Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review | "Gooseberry Island" by Steven Manchester

Gooseberry Island by Steven Manchester
Contemporary published January 6, 2015
The Story Plant
Author's website  |  Goodreads  |  Buy the Book on Amazon

Synopsis from Goodreads:

They met at the worst possible moment...or maybe it was just in time. David McClain was about to go to war and Lindsey Wood was there at his going-away party, capturing his heart when falling for a woman was the last thing on his mind. While David was serving his country, he stayed in close contact with Lindsey. But war changes a person, and when he came home very little had the same meaning that it had before – including the romance that had sustained him. Was love truly unconquerable, or would it prove to be just another battlefield casualty?

Gooseberry Island is the most nuanced, dramatic, and romantic novel yet from a writer whose ability to plumb the depths of human emotion knows few peers. 
My Thoughts...
I think up to this point I have read all of Steven Manchester's books from Twelve Months on and I have enjoyed each and every one of them.  I know that I can sit down with one and read it in a couple of hours and I know that it's going to be emotional.  This book was no exception, though I will say it wasn't my favorite of Steven's work.  I think that maybe it's just because I didn't quite connect with the characters in this particular story the way I have with some of the other books.  That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the story, though.  This story is largely about PTSD and the ramifications of dealing with life "after the fact", if you will.  I guess this just isn't a subject I know a lot about so it was hard for me to connect with that part of it.

David is an Army Ranger who meets Lindsay the day before he ships out to Afghanistan for a year long tour.  It's an insta-love scenario, where they both kind of know that they want to try the long distance thing even though they don't really know each other.  They stay in pretty close contact over the year that David is gone. David is optimistic at first, but things happen to him in Afghanistan that will haunt him for the rest of his life.  Back home in the States, Lindsay is dealing with her father who is a soldier fighting his own battle with PTSD and having a rough time of it.  She never confides this to David though, not until much later in their relationship.

More than half the book deals with David's return and all the things that follow him back from overseas.  He's not the same person he was when he left and he has a lot of issues to work through before he can be the same man that fell in love with Lindsay.

There were so many things is this book that frustrated me.  I just wanted to smack David and tell him to talk to her about what was going on.  I wanted Lindsay to tell him about her father so he would know that it's something she could handle.  This is where I felt the disconnection with the characters and I know that this comes from not really having any way to quantify PTSD personally.  I have no personal experience with it so it's hard to identify with the actions of a person who has.  I know that there are a lot of people out there who will identify with this book and I think that Steven did a great job writing about this particular subject.  It was a very emotional story and if you enjoy Mr. Manchester's work then this book will be no exception.

XOXO, Shelly

*Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review | "The Secret of Pembrooke Park" by Julie Klassen

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
Regency Romance published December 1, 2014
Published by Bethany House
Author's website  |  Goodreads  |  Buy the Book on Amazon

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. 
When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play . . . 

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure. 
Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

my thoughts...

This was my first book by Julie Klassen and I did enjoy it.  It's a fairly long book and it did take me longer to read it than I anticipated. This is a Regency Mystery and while it's classified as romance there was really very little focus on the romance.  This is also a Bethany House published book so there is some aspect of religion throughout the book.  It's not as in your face as some of the books they publish are.  This one is more subtle in that the main male character Will is a curate on the Pembrooke property.  This, for all intents and purposes, means that he's the pastor of the church.  His position is overseen by an elder pastor who travels so Will lives in the rectory and holds the weekly services.

Abigail finds herself in a bit of a quandary when, because of her advice on financial matters, her family finds themselves in trouble.  They can no longer afford to live in the way they have become accustomed so she needs to find them a place to live when they sell their London home.  She is the older sister who feels doomed to remain an "old maid" even though she is not yet 25.  This hits her especially hard when the man she thinks she's in love with, a man she grew up with, appears to be quite taken with her younger sister.  They seem to stumble upon the opportunity of a lifetime when they are offered a year lease on the Pembrooke property.  An offer that comes complete with household staff.  The caveat is, the house has been empty for nearly 20 years.

As Abigail begins to ready the house for the rest of her family, she learns that there is so much more about the house than what was revealed to her initially.  There is a secret in the house and she's not the only one searching for it.  Some say it's a treasure, but just what kind of treasure could there be in a house that was abandoned so suddenly?  Abigail becomes close with Will and his entire family as she uncovers the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

This is a great mystery story, it's full of twists and turns.  Some of them I saw coming, but others hit me out of the blue.  Like I said earlier, it's a long book, but the mystery of it kept me going right on to the end.  There is a little romance that's all very proper for the time in which the book is set.  If you like a nice clean read with a little romance and a lot of mystery then you will probably enjoy this book.  I know I did!

