End of the Year & Moving

Hello, ladies and gentlemen of blogland! Wow, it’s been awhile. Moving is not fun. Sure, being in a new house is fun, even looking at houses is fun, but the actual moving? Not so much. My family and I went through a pretty rough time for a few months trying to deal with realtors that were never on time, often tried to swindle us, or simply never showed up. It was frustrating. A few times we found houses we really liked, but the realtors bogged down the process of paperwork and we ended up missing out because they lost paperwork or simply hadn’t filed it yet. It got to a point where I told my husband I was going to go look up houses to rent myself (since buying one wasn’t going well)… and one of the first houses I found was one of the largest and nicest homes we’d seen – and had sat completely empty for the past 10 months. We were finally able to get a look at the house, and it was everything we wanted, and 10x nicer than the other houses we’d put bids in on. Paperwork took an evening, and by the next day, we’d been contacted to sign a lease. Two weeks later, we were moving in.

We spent eleven years in a 900 sq. ft. home with 1.25 baths, and 3 bedrooms. Windows didn’t close. Doors didn’t close (including the bathroom door). Grass was growing through the carpet. Two of the bedrooms had two exits – and doors into each other. The laundry hookups were in a shed in the backyard instead of in the house. It was infested with roaches, the wiring was shot, and the appliances, heaters, and air conditioners were so old, that they’re not allowed to legally install them in houses anymore. It was a hellhole. We’re now in a 2334 sq. ft. home, with a double car garage, two stories, 4 bedrooms, a large loft, formal dining, breakfast area, fireplace, and 2.5 bathrooms. It’s five years old, clean, newly painted and newly carpeted, and we couldn’t be more grateful to be here. I’ve finally got my own office to work in that I’m not sharing with my 14-year-old. I cannot express how thrilled I am not only to be here but to be done with the whole process. We’re still unpacking, but we’re fully moved.

Obviously, I’m behind on my work here at the blog. Free Fiction Fridays and Reviews have been on hold for quite a while now because of the chaos that was going on in our household. I have hundreds of review requests sitting in my e-mail that I’m going to have to sort through in the near future. I’ve got a few books read and waiting to be reviewed and posted—and we’ll get to those soon. For now, I’m glad to say that I’m back. Things may still be a little spotty around here for a few weeks as we continue to unpack and get used to our new place, but with any luck, posts will be back to their normal schedule very shortly!

I hope everyone had a great holiday season—I am so looking forward to the upcoming new year!

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Book Review: Nothing But Trouble

review-cover-nothing but troubleTitle: Nothing But Trouble [A Saratoga Falls Love Story 2]

Author: Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Holiday (Christmas)

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Most small towns have stories and their fair share of secrets. Saratoga Falls is no exception—my family is no exception.

Six months ago, my life was simple. I went to work and to my brother’s hockey games; I made sure my dad’s diet consisted of more than crap food and that the house didn’t smell entirely like a jockstrap. But one cool, miserable morning, a stranger walked into my life. It’s surprising what a pair of piercing, judgmental blue eyes will do to a girl who’s all but sworn away from men. But that wasn’t the only curveball. Whatever happened to living in blissful ignorance? Just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, you realize just how clueless you really are.

I was wrong . . . about everything.

The first time Colton Hayes meets Mac, half-naked and swearing at him, he knows she’s nothing but trouble. But despite their efforts to dislike one another, Colton and Mac are more alike than they think—stubborn, scarred, and full of surprises. This is a story about first loves and second chances, about the power of friendship and seeing life outside the shadows of your past. Join Sam, Reilly, Nick and the Carmichael crew in this heartwarming story of life unexpected. Nothing But Trouble is Mac and Colton’s story.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Nothing But Trouble by Lindsey Pogue was yet another solid romance, and a sweet Christmas read. Colton and Mac weren’t your normal romance couple—almost having switched the tradition romance roles, with Mac being the dirty-mouthed, outgoing tomboy, and Colton being the quiet, more reserved single-parent. Their relationship was fraught with numerous misunderstandings and deeper past prejudices, and it led to a sometimes awkward and off-kilter relationship as they worked to sort things out.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. There were less than a handful of typos, and nothing I found jarring enough to pull me out of the text. The characters were at times sweet, funny, infuriatingly stubborn, and silly, and I enjoyed their odd dynamic. My only true complaint as that the first half of the book was rather slow—but that may be in part due to the fact that I’m in a bit of a time crunch to finish up some books/reviews before the new year, so I’m not comfortable laying all the blame on the writing.

I think if you’re looking for a sweet holiday read, this may be the perfect book for you to pick up in between the chaos of the holiday season.

Book Review: A Conall Christmas

cover-review-a conall christmasTitle: A Conall Christmas [Morna’s Legacy 2.5]

Author: Bethany Claire

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Time Travel, Historical, Novella

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Christmas is quickly approaching, and Adelle is determined to make this Christmas the best one Conall Castle has ever seen, but loneliness haunts her. Love for her daughter sent her into the past, but she’d not expected the isolation she would feel. A former socialite and serial dater, she finds that her current age seems much older in the seventeenth century than it did in the twenty-first. She resigns herself to the fact that she will remain single for the rest of her days. At least until an unexpected visitor arrives at the castle.

