Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Crazy Little Thing Called Love
By Beth K. Vogt
Published: June 30, 2015

Wedding bells and storm clouds collide in the first engaging novel in a brand-new series about destination weddings, the power of love, and the possible mishaps and missteps that happen on a couple’s journey down the aisle to “I do.”
Paramedic Vanessa Hollister has put her adolescence behind her, including the unwanted label of being the new kid in town over and over again, thanks to her father’s military career. She’s overcome what her mother called “the biggest mistake of her life” and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Florida with her new fiancé. But will the reappearance of her first husband from her what-were-you-thinking teenage elopement disrupt her dream of an idyllic beach wedding?
As a professional storm chaser, Logan Hollister is used to taking risks. However, a reckless decision during the last tornado season has him questioning the future of his team, the Stormmeisters. Coming face to face with his ex-wife eight years after their divorce compels him to confront his greatest regret: losing Vanessa. Does their past give him the right to interfere with her future?
A fast-moving, powerful hurricane throws Vanessa and Logan together as they evacuate to a storm shelter along with other residents of the Florida Gulf Coast. Forced to spend time together, the pair battles unexpected renewed feelings for each other.
Vanessa and Logan are faced with a choice: Should they accept, once and for all, their teenage marital mistake? Or is God offering them a second chance at happily ever after?
My review:
The story begins with Vanessa and her fiancé Ted trying to decide where they want to hold their destination wedding. Vanessa is an EMT and Ted is a very practical doctor who wants to get married in Destin, Florida in April since there will be a medical conference going on at the same time. Vanessa balks at returning to Destin since that is the area where she lived when she met her ex-husband Logan. She is convinced she is over him and it's all water under the bridge but when she arrives in Destin and sees him face to face she realizes how wrong she was. She is so certain that drama-free Ted is the guy for her but circumstances keep bringing her and Logan together again and again. Could God be trying to get her attention?
In between the current storyline with Logan and Vanessa dealing with issues in their personal lives and the threat of a hurricane are snippets of their past--how they met, became a couple, and got married as teens before everything fell apart. I liked how Vanessa and Logan were presented as two imperfect people and how the difficulties in their marriage and their current relationships were examined. Both characters still have some growing up to do especially when it comes to confronting their past mistakes and how they've dealt with problems. 

Vanessa has been influenced by her childhood of constantly moving around and not being able to form lasting relationships with people because of that. She doesn't have many deep relationships because of that. She likes being with Ted because he is uncomplicated and they both are dedicated to the medical profession. She doesn't really have any friends though as she has learned to not get too attached. Even though she no longer has to pick up and move all the time she doesn't have any friends in Colorado so when she has to come up with a maid of honor she asks Mindy, a friend from her senior year of high school even though they haven't been in touch (Vanessa's fault). Fortunately Mindy proves to be a good friend even now and helps her navigate both wedding planning and running into Logan again.

Logan's career as a storm chaser may be coming to an end after he made a big mistake that nearly cost the life of his friend and teammate Max. Even though Max and the other team members don't blame him he can't get past his guilt and secretly plans to walk away from the team. Fortunately Logan has some really good friends in his teammates and they are very upfront about calling him out when he needs it. Like Mindy, Logan's friends serve as a voice of reason and honesty. Logan has some issues with communication that he has to work on and that was part of the breakdown of his marriage with Vanessa along with his single-minded focus on his career.

I don't read many Christian fiction novels these days but I decided to give this a try because I enjoyed one of her other novels and the premise reminded me a bit of Sweet Home Alabama, one of my favorite romantic comedies. The novel may not have had much in the way of comedy but I liked the journey that Logan and Vanessa went through to get back to a point where they could be together again. I do think that the happy ending was a little rushed. I would have liked it more if they had spent more time getting reacquainted with their grown up selves because people do change from who they are as teens. I wanted to see more proof that they worked through their past issues and how they'd handle things differently in the present relationship. Overall though I thought it was a good contemporary romance with a likable hero and heroine and secondary characters and a positive message about marriage. I would suggest this book to readers who like contemporary Christian romance and fans of authors like Rachel Hauck, Denise Hunter and Susan May Warren.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (160)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

Soundless by Richelle Mead
Release date: November 10, 2015

From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore. 
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom. 
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.
But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.
Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever....

