“A Tailor-Made Bride” by Karen Witemeyer

I thought this book was good.  It’s the author’s (Karen Witemeyer) debut, and I thought it was very nicely written.  Hannah has been working for most of her life, but she has been saving her extra money in the hopes of someday opening her own dress shop.  Thanks to an elderly customer, her dream has come true, but there’s a catch.  She has to move to a town that she knows nothing about and live in a building she has never seen.

Jericho has had his eye on a shop in town as an investment property/way to help out someone in need.  When Hannah arrives to take possession of the shop, he is stunned…this is not going the way it’s supposed to go…and Hannah won’t sell her shop to him.  He doesn’t think that the women of his town need to have a fancy dressmaker in town.  It will create dissatisfaction with their lives and cause all sorts of other problems.

However, his kid sister and Hannah strike up a honest and quick friendship.  Both sees in the other something of value and someone who needs some help.  Hannah also becomes popular with the community in general for her unassuming, friendly ways.  She is able to kindly take under her wing and they become friends.

Unfortunately, there is someone in town that doesn’t like rejection or change and goes out of their way to sabotage Hannah and her shop.  Hannah and Jericho have to work beyond their own doubts about each other and figure out who it can be that wants to harm Hannah.

“The Bone House”

I have to admit – the description of this book sounds fabulous:

One piece of the skin map has been found. Now the race to unravel the future of the future turns deadly.

Kit Livingstone met his great grandfather Cosimo in a rainy alley in London where he discovered the reality of alternate realities.

Now he’s on the run-and on a quest-trying to understand the impossible mission he inherited from Cosimo: to restore a map that charts the hidden dimensions of the multiverse. Survival depends on staying one step ahead of the savage Burley Men.

The key is the Skin Map-but where it leads and what it means, Kit has no idea. The pieces have been scattered throughout this universe and beyond.

Mina, from her outpost in seventeenth-century Prague, is quickly gaining both the experience and the means to succeed in the quest. Yet so are those with evil intent who, from the shadows, are manipulating great minds of history for their own malign purposes.

For me though, the reality was different.  I really struggled to get into this book.  After I started, I realized it was the second book in the series and I was able to get it cheaply at Amazon.  However, even trying to read that one was difficult.  I only made it part of the way through each book.

I like sci-fi.  I like time travel.  I think that these books were difficult for me because I didn’t have the full understanding if their universe.  Things moved quickly and it was hard for me to remember from one reading session to the other where/when everyone was.

I like Stephen Lawhead’s books.  I have read a few others that I enjoyed.  For some reason however, this one did not grab me and pull me into the story.  I will definitely try them again later.

I received this book from Booksneeze.  I was not required to write a positive review (obviously).  All opinions are my own.

“Her Christmas Pleasure” – A Quick Read

Karen Erickson’s Her Christmas Pleasure is a quick read about two people who haven’t admitted they love each other.  Damien is a Napoleonic war veteran who has accepted a job in another country.  He was Celia’s late husband’s best friend and has worked/lived with the family his entire life.  He seemed to be in that nebulous grey area of not quite a servant, but not born to the family.

Celia’s mourning period is almost over.  She lives with her late husband’s family, since her son is the heir.  Her husband was an only child, and the holidays are difficult for his parents.  She had a good relationship with her husband and has come to rely on Damien to be her friend – and a connection to her husband.

This Christmas, Damien realizes that he either has to tell Celia about his feelings or leave without telling her.  But the timing has never been right….then they accidentally meet under the mistletoe.  What follows is a somewhat rushed courtship – full of feelings of passion, guilt, confusion, and ultimately love.

I sometimes think these books rush the relationship too quickly.  I understand that when you have a novella, that it just has to happen that way, and that a book like this calls for a certain suspension of reality.  If you are looking for a quick read that involves Christmas and that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought, this book is for you.  Warning – there are a few explicit intimate scenes.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

“A Marriage Carol” Made Me Think About What Could Be…

I just finished A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry and Gary Chapman.  It was an extremely quick read, but one that pulled me in.  It’s the story of Marlee and Jacob who are traveling through a snow storm to their attorney’s office on Christmas Eve to sign their divorce papers.

