. The characters were complex and dealt with realistic issues. I understood why they acted as they did even if I didn't agree with it. The suspense was created by the uncertainty about whether Alisa's son did kill the guy or not and whether her husband was going to divorce her or not.

I'd thought this would be a story about a mother having to decide whether or not to turn her son in and dealing with trusting that God will help the police uncover the truth. But Alisa was so deeply in denial about everything that it was more about her leaving the perceived safety of the pretense she was living to face the truth.

Alisa was a Christian struggling to understand why God was letting all these bad things happen to her family. Her belief (or hope) that God would reward her suffering with her desired "happy ending" was partly why she was in denial. The Christian message was woven throughout the story and felt natural and not "lecture-y" to me.

There was a minor amount of "he cursed" style bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this thought-provoking novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
My son was dead. I knew it the minute I saw the black-and-white car pull to the curb in front of my house.

Clods of potting soil still clinging to my gloves--like the debris of the last few years clung to everything in my life--I turned back to my house, walked up the porch steps, opened the front door, then closed and locked it behind me. Perhaps a reasonable person would understand that the clink of the deadbolt sliding into place did nothing to stop the impending news. Well, show me the mother who thinks with reason when faced with the news that her only remaining son is dead.

I walked into my kitchen and tossed my gloves on the counter, ignoring the splatter of soil they left over what had been spotless granite. I grabbed a cup from the top shelf and shoved it against the slot in the refrigerator door, holding it in place with such force I thought the glass might shatter. Cold water filled it almost to the rim. Just taking a little break from gardening, that's what I was doing. That policeman outside had turned onto the wrong street, that's all. He had probably realized his mistake and was gone by now.

Read more from chapter one using Google Preview.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia Unabridged Boxed Set - Audiobook on CD

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The Chronicles of Narnia Unabridged Boxed Set - Audiobook on CD

ISBN-13: 9780694524754
Format: Compact disc
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: 2004

Source: Bought through

Book Description:
C.S. Lewis's seven timeless tales of the land of Narnia are rendered in this collection of unabridged recordings. 33 CDs.

In order: 1. The Magician's Nephew; 2. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe; 3. The Horse and His Boy; 4. Prince Caspian; 5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; 6. The Silver Chair; 7. The Last Battle.

My Review:

I have a nephew who is learning to read by reading a book at the same time he listens to the audio book of it. I got the Narnia set for him, but I listened to them before giving them to him. The stories still charm me, and I'm almost tempted to get this audio set for myself, too. All seven of the books--and every word in them--are included in this set.

This is a very nice set, with maps of Narnia and drawings illustrating the story on the discs and CD holder. The CDs are in a cardboard multi-CD holder with the book's name on the spine. A different actor narrated each story...6 men and one woman, including Kenneth Branagh and Patrick Stewart. The reading quality was very good, and I really enjoyed the voice work for The Magician's Nephew and The Horse and His Boy.

If you're thinking about getting an audio set of The Chronicles of Narnia, I'd highly recommend this one.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

You can listen to audio snippets at

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chronicle Books announced...

Chronicle Books announced today that the winner of their Happy Haul-idays contest was CakeSpy.

They also said that anyone interested in buying books from Chronicle Books can get a discount of 35% off plus free shipping through December 16, 2011. Use this promo code at checkout: HAULIDAYS

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Black Sea Affair by Don Brown

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Black Sea Affair
by Don Brown

ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27214-4
Trade Paperback: 322 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: 2008

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
It starts with a high-stakes theft: weapons-grade plutonium is stolen from Russia. The Russian army is about to attack Chechnya to get it back. But U.S. intelligence discovers that the stolen shipment is actually on a rogue Russian freighter in the Black Sea.

As the U.S. Navy hunts down the rogue Russian freighter, a mishap escalates into an international crisis. It is a heart-stopping race against the clock. With Russian missiles activated and programmed for American cities, the U.S. Navy frantically searches the high seas for a floating hydrogen bomb that could be headed for America or one of her allies.