I loved the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series and I'm also interested in fiction that incorporates mythology so I'm eager to give this book a try. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015".

The books on this list are some of my favorites I've read this year but that does not mean they are what I'd consider "5 star" books or that they'll make my final list of the best of 2015. Some of the books were published a few years ago and I just got around to reading them this year but most were published in 2015.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah--My review

I have a feeling this book will be my "best book of 2015" winner. I can't imagine anything beating it for the top spot. When I found out Kristin Hannah wrote a historical fiction novel, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd liked Home Front but it was emotionally overwrought at times. This WWII novel far exceeded my expectations with characters I cared about, a gripping plot and historical detail.

Both of these books look at degenerative diseases (Huntington's Disease and early onset Alzheimer's) and how they affect the individuals who have them as well as their families. Genova has a gift for portraying these characters and what they are going through. It makes for emotional and powerful stories.

Partly set in the 1960s and 2000's in the fictional college town of Plainview, Indiana, the novel tells the story of Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean from their teen years when they were called "The Supremes" to adulthood and the challenges they now face. I think readers who liked The Help and Steel Magnolias would like this one. It is laugh out loud funny and sad at the same time. I highly recommend the audio book with its excellent narration (or the print version if you're not into audio).

A Man Called Ove by Frekdrik Backman

This Swedish novel is wryly funny with its curmudgeonly "anti hero" Ove, a recently retired widower who doesn't have much to live for until new neighbors move in with their young daughters and upend his life in a good way. Ove is grumpy but he has a tender heart under that crusty exterior and it is entertaining to watch how he changes or reveals the truth about himself. We read this in my book group. I might not have picked it up otherwise but I'm so glad I had the chance to read it.

Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

Flame Tree Road is a prequel novel to Teatime for the Firefly. The main character is Biren Roy, a young man in 19th century India who wants to change things for the better, specifically the rights of girls to have an education and better treatment for widows. Just like with her first book, I loved the author's descriptive writing style and vivid setting.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers--My review

This YA contemporary novel just made me feel so much emotion particularly anger and sadness at what Romy endures in her school and community because she chose to speak up about her rape and people chose to protect the town golden boy and vilify and bully her instead. Courtney Summers takes on really important and relevant topics like rape, slut shaming and bullying without the book coming across like an after school special.  I think it's an important book for teens and adults to read and talk about.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace--My review

This debut YA fantasy novel makes my list because I loved the world building and the characters. The story drew me in from the start with its adventure, suspense, romance, and magic.

I loved this YA contemporary about a teen whose boyfriend died and her plans for convincing everyone that she is doing okay. Something Emery Lord does a good job with in her books is her portrayal of friendships and the importance of friendship to the main character. The book isn't just about a romance but also about friendships, family relationships and personal growth.

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski--My review

The YA fantasy novel The Winner's Crime makes my list as a strong sequel to one of my favorites from last year, The Winner's Curse. This book introduces new characters and more complications for Kestrel and Arin and their people. I love the complexity of the world and the suspenseful plot. I just wish it hadn't ended with a cliffhanger!

Invaded by Melissa Landers

I think of this series as an accessible YA science fiction "lite". This sequel to Alienated shows what happens when Cara goes to the L'heir colony and Aelyx stays on Earth trying to get humans to trust him and the alliance. Both characters have to decide what they really want and if their relationship can overcome many obstacles. At the same time there are plenty of secrets and a mystery to be solved. Alienated had plenty of lighthearted moments and romance and Invaded still has some humor and romance but is necessarily a little darker. I  hope there will be another book as I don't think their story has finished yet.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Emmy and Oliver

Emmy and Oliver
By Robin Benway
Published: June 23, 2015

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy's soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?
Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. . . . She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents' relentless worrying. But Emmy's parents can't seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.
Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. . . . He'd thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who had kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing, and his thoughts swirling.
Readers who love Sarah Dessen will devour these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver's father's crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

My review:

Both Emmy and Oliver's lives were changed by his dad's decision to kidnap him. Emmy's parents have been extremely controlling of her since that day which is why she keeps it a secret that she has learned how to surf and that she has applied to go to college hours away instead of the local community college her parents want her to attend first. Oliver believed for years that his mom abandoned him and didn't want him anymore. He didn't realize that he was kidnapped until he got curious one day and Googled her name and found the truth. Since returning home he has been torn between missing his dad and hating him for what he did. His mom has remarried and has two young twin daughters and Oliver struggles to fit into this new family where his mom expects him to be the same as the seven year old boy she last knew.

