Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong

Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong
Revell, August 1st, 2013

The red warning light on her car dashboard drove Lainie Davis to seek help in the tiny town of Last Chance, New Mexico. But as she encounters the people who make Last Chance their home, it's her heart that is flashing bright red warning lights. These people are entirely too nice, too accommodating, and too interested in her personal life for Lainie's comfort--especially since she's on the run and hoping to slip away unnoticed.

Yet in spite of herself, Lainie finds that she is increasingly drawn in to the dramas of small town life. An old church lady who always has room for a stranger. A handsome bartender with a secret life. A single mom running her diner and worrying over her teenage son. Could Lainie actually make a life in this little hick town? Or will the past catch up to her even here in the middle of nowhere?

Cathleen Armstrong pens a debut novel filled with complex, lovable characters making their way through life and relationships the best they can. Her evocative descriptions, observational humor, and talent at rendering romantic scenes will earn her many fans
.

Debut author Cathleen Armstrong gives readers a nice, interesting tale of a girl on the run from a bad guy and the town that steals her heart. I liked this book, but I wanted to like it more. What I liked mostly was the setting, I'm a sucker for small towns and this one is a beauty filled with lots of quirky characters. What I didn't like though was the small town. I know, you must think I'm crazy right now! Whilst the town was good, I felt that the author spent too much time on the town and it's folks rather than really delving deeply into the life of Lainie and her bartender beau. 

So this is a mostly enjoyable novel and I'll most likely read the next book in the series, as this was good enough for me to try this author out again, but I thought it could have been a bit better.

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.


 

Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: A December Wedding, by Denise Hunter

A December Bride by Denise Hunter
Zondervan, November 26, 2013

A novella can be done badly and I've read a few that fall into that category recently. This one by Denise Hunter doesn't fall into that category though. A December Brides kicks off the series; A Year of Weddings Novella, where a different author writes a wedding novella. An author a month, a novella a month. Oh and if you like this cover, the others are just as gorgeous.

So this novella takes readers back to Chapel Springs where we first met Beckett; the hero of Barefoot Summer - Denise Hunter's first book in the Chapel Springs Series. This time here we get to see what happens with Beckett's sister Layla. Layla finds herself accidentally engaged to her ex-fiances best friend and what follows along is just lovely and sweet. This is a well written novella, where things move fast but characters are given as much time to grow and change as can happen in such a short amount of time.

I loved it because it made me smile, giggle and it kick started my reading for 2014 - always a good thing!

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Review: Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate

Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate
Bethany House Publishers, 4th February 2014
 
Allie Kirkland has always heard the call of her father's unfinished destiny. When she's offered a production assistant's job on a docudrama filming in the hills near Moses Lake, Texas, the dream of following in her director-father's footsteps suddenly seems within reach. The reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step into the film industry. A summer on set in the wilderness is a small price to pay for a dream.

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delavan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the region's folk songs. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.

When filming begins, strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, and everyone in Wildwood--including Blake Fulton, Allie's handsome neighbor on the film set--seems to be hiding secrets. Allie doesn't know whom she can trust. If she can't find the answers in time, history may repeat itself...with the most unthinkable results. 


The concept of this book was awesome! Different and gripping. In Wildwood Creek, Lisa Wingate takes readers from the past to the present and does it in a really good way. Using a modern day reality show, where the actors work and live in the set designed town of Wildwood Creek and then taking the reader back to said place is great! I was riveted by the story of Bonnie Rose in the past and when moved into the present time, I was equally intrigued as to how Allie's story would pan out and how Bonni Rose's legacy still impacted the happenings of the novel.

Allie and Blake's relationship was so mysterious for much of the book. Mainly because Blake is a bit of a mystery himself and when you put everyone in their "roles" for the show, discovering who a person "is" gets a little harder. Essentially, this is also what Allie was trying to do for Bonnie Rose. Who was she? Why are there haunting songs featuring Bonnie Rose? These questions and the ones about Blake get answered and the mystery surrounding the town and the one surrounding the set of the reality show are not what the reader expects, but are well done.

Overall this was a really enjoyable book and so different, but done so well that this makes it a treasure!

Oh and the cover is just gorgeous!

 Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this novel for review.  I was in no way obliged to give a positive review.

Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Would Be Writer's Greatest Fear


So I was reading a book a little while ago and the author shared in the notes at the end of the book  where this story was birthed. She was sitting with some relatives and she started sharing the current story I'm in the middle of reading.

Suddenly I got really scared! Why? Because it dawned on me that this author was sharing the beginnings of characters and plots with people! Yes, I know that this is normal practice for writers. However, I still struggle to share with my husband the stuff that goes on in my brain and this man hasn't yet thought I was crazy.

The idea of sharing with people (even open, friendly trusting people) about the stories and characters in my head is very, very scary. It almost paralyses me with fear. 

The following thoughts run through my head either before sharing or when I start:

"Wow, they are going to think I'm nuts."

"They're looking at me weird...time to stop sharing."

"How can I tell someone that I'm not crazy, but I do have people inside my head that I know very well!"

"I'm not homicidal, I want to know about ways people die...its research for my story...oh no they're looking funny at me again..."

All this and more runs through my brain when I think about sharing what's inside my head. People know I'm writing a book, but people have not read one word of it. About 2 people have read anything of my current work in progress.  That will remain that way until it is finished.

Fear of what people will think is driving me.I have quite a ways to go in conquering this fear!



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz



Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz
Revell, 15 September 2013

Ellie Ballantyne, youngest child of Silas and Eden, has left finishing school. But back at her family home in Pittsburgh, Ellie finds that her parents are away on a long trip and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. When she opens a day school for young ladies, she begins tutoring the incorrigible daughter of the enemy Turlock clan. The Turlocks are slaveholders and whiskey magnates, envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly tangled with the Turlocks, she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future--and Jack Turlock, a young man striving to free himself from his family's violent legacy. How can she betray her family and side with the enemy? And will Jack ever allow her into his world?

Love's Awakening is book two in Laura Frantz's Ballantyne Legacy series.  After Silas and Eden get their happy ending at the close of Love's Reckoning, we now meet their lovely youngest daughter, Ellie.

As the youngest daughter, Ellie has been sheltered from a lot of the hard work that goes into running their family's estate and businesses.  She returns home from finishing school and seeks to find a place for herself in the family life.  Along the way she discovers her family's abolitionist involvement and unwillingly engages her heart with Jack, whose family represent everything her own family is against.

I loved Ellie - she's sweet and gentile, but there's something fresh and new about her.  Jack ... well, it's hard to resist a man with a dark past who is driven to goodness with the help of a good woman.  He's a hardworking manly man and this is a perfect compliment to Ellie's ladylike ways.  Family, dangers and secrets stand in the way of their love.

Compared to Love's Reckoning, Love's Awakening is much lighter in tone and interestingly, isn't as heavy with scripture references.  I came to like Silas even more in this book - he is a strong and loving husband and father.

I always love learning when I read historical fiction, and this book delivered me a fine history lesson.  I was captivated by the plight of the slaves, the obstacles they faced and the amazing people who helped them along the way.

Laura's writing draws you into the period and immerses you in the lives of the characters.  Love's Awakening left me with plenty to wonder about in the next book, which I very much look forward to!


Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: Falling for the Farmer (Heartsong Presents) by Narelle Atkins

Falling For the Farmer (Heartsong Presents) By Narelle Atkins
Love Inspired, 4th February 2014

KATE LAWSON IS A RUNAWAY BRIDE 

And she's incredibly grateful when Jack Bradley offers her a job on his apple farm. Working side by side in the orchards with her best friend's brother seems like the perfect way to get over her disastrous engagement. Until Kate finds herself falling hard for the handsome farmer.

Jack Bradley knows city-girl Kate isn't here to stay. Yet suddenly he's imagining a life with her in the country. When Kate considers going back to the city, can Jack find a way to show her that her real home is here on the farm, by his side?


I have not read a Love Inspired published book before and what better way to start than with an Aussie book in this collection! Straight off this is a simple, sweet, well paced story. Because of the shorter length of this book (as with all Heartsong Presents books), the author doesn't waste her time. The story unfolds quickly and moves along at a  nice pace. Although the time Kate spends on the Apple Orchard is slowed down well, so that the reader gets to know that Kate herself is slowing down in life and quite possibly enjoying the quieter life on the farm...and maybe cute Jack could be a part of her future?