My Review:
Black Sea Affair is a Christian military thriller. It's the fourth in a series, but the connecting character was a very minor character in this book. I didn't need to read the previous novels to understand this one.

There were a fairly large number of point-of-view characters from all sides of the conflict, yet the author skillfully maintained uncertainty about several closely timed events involving those characters. The suspense was high from the first page to the last. The suspense was created by physical danger to the characters and the knowledge that their decisions, if wrong, could cause the deaths of thousands.

The characters were varied and interesting enough, but they didn't really "come alive" as real humans. Military details were woven into the story, but I wondered about some of them. Still, I'm not an expert. I liked that maps of the areas being talked about were included.

Some of the characters were Christian and their faith helped them through the tough times (mainly as "he prayed for wisdom" style statements) and, in some cases, helped them make decisions. (Note: Overall, the bad guys were immoral, greedy atheists or vengeful Muslims who had lost loved ones. All of the characters were a bit cliche, but this depiction of atheists and Muslims apparently has offended some readers.)

There was no explicit sex. There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. I'd recommend this suspenseful novel to those who like military thrillers.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Aircraft carrier
The Pacific Ocean

The admiral took a long draw from his cigarette as he scanned the horizon. The ships under his command consisted of an aircraft carrier, a heavy cruiser, and two destroyers. The small armada plowed through rolling blue-green seas, due east into the rising sun. Already steaming in battle formation, the ships' crews stood ready to launch their aircraft.

Based on intelligence being fed into their combat-information center on board the flagship, they had not been spotted yet.

Good. They were about to execute the most devastating attack by a naval force in all human history. Thousands in San Diego would die in the initial nuclear fallout. Coming from the sea, this attack would take them all by surprise. A surprise that would never be forgotten.

The commander dropped his binoculars and considered his situation. At the moment, at least, the target was vulnerable and unsuspecting.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Low Country by Eric L. Haney

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Low Country
by Eric L. Haney

ISBN-13: 978-0425238141
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Released: December 7, 2010

Source: Bound manuscript from the publisher for review purposes.

Book Description from Publisher's Website, modified:
Kennesaw Tanner used to be a shadow operative. Now, he operates on his own. Tanner is in the coastal swamps of Georgia, trying to discover if a teen girl died from suicide or murder. He comes up against a ring of brutal sex slavers for whom human life is a cheap commodity. Can he put them out of business and avenge the dead girl?

My Review:
Low Country is a suspense novel. Kennesaw was only in danger once in the first 195 (of 295) pages, so it's not a thriller like the author's first novel. The first two-thirds of the novel lacked suspense and focus. The plot rambled about in a leisurely fashion with the characters pessimistically commenting on various social issues or past events that had no direct impact on the plot. The action seemed to consist mainly of several dates with a lady cop and interacting with various friends rather than pursuing answers to the mystery.

In the last 100 pages, Kennesaw actually made some (dialogued) effort to solve the mystery, and the action and danger picked up. This part was exciting. The author vividly described the setting throughout, and the characters were interesting and varied.

There were a variety of religions represented in this novel. Though Christianity was not highly thought of by Kennesaw, he did go to a church to ask questions of the pastor of the dead girl. At that time, the verses of several Christian songs were quoted. There were no sex scenes. There was a very minor amount of bad language.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
The dead have a mysterious way of returning. Three weeks ago I was working on the deck of my boat, the Miss Rosalie, when my friend Danny Ray Pledger came roaring up in his skiff, trembling and stuttering, unable to talk, and clearly in distress. He needed help, and he needed it badly.

While fishing, Danny Ray had found the badly decomposed body of a girl cast up by the tide in the remote wilderness of the great salt marsh of coastal Georgia. Not knowing what to do, he had come to me. We jumped in my sea skiff, and I returned with Danny Ray to the site of his grisly find. After calling the Coast Guard and having them alert the Chatham County Police, I sent Danny Ray back to my dock to guide the authorities while I stayed with the body.