At first it is difficult for Emmy and her friends to reconnect with Oliver and it doesn't help that Emmy's parents push her at him (they kind of treat her like a little kid who needs to be told to play nicely). What changes things is her ability to treat him like a normal person. She soon becomes a lifeline for Oliver and she is able to share her own secrets with him. She teaches him how to surf and he tells her what life was like for him in New York with his dad. Eventually they fall for each other although her parents don't quite approve and Emmy's time with Oliver is finite since she will be going to college the next year. 

I enjoyed the growing friendship between Oliver and Emmy and how they were able to be there for each other. Emmy is fortunate to have two caring best friends in Caroline and Drew (also childhood friends of Oliver) though Emmy's secrets and renewed friendship with Oliver put some strain on their relationships. Drew and Caro have troubles of their own (especially Drew) but the four friends are there for each other when it counts.

While the friendship aspect of the novel was strong I was a little disappointed in the parents. Although it is understandable that they were all traumatized by the kidnapping, I thought that Emmy's parents in particular were difficult to like. They were so controlling and unreasonable even from an adult's perspective. Oliver's mom is struggling as well with her expectations for Oliver, her hatred of Oliver's dad and her fear. Things get better in both parental relationships by the end but I thought the parents exhibited poor behavior. I do think teens will be able to relate to the characters' troubles with their parents. It is a common trope in teen fiction to see parents having very different ideas of what their teens should do with their lives. I believe this mirrors real life however. Parents (usually) want what is best for their kids but their dreams don't always coincide with their kids' dreams and that is one of the struggles teens face as they become adults.

All in all I thought this was an excellent novel. I thought it did a fantastic job of exploring what it means to redefine friendship and family relationships after a traumatic event.The kidnapping may not be a normal part of teen life but the issues that the teens face in regards to their future and growing up and being true to themselves are all things that real teens deal with. The author portrayed realistic and flawed teens and even realistic and flawed parents. I would recommend this book to readers who like realistic contemporary fiction and authors like Sarah Dessen, Morgan Matson, Jessi Kirby and Sarah Ockler.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (159)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Release date: October 6, 2015

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother's mysterious death, he's lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he's tracked down by a man he's never met--a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants, and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die...
I've been a big fan of Rick Riordan's YA novels, especially the Percy Jackson books so I am eager to see what he does with his new series featuring Norse mythology. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: The Idea of Love

The Idea of Love
By Patti Callahan Henry
Published: June 23, 2015

As we like to say in the south,
"Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story."
Ella's life has been completely upended. She's young, beautiful, and deeply in love--until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she'll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers' block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He's on the look-out for a love story. It doesn't matter who it belongs to.
When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It's the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It's an opportunity to live out a fantasy - the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what's a little white lie between strangers? 

But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right?

My review:

A number of years ago I read and loved Driftwood Summer (also by Patti Callahan Henry), a book about three estranged sisters trying to save a bookstore. Since then I've been meaning to read more of the author's work. When I saw this title, my interest was piqued by the premise. Unfortunately it did not quite live up to my high expectations.

I was under the impression that Ella's husband was dead but under different circumstances from her tragically romantic story she spins for Hunter. We learn at the beginning of the novel that he is actually alive, having dumped her for her best friend's sister. They also happens to live in the same town. I am mentioning these minor spoilers (really this is all revealed at the beginning) because I found it hard to believe that Ella thought she'd be able to get away with lying to Hunter about her husband's story. Still I felt really sorry for Ella. She loses everything and has to live in the same town with her cheating spouse and his new girlfriend and painful memories. She also hopes that somehow he will come to his senses and return to her. I can understand what led her to lie to Hunter and why she is drawn to him as someone who doesn't know the whole pathetic story of her life.

Hunter's real name is Blake (his last name is Hunter). He is struggling to come up with a good story and while he hunts for one, he lies and tells the people he meets that he is working on a book about coastal towns. This gives him a way to connect with Ella under the guise of her acting as his tour guide in the town. He is also hiding from his own personal issues-a messy divorce (he cheated) and a difficult relationship with his teenage daughter who is understandably angry with him. 