XOXO, Shelly

*Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review | "Shattered Ties" by K.A. Robinson

Shattered Ties by K.A. Robinson
New Adult Romance published November 27, 2013
Published by CreateSpace
Author's website  |  Goodreads  |  Buy on Audible

Synopsis from Goodreads:

With a former supermodel mother and a rock-and-roll legend father, Emma Preston has the best of everything. Nothing is as perfect as it seems though. After her parents divorce, she’s forced to live with her mother in a private Santa Monica community. Ignoring their parental roles, her mother becomes more focused on climbing the social ladder while her father is off on tour. 

Growing up in a trailer park with his mother, Jesse is used to people looking down on him. When his mother begs him to submit an application for a scholarship to one of Santa Monica’s top private schools, he never expects to actually get it. When he does, he is forced to attend school with a bunch of rich kids. He ignores their stares as they judge him for having tattoos and a less than impressive car. As long as he has his surfboard and the guys at the tattoo shop, he knows he can make it through. 

When Jesse shows up on the first day of school, Emma can’t help but be intrigued. Her mother would never approve of Emma talking to someone so poor, but she doesn’t care because something about Jesse draws her to him. 

Jesse tries to hate Emma, but he discovers that he can’t resist her. Forced to hide their relationship from Emma’s mother and everyone else around them, things start to fall apart. When Jesse’s friend, Ally, decides to interfere, things go from bad to worse. 

Can they survive their first love? Or will they be left with nothing more than shattered ties?

Book 1 of a 2 book series. 

**18+ for sexual situations, cursing, and adult content.***

my thoughts...

I am going to keep this review pretty short, mostly because it's been a couple weeks since I finished the book.  This is the first chance I have had to sit down and write the review.  This is the first book I have gotten from Audible for review.  Generally, I tend to listed to audio books for books that I have already read.  The reason being that my mind tends to wander and I end up missing most of what's happening.  This isn't something that happens when I read because all my focus is on the book.  Also, I read really fast and a book that takes 7 hours to listen to is a book I can read in 2 hours!  As it ended up I did listen to about 85% of the book then I broke down and got it for my kindle so I could read the end.  I wanted to finish it and I knew that I wasn't going to have a chance to listen to it as soon as I wanted.  So, I guess that's a good sign!

This is kind of a cross between YA and NA.  The characters are the age that kids in YA novels are, but the content is definitely not YA so it's made clear even in the Goodreads blurb that it's for age 18+.   This is your typical first love type of story, it's not terribly original, but who doesn't love a good "rich girl falls in love with the bad boy from the wrong side of town" story?  I know I do and this one was no exception.  Jesse is a great character, he's an only child being raised by his single mother. She's a hard worker and does everything she can for her son.  Jesse gets a scholarship to attend the same private school that Emma does.  He doesn't want to go, but his mother insists on his attending college and this is his way to ultimately get a scholarship to college.  All Jesse really wants to do is be a tattoo artist, but even he sees the value of a college degree.

Emma is also being raised by her mother.  Her parents are divorced, her father is in a rock band and is travelling most of the time with the band.  Her mother is a rich snob who looks down on everyone who isn't in the same social position she is.  She is violently opposed to Emma's school allowing scholarship kids to attend so when Emma starts to befriend Jesse she knows that her mother can never find out.  Fortunately, Emma is nothing like her mother.  She and Jesse become close, but there is one person who is always standing in her way.

I liked this story overall, but I felt like it ended really abruptly.  There was all this build up and tension and then it was just over.  Sure, there is another book (and I immediately read it), but for me this particular part of the story ended too soon.  I feel like there needed to be something more there when it came down to it.  Because of this I ended up giving the book a 3 star rating on Goodreads, but I will qualify that by saying that I lean more towards 3.5 stars.

This book does deal with adult themes, there are some detailed love scenes that isn't the norm in books where the characters are this particular age.   

XOXO, Shelly

*Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book courtesy of Audible.com in exchange for my honest review.*

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Quick Update!

I hope that everyone is having a great start to the New Year!  I wanted to pop on here really quick and let you know what's going on with me and the blog. 

I have been pretty absent lately and I want to remedy that, but it's going to be a slow process more than likely.  I have read a TON of books in the past couple months, but there is no way that I am going to attempt to review them all.  I am going to continue to review the books that I receive from authors and publishers and then I am going to try to add in some of my own picks here and there.  I am going to continue to post the cover reveals and things like that when I have them.

Right now, I have no tours scheduled and I only have a handful of review copies on my TBR pile.  However, I did just start my spring semester at school and I have a HUGE pile of books to read for the 3 Lit based classes that I am taking.  I am taking a YA Lit class and we will be reading at least 14 books this semester so I will most likely be reviewing most of those since they are all relevant to my style and most of them are currently being talked about in the book community.

My goal at present is to start posting 2 reviews per week, that's all I can commit to because of my heavy homework schedule.  There will be weeks when I can do more, and I will when I can.  I also can tell you that I just got the 2nd book in the new Maya Banks Slow Burn trilogy and as soon as I read that I will be having a giveaway for a print copy of that so stay tuned!

Thanks to all of you who have been hanging in there with me and continue to read my reviews!!