Why had Danny Ray come to me first instead of going directly to the police himself? Well, the answer is a pretty simple one. Danny is a constituent part of society that always gets the short end of the stick.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Savvy Rest Organic Latex Pillows: great for reading & sleeping

I enjoy reading while lying in bed and spend at least 2 hours each day doing so. I also like using organically grown and processed products--partly for environmental reasons, but also because I'm somewhat chemically sensitive and because non-synthetic, organic products are healthier.

I was excited to have the opportunity to review Savvy Rest's Shredded Latex Pillow. It's made from organic natural latex (which comes from a tree). I already have an organic wool pillow--I replaced my memory foam pillow with the wool pillow and my insomnia problems disappeared. I woke up feeling refreshed and clear-headed instead of tired and groggy. So I'm hooked on organic pillows. It's worth the expense when you realize you're spending about 8 hours a day with your head right next to the pillow, breathing in whatever chemicals it's off-gassing.

Savvy Rest agreed to send me a free standard-sized shredded latex pillow (for review purposes). The pillow arrived 9 days after the order date.

I eagerly unpacked my new pillow, took it to a bed, and tried it out. The pillow has a soft, organic cotton casing and is intentionally overstuffed with a fill of soft, shredded latex. The pillow feels like a gel pad: your head makes a depression that moves as you move. The fill doesn't compress except where the weight is. I wanted to show this off, so I took it to my mom and said, "You try it!" She did and said, "I think this might be what I need for my sore neck and shoulders. Can I try it tonight?"

It's not like I could say no to my mom...

My mom likes to fluff her pillow every morning, so I could see why she'd like a pillow that doesn't need fluffing.

The latex in the pillow had a noticeable smell, but it wasn't bothersome. Both my mom and I have minor skin reactions to synthetic latex gloves, but neither of us has had any reaction to touching or smelling the organic natural latex in this pillow. (More about latex allergy.)

After the first night using this pillow, my mom said that her neck felt a little better, but she wanted to remove some of the fill. The pillow actually has both an outer casing and an inner casing. The zippers for both were facing the same direction, so it was easy to open both and remove several handfuls of fill. The pillow still looked very full, but this fill level felt comfortable to my mom. After the second night, her neck and shoulders were feeling even better and her range of motion for turning her head was much better.

The latex smell was still strong, so we put the pillow outside in the shade on a brisk, windy day to air it out for several hours. When we brought it in, the smell was much reduced but still noticeable.

My mom has used the pillow for five nights now, and she wants to keep it. She said, "For years, I've woken up with a stiff neck and shoulders. It hurt to turn my head very far. But now, that's lessening with each night!"

I've also used the pillow during the day to test it out for reading while lying on my belly and side. I like that the pillow doesn't stay compressed after each use and that it offers nice head and neck support however I lie on it. So I highly recommend this pillow.

A standard-sized Savvy Rest shredded latex pillow costs $79, a queen-sized costs $89, and a king-sized costs $99. You can buy them from Savvy Rest.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Waiting for Daybreak by Kathryn Cushman

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Waiting for Daybreak
by Kathryn Cushman

ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-0381-7
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: October 2008

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Paige Woodward loves working as a pharmacist, but she was blamed and fired for a medication mistake at her last job. Now few people are willing to hire her. Paige's mother's last chance is an experimental cancer treatment, and Paige is determined to earn the money to pay for it.

She takes the job when a man, impressed by her work at a charity clinic, offers her a well-paying job at a small, new pharmacy that his granddaughter runs. Since he doesn't ask about her past, she decides it's safer not to tell him.

Clarissa Richardson, her new boss, fears that adding a new employee will prevent her from meeting her goal. If she can get the pharmacy in the black by a certain date, her grandfather will build her a dream pharmacy in the city.

Clarissa has been cutting corners and breaking rules to run the pharmacy with only two employees. Habits don't change when Paige arrives, so Paige urges her boss to follow the rules. Paige knows what can happen when you don't, but she can't tell her boss why she's being "so picky" about it. When trouble hits, Clarissa realizes how she can save her dream and get rid of her busybody employee at the same time...