I found Hunter/Blake to be hard to like as a hero. I thought he wasn't good enough for Ella which kind of soured me on the romance aspect of the novel. While I felt sympathetic towards Ella and wanted her to find happiness and some peace (and let go of her delusions about her husband) I didn't want her to end up with Blake. I did like how Ella grew as a person through her friendship with her feisty elderly neighbor, Mimi and the way she learned to stand her ground. She even found a way to mend fences with her best friend who truly was sorry about the mess with her sister and Emma's husband. 

If the novel had given us a hero that was truly worthy of the heroine, I would have enjoyed it so much more. Instead I felt a little disappointed in the end. While this book didn't quite work for me, I wouldn't say it was bad. I may not have cared much for the hero but that doesn't mean that other readers would feel the same way. I did enjoy the setting and the characters of Ella and Mimi in particular. I think readers who like Nancy Thayer's novels might appreciate this one too. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Post (9) / It's Monday What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next. I will also be sharing my It's Monday post on Twitter #IMWAYR. 

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! I called my dad this morning since I couldn't be there in person. I've now missed Mother's Day, my mom's birthday and Father's Day. Hopefully I will get to visit them over Fourth of July weekend!

Yesterday's ladies clothing swap at the library had a very small turnout but the people who came all found something new to take home. I don't know if it was the rainy weather that kept people away (is anyone else tired of all the rain we've been getting in the Midwest?) or other things going on in the community. I am hopeful that next month's back to school clothing swap for kids will get a bigger response. Tomorrow night is the murder mystery dinner. I have a lot to do but thankfully I have one volunteer helping me to set up and decorate tomorrow afternoon and another volunteer helping me at the event. So far we have 25 people signed up but I wouldn't be surprised if some call tomorrow to register at the last minute. Seems to happen all the time!

Later this week I will be traveling to Toronto for my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary party. It will just be a quick trip and a very busy weekend! Hopefully there will be some time to relax but we'll probably be trying to visit some relatives and pick up groceries on our one free day. Now I need to make my packing list!

Last week on my blog:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (review)
Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews (review)

Books read:

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

I picked this up on a whim at the library and I ended up really liking it. It is the first inspirational fiction dystopian novel I've ever read. It reminded me a little bit of books like Matched and Delirium.  I definitely plan to read the sequel.

I read this contemporary inspirational romance for review. I read one other book by Beth Vogt (Catch a Falling Star) that I really liked so I wanted to give this a try. The premise reminded me of Sweet Home Alabama, one of my favorite romantic comedies. The novel didn't have as much humor as I'd hoped but I liked it.

Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

I loved this book, especially the early parts when the main character, Biren, is a kid. He was so smart and caring and passionate about helping people. His dad was pretty awesome too. Although this is a companion novel/prequel to Teatime For the Firefly (which features an elderly Biren as a secondary character), it can be read as a standalone. I actually recommend reading Flame Tree Road first before Teatime for the Firefly so things are chronological and there won't be spoilers.

Currently reading:

I am really enjoying listening to the audio version of the book though I also have the print copy checked out from the library.  I've laughed out loud, felt angry and nearly teared up too. I kind of don't want the story to end so I've been slowly listening to it a bit at a time so I can listen on my long drive later this week. I hope my book group members love it as much as I do. It's still early but it may be one of my favorite books I read this year. 

What I might read next:

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

I wasn't very interested in reading this last year but when it was on sale for Kindle, I read a sample and decided to buy it. I've since read some positive reviews from bloggers I trust so hopefully I will like it. If not, it was only $1.99...

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I got an ARC of this and I've mostly loved her books so I am looking forward to reading The Fixer sometime soon. It is supposed to be like the TV show Scandal.

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

I kind of liked the idea of a mystery novel featuring Lois Lane as a heroine. This version of Lois kind of reminds me of Veronica Mars too. I was pretty disappointed by the portrayal of Lois in the latest Superman movie but this Lois doesn't seem like the damsel in distress type at all. Plus she has a friend she met online named "Smallville Guy". I think we all know who that is...

New books received:

First and Then by Emma Mills (review)

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins (review)

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (review)

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (library book)

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer (library book)

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond (library book)

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (purchased)