It’s a bittersweet journey.  They were married on Christmas Eve a 20 years ago, and there was a snow storm that night as well.  Even though they are on their way to end their marriage, they are both thinking of that night 20 years ago.  The reader is able to see into the current state of their marriage, from Marlee’s point of view.

They are run off the road by a semi and they land in the snow in the ditch.  Marlee can’t find Jacob, so she goes for help.   Eventually she comes up to a house which is owned by an elderly couple.  We are told that his name is Jay and his wife is not well.  He invites Marlee in, gets her warm, and lets her talk.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but I really enjoyed this story.  I think that the play off A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a useful plot device.  I liked how real the characters seemed.  For me, it provides me a tool for when I am feeling frustrated; I can ask myself “What would happen if I make Decision A over Decision B?” or “What would happen if I allow the situation to fester?”

I would definitely recommend this book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

“Jane Austen Made Me Do It” …and I Loved Almost Every Minute

I love, love, love Jane Austen.  I have read every one of her novels, as well as a lot of the sequels, prequels, inspired-bys, etc.  When the opportunity arose for me to read this anthology of Austen-inspired stories, I jumped.  Some of them were better than others, but they were all different and interesting in their own ways.

I liked how these various authors played with Austen names, and when they used actual characters, they stayed true to the original.  One of the ones that I thought was creative was “Intolerable Stupidity” by Laurie Viera Rigler.  In this story, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a judge in a hidden court, but what’s interesting is that the Austen characters (specifically Mr. Darcy) change appearance based on the perceptions of the audience.  So while he always shows up in a dripping wet shirt, sometimes he has fangs (as a vampire hunter), sometimes he doesn’t.  However, that story was kind of hard to keep everything straight; but part of that may be because I read it over two days.

I also liked “Mr. Bennet Meets His Match” by Amanda Grange.  It tells the purported story of how Mr. Bennet came to meet and marry Mrs. Bennet.  A relationship that almost all think is a horrible one comes about in an interesting way.  “Letters to Lydia” by Maya Slater also tells a hidden side of a tumultuous story.  It’s the story of Maria’s letters to Lydia when they are apart, especially when Lydia is eloping.  Interestingly enough, Maria knew where Lydia was before Lydia’s family knew.  I like to think about how that would have changed the story if Jane had added it.

Several stories are told in the present day – with characters who are Austen fans looking for their “Darcy”, and the supernatural (or coincidence) plays a part in their relationship.  One of those stories is “The Mysterious Closet: A Tale” by Myretta Robens that tells the story of Cathy and Henry and how they meet in a mysterious room in a castle.  Another is “A Night at Northanger” by Lauren Willig, one of my favorite authors.  It tells the story of Cate’s experiences hunting ghosts at Northanger Abbey and how her experiences lead her to look at her life and what she wants out of her future.

I would say there are more hits than misses in this anthology.  I don’t usually read anthologies because just when I get into a story, it ends.  I didn’t really have any issues with this one; my schedule is busy enough that I would read one or two stories at each sitting.

I received this book from the publisher through the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Amazon product page

“The Christmas Singing” – Video, 1st Chapter Excerpt, and a Special Offer

Everyone, I was just notified by Waterbrook Publishers that they have released a video and Chapter 1 excerpt from The Christmas Signing, which I reviewed here.  I liked this book a lot, and would like you to consider purchasing it.

If you would like to purchase the book, Waterbrook Publishers is offering a 30% discount and free shipping on The Christmas Singing (and any other title) when you use promo code CHRISTMAS11 at checkout on WaterBrookMultnomah.com. The coupon code expires on December 20th, 2011, so make sure you order before then.

The Video

Chapter 1 Excerpt

“House of Secrets” by Tracie Peterson

Bailee Cooper has been the “mother” of her family since her mom died when she was young.  She has always felt responsible for her younger sisters, and has put her life on hold/reorganized her life to ensure that she is available to her sisters.  Her dad has not been much help, other than paying for things – education, clothing, homes, etc.  To a certain extent, her younger sisters have also resented her actions/interference in their lives, but have dealt with it because she takes care of everything.

Bailee is offered a promotion at her job where she has been a freelance editor for a number of years.  Her boss, Mark Delahunt, wants her to be independent for once.  Over the years, he has become her friend, no matter the walls she erects…and has begun to care for her.  Bailee is fighting her desire for the position because of her responsibility to her sisters.