Can Paige hold on through the darkness until daybreak?

My Review:
Waiting for Daybreak is Christian general fiction. The characters were complex and dealt with realistic issues. I understood why they acted as they did--even the characters that weren't as likable. The details of the store and job were superbly done, which makes sense since the author was a pharmacist in the past.

I could hardly put the book down. The suspense was created by wanting Paige to succeed and her mother to survive her cancer treatment, yet things kept getting worse. But, strangely, it was by things continuing to get worse that Paige finally found peace.

Paige was a Christian struggling to understand why it seemed like God wasn't there for her when she was unjustly blamed and her godly mother was so sick with cancer. She looked up several verses dealing with that, and she also got a few off-the-wall Scripture references from a quirky new friend. Though definitely there, the Christian message didn't feel "lecture-y" to me.

There was no bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this suspenseful, insightful novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Paige Woodward contemplated the reinforced back door of Nashville's Free Clinic and the patchwork of blue covering the exterior. Each shade of navy, indigo, or azure covered another level of graffiti. The defacing spray paint wasn't gone, simply hidden beneath a layer of color that didn't quite match the original. Patch jobs. They didn't change the truth; they only covered it up.

She shook off the thought and put her key in the door. The musty odor never seemed to fade here, in spite of the janitorial crew's best efforts. This dingy lobby would soon be packed to capacity with illness, hunger, and hopeless faces looking to Paige for help--but she could only do so much. Some pain went beyond the bounds of medicine. She had been living that truth for the last few months.

Rufus Toskins emerged from a back hallway, wearing his usual overburdened expression, baggy suit, and bow tie. Paige stopped and waited for him. Today, at least, would bring good news, and now would be a perfect time for him to walk over and deliver it.

Rufus did not acknowledge her presence. In fact, he jerked his head around and blitzed through a door to the opposite hall--like a medical resident rushing toward a code blue.

Strange. Her stomach tightened, just a little. You're imagining things. Get busy.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

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The Virgin Widow
by Anne O'Brien

ISBN-13: 9780451231291
Trade Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: New American Library
Released: November 2, 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
Anne Neville is born during the War of the Roses--the many battles fought by the York and Lancaster houses to gain and keep the throne of England. Her father, the powerful Earl of Warwick, helps to elevate King Edward IV to the throne. The king's third brother, Richard, is sent to train with the Earl and there Richard encounters Anne. Over the years, the two fall in love.

However, the Earl feels insulted that the king shows greater favor to his wife's family than to the Nevilles who made him king. The Earl marries his eldest daughter to Edward's second brother (and heir). When he fails to put his son-in-law on the throne, his family flees to France. He joins forces with Margaret of Anjou, the queen he deposed to make Edward IV the king.

He betroths Anne to Margaret's son, Edward of Westminster. Anne tries to make the best of a bad situation: the cruel treatment by her distrustful husband and mother-in-law and the jealousy of her sister. But her worst pain is the knowledge that her father and her true love are on opposite sides now and either could be killed in the conflict to come...

My Review:
The Virgin Widow is a historical romance set in England and France during the War of the Roses. Though not a typical romance, the story started with the budding romance in 1462 and ended with it's seemingly impossible fulfillment in 1472. It did cover her child's birth in 1473, but that's where it stopped. It didn't cover Anne becoming queen.

Considering how young Anne Neville was (ages 6 to 16 years old during the story) and how little control she had over her future, I felt the author did a good job of portraying her as not completely passive within those constraints. Political, social, and every-day historical details were skillfully woven into the story. The rich, vivid detail brought the story alive in my imagination. The author followed the overall known facts of Anne Neville's life but, as the author explained in the back, she chose the more dramatic possibilities when facts weren't certain or known.

The pacing was typical of a historical, and the characters were intriguing. The suspense was created by the two characters loving each other but ending up on opposite sides of the war and by the situation seeming to go from bad to worse.