First Kate has to fix the problems she caused by running away from her wedding - her relationship with her mother and some financial issues (not to mention shorting out what happened with her fiancee), in short she is learning to grow up and handle her life. Jack is weary of girls who can't seem to sort out just what they want from life. He knows what he wants - a quiet life on the farm. He likes Kate, but he isn't sure she wants the same thing he does. Kate likes Jack, but she's not sure she has her life together enough to end up with him. Will they sort it out? It's worth reading to find out.

Kate and Jack flow naturally together and you can't help but like both of them and wish them the best for the future. A great effort Narelle and so lovely to have the book set in a part of Australia I am not familiar with!



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Jess' Choice Opal Award

For a gem of a book that has kept me coming back time and time again, had me laughing and crying with characters so real they could jump off the page and they did- and landed right in my heart. The Opal goes to...



Rescue Team by Candace Calvert!



Congratulations Candace on a great book and I'm looking forward to reading your books for years to come.



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review Sisters Opal Awards


It's been almost 2.5 years since we awarded an Opal Award for what we consider to be an outstanding book. So here is a quick recap on just what is an Opal Award.

First of all, why Opal?

"Outstanding Piece Around..." ... um, unfortunately no, Opal is not an acronym for anything.  We’ve tried to come up with something relevant, but to no avail. (Suggestions are always welcome!) Opal is an Australian precious stone, and since we are Australian, we wanted something that reflects that.

Why create this award?

We don’t have a rating system on Book Review Sisters because we believe that the enjoyment of a book is largely a matter of personal taste.  There are many books out there we personally enjoy, many we classify as “favourites” (these can be found by the ‘favourite books’ tag).  We wanted to have something to highlight to our readers when a book comes along that stands out to us.   Something that we really really enjoy.

What sort of books qualify for a BRS Opal?

There’s no hard and fast rule.  It can be from any genre.  It does not signify an outstanding piece of literature (though it may be) and it does not signify that it will be loved by everyone.

The main criteria for the BRS Opal Award is that either one of the Book Review Sisters LOVES the book, and so much so we’d be quite happy to read it again and again.  It is not awarded with objectivity, rather it is strongly influenced by our particular tastes.  This means that if one of us awards an Opal to a book, the other would not necessarily do so.  In order to establish whether an BRS Opal Award winning book would be relevant to you as a reader, consider our preferences, inclinations and tastes:

Helen prefers romances with substance, with a particular inclination for historical fiction.  Whilst being warmed by a good romance novel, she loves the added benefit of learning about how people lived during different periods and transporting herself into the past.

Jess loves a well told romance, filled with suspense and heart stopping moments. She also enjoys historical fiction, but would rather delve into contemporary women's fiction. As long as the book has solid characters, a great plot and can take her into another place then she is sold.


Are all BRS Opal Award winners Christian?

Yes.  Although we do not limit reviews done on the Book Review Sisters to Christian books (we only advocate clean, non-witch, non-vampire books), the vast majority are.  We have decided that in order to win this award the book must be Christian.

So next week we will announce our latest Opal Award recipients! 


Helen's favourite genre is historical fiction with a strong romantic element.  She also enjoys contemporary romance, chick-lit and YA.  She's not caught up in the spell of fantasy fiction, despite The Faraway Tree series being a strong influence in her childhood.

Helen is currently working on her first book, a Christian young adult novel set between two opposite but equally fascinating places in Australia.


Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

We're Back!


So, now that the Australian Open and Australia Day has passed for another year, it's time to get back into the swing of things...so welcome to 2014 on the blog!

You might ask how could the Australian Open be such a road block to productivity? As Helen has mentioned before, January is Australia's holiday month of sorts. The new year has just started, we are all recovering from Christmas and the new year, the long summer school holidays are still underway, businesses aren't operating on all cylinders yet and we are gearing up for the Australia Day long weekend. After the long weekend, school starts for the year and it's all systems go.

Back to the Australian Open...it's the sound of summer here...that and the cricket. Lazing in front of the TV while watching athletes slog it out in insane heat on the court and staying up crazy late to see the end of a riveting match is just part of the course of an Aussie summer. That and heading anywhere there's a decent body of water to escape the intense heat.

I always feel a little sad when the tennis is over, as I know I have to get back to routine.

So from the Book Review Sisters to all of you out there, we are looking forward to reviewing books and sharing the adventures of 2014 with you all.



Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.