Out of the blue, Bailee’s dad summons her and her sisters to their summer house in Washington state.  Not only is this unusual because her dad wants to spend time with them, but also because the sense of their mother is so strong in this house.  The girls have often believed their father had a hand in their mother’s death, but have never confronted him about it.  At the beginning of their vacation, they decide to confront their father with their beliefs – to make him answer to them.

However, nothing goes as planned.  What they imagined as true is false.  What they remember as dreams are reality.  How they perceive their father (and themselves) is not necessarily the truth.  This book is about walls being torn down, people accepting others for what they are, and people accepting themselves for what they are – not what they think others need them to be.

This book is beautifully written and there are twists and turns throughout.  My heart broke for Bailee and her sisters, and the impact that secrets have had on this family.  Through their relationships with God, they will find their way.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Merchant’s Daughter” – A Nice Story Though Lacking in Passion

“The Merchant’s Daughter” by Melanie Dickerson

I just finished The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson.  It is the story of Annabel, sent in the 1300s.  Her father was a merchant who died in the Plague after essentially bankrupting his family (losing all of his ships, etc.).  So this family that was used to the “easy” life no longer had it so easy.  The mom wasn’t too interested in doing any work, the older brother was making life easy for him (not doing any work), and the younger brother was used to being coddled.

Everyone in their village had to work for the lord of the manor at a set time.  Annabel’s family had gotten out of it by paying a fine.  However, they hadn’t paid the fine for 3 years and hadn’t worked either, so people in the village were grumbling, and the family was eventually brought before the new lord of the manor, Lord Ranulf.  They had a choice – pay the fine or send one of them to the manor to work as an indentured servant for 3 years.

Annabel makes the choice for the family, hoping that by working in the manor, she can figure out a way to get to Lord Ranulf and ask him to help her get into an abbey.  One of her goals is to read the Holy Bible and to live a life for God, pondering his Word.  However, some of her problems from the village follow her to the manor.

Here is what I liked about the story.  I thought that Annabel was a nice girl who just wanted to do what was right.  I thought that Lord Ranulf was misunderstood by the village, and that he just really wanted to be left alone.  Due to his past, he had issues relating to people and trusting others – especially women. I thought that it was a nice story, some of the characters seemed more realistic than others – there was more depth to some characters.

What I didn’t like…I had a hard time believing the relationship between Ranulf and Annabel.  I had a hard time believing that Annabel would be as educated as she was for the time period, or that the interaction between lord and servant would be so easy.  Maybe I just don’t know enough about the time period, but it still seemed unlikely.  The relationship between the two just seemed to lack passion or commonalities.  Yes, I realize that I am trying to make them into real people, but to me, the characters of the books I read are real people while I am reading the book.

Amazon Product Page – to be published November 29, 2011

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the NetGalley program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“Winning the Wallflower” – a Novella with Sneak Peeks!

I love Eloisa James’ books!  I have probably read just about everything she has written – especially her historical fiction.  Due to an inheritance, Lucy becomes a girl in demand.  She is already engaged, but when she inherits, her mother forces her to break her engagement because now the man isn’t suitable since he doesn’t have a title.

Coming face to face with the man she agreed to marry, Lucy forces Cyrus to tell her why she was selected for his bride.  Forced to confront his own reasons for choosing her, Cyrus acknowledges that he chose her because she was safe…not given to giggling, drama, or other foolishness.  She “checked a box” on his list of successes he wants to achieve.  Sadly, this confirms Lucy’s opinion of what happened when she became engaged.  She continues to challenge his behavior, his thinking, his actions…..and breaks the engagement, even though she didn’t want to.

Faced with the loss of the woman he was going to marry, Cyrus realizes that maybe the way he chose a bride was wrong.  The two of them have to figure out if the engagement is what they want, or if they want to call it off completely, no matter what Lucy’s mother wants.

I know this is a novella, but I thought that the ending was a bit abrupt, in my opinion.  It just seemed to be resolved, without the usual depth of understanding I expect from her books.  One thing I liked was that there were several excerpts from other books.  One of them, The Duke is Mine, is the story of a secondary character within Winning the Wallflower.  I’m looking forward to reading it.

I received this book from the publisher through the Edelweiss program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.