There was a minor amount of cursing and swearing. The sex scenes were brief and not graphic. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel to those who like historical romances and who want to know more about this period of time.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
APRIL 1469
On board ship, off the English port of Calais

Isabel whimpered. With creaks and groans the ship listed and thumped against the force of water as if it would be torn apart by the next wave, casting us into the depths. Isabel clapped her hands to her mouth, her eyes staring at the heaving wooden walls that hemmed us in, the sides of a coffin.

"Now what's wrong with you?" It was not fear of a watery death. I knew what it was, even as I prayed that it was not. The ship rolled again in the heavy swell, wallowing queasily in the dips before lifting and lurching. Sweat prickled on my forehead. Nausea clutched my belly before fear rapidly drove it out again. "Isabel." I nudged her arm sharply to get her attention. She was sitting in a high-backed chair, the only available chair in the cabin and the property of the captain, her whole body rigid, braced. Eyes tight-closed to shut out the desperate pitch and roll, she kept one hand closed clawlike on the arm. I shuffled forward on my stool. "Is it the baby?"

"Yes," she said with a gasp. Then: " Just a quick pain." On a deep breath her body relaxed fractionally, fingers uncurling from the carved end. "There, it's gone. Perhaps I mistook it."

And perhaps she didn't. I watched her cautiously as she eased her body in the confined space.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt

book cover

Breaking Up is Hard to Do
by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt

ISBN: 0446407569
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: FaithWords
Released: April 16, 2009

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover (somewhat modified):
It's been a little over a year since Christine Lee's mom passed away in a tragic car accident. Now her dad is engaged to Candace, and Christine takes out her anger at her dad "getting over" her mother so quickly by trying to break them up...without success. It doesn't help that her dad never talks about her mom's death and doesn't have time for her in his busy political schedule.

To make matters worse, her only friends, the Miracle Girls, aren't there for her. The pressures of high school threaten to break the girls up when they need each other the most. Will they find a way to join together to help Christine come to terms with her mother's death and her father's remarriage?

My Review:
Breaking Up is Hard to Do is a well-written young adult general fiction book. It's written in first person, present tense. It's also the second book in the series, but I didn't need to read first novel to understand what's going on in this one (though probably I would understand the girls' bond better if I had).

The characters were complex and engaging though not always likable (for example, Christine's to-be step-mom was perfect when relating to Christine, but Christine was spiteful toward her even though she recognized this). Teen social and school life were realistically and vividly portrayed. BTW, something you can't tell from the cover picture is that Christine has Asian physical looks and doesn't like dresses.

Three of the four "miracle girls" were Christians. Christine started doubting God's existence after her devout mother died in a car crash yet wants "someone bigger" to be out there so that she's not really all alone. Christine's mother's ghost subtly visited Christine several times throughout the story.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "she cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to female teens as a well-written, enjoyable novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"It looks like a cheerleader's soul exploded all over the gym." I scrunch up my nose and catch a glimpse of my nose ring. It still surprises me to see it there.

Ana laughs at my joke, but Zoe rolls her eyes and starts clapping loudly, probably to cover for our silence. The bleachers shake as everyone around us gets pumped up on school spirit. Everywhere you look, there's garnet and gold bunting, streamers, and posters--one of which is misspelled. At least I don't think the cheer-nerds meant to say "Starfish Have School Sprit." It's bad enough that our mascot is the Starfish, but if people find out we have "sprit" too, we'll be the laughingstock of the country.

It's first period of the first day back in school. I rarely feel all that peppy on a very good day, and I'm certainly not chipper on a day like this. At least we were allowed to sit with anyone we wanted. The only requirement was that we had to sit by class. So here are the Miracle Girls, after an incredible summer together, parked under the big "Sophomores" sign. Woo.

The cheerleaders tumble onto the basketball court as the band cues up to play our fight song. Riley trails behind the tumblers, galloping sideways and "sparkling" her fingers at the crowd. The doctors don't want her tumbling this year. I give her a nod. She waves back.