Hew Moray has spent the last twenty years all alone, only leaving his isolated home once a year to pay homage to the wife he lost long ago. When a winter storm causes him to seek shelter at the castle where his sister lives, he meets the first lass since his beloved Mae to make his heart flutter in his chest once again. Will he be able to release himself from his past grief to allow another love to enter his life? If he does, will his love be returned?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m not the type that usually enjoys novellas. I tend to find them rushed, and too short to really enjoy, so when I do pick one up, it’s usually a miracle in and of itself. In this case, it’s a bigger one because I actually enjoyed the novella. I know, I was shocked too.

A Conall Christmas by Bethany Claire was well written, and even paced. I didn’t run into any typos, misplaced punctuation, improper grammar, or awkward sentence structures. The writing was fluid and clear, and the characters were both familiar from the series and endearing. I don’t often find myself reading romance fiction where the couple involved is of an older age, nor do I seek it out, but other than one small mental image I did not need, I didn’t have a problem with the romance between Adelle and Hew. The two were adorable together, and I was cheering them on throughout the story.

That being said, I can’t say that I wasn’t a little throwna by the author’s use of technology in the historical era. It seems almost too easy for things like stereo’s and batteries to be accepted openly by the cast of the Morna’s Legacy series, but I’ll let it slide, because it really was an endearing little story.

Overall, I enjoyed the novella, and it really would be a wonderful read for the holiday season—if I had actually read it during the holidays. If you’re looking for a quick read to enjoy a little closer to Christmas and you enjoy time travel romances, I suggest you pick this one up and give it a try. It has puppies.

Book Review: Jingle All The Way

review-cover-jingle all the wayTitle: Jingle All The Way

Author: Fern Michaels, Linda Lael Miller, Theresa Alan, & Jane Blackwood

Genre: Anthology, Holiday (Christmas), Romance, Contemporary, Short-Stories

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Feeling the chill of winter? Then grab a glass of egg nog, take a seat by the yule log, and warm yourself heart and soul with these four captivating tales of passion that make mistletoe seem so unnecessary…

A Bright Red Ribbon Fern Michaels
Being dumped by your boyfriend on Christmas Eve has got to be the worst. Still, Morgan Ames promised she’d wait two Christmases for his return — tonight — and she always keeps her promises. But a sudden snowstorm has other ideas, including a romantic turn Morgan never imagined…

The 24 Days of Christmas Linda Lael Miller
A matchbox advent calendar first brought Frank Rayner and Addie Hutton together. But that was years ago. There’s no way the miracles of Christmas — and the magic of true love — could possibly be hidden under one of its tiny flaps. Or could they?

Santa Unwrapped Theresa Alan
When Aimee Lachaussee offers to drive three volunteer Santas to a children’s hospital, she finds herself stranded in a bar with two really obnoxious playboys — and the quiet, hunky, wheelchair-bound Ryan, who’s about to show Aimee that the very best presents come in unexpected packages…

Maybe This Christmas Jane Blackwood
Laura Randall thinks life has passed her by, until a Christmas angel grants her wish to live one, important, destiny-shaping Christmas over. Now that she’s got her second chance, can she manage this time to hold on to the love that got away…?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This Christmas-themed anthology was a bit of a mixed-bag. I think out of the four stories, Maybe This Christmas by Jane Blackwood and The 24 Days of Christmas by Linda Lael Miller were my favorite of the bunch, with A Bright Red Ribbon by Fern Michaels and Santa Unwrapped by Theresa Alan falling disappointedly behind. The latter two stories seemed rushed (particularly A Bright Red Ribbon) and I found it hard to sink into their narratives. The romances just felt a little too forced for me to enjoy. A Bright Red Ribbon in particular felt as if the dialogue had been force-fed a dose of holiday candy. The pace was so swift that the characters came across as hyper-active. It was a little weird—and although the plot was fantastic… I found myself cringing.

As for Maybe This Christmas and The 24 Days of Christmas, I found both stories to be heartwarming and enjoyable. They too had some issues with the romances being a bit quick (as is usual with short stories) but they didn’t feel nearly as forced as the other two stories, and in the end, I enjoyed them more. They were very well written.

I don’t want to delve too much into the stories individually (because we’ll both be here all day), but I think overall I really enjoyed the anthology—though the religious bits came across as a little preachy in parts. Still, I’m glad I gave this anthology a  shot, and though it’s not my favorite Christmas-themed anthology so far this year, it was still a good read.  There’s a gem or two in here for romance readers who are looking for quick, heartwarming holiday reads.

Nearing The End of The Year…

Things are winding down now that we’re nearer to the end of the year, and I wanted to take a minute to update you guys on the schedule for the next few weeks, and my plans for 2015. I currently have book reviews queued up for Monday, December 22 and Wednesday, December 24. Normally I’d also schedule some reviews for the following Monday and Wednesday (29th & 31st), but because of the upcoming Holidays (namely Christmas in my house) I’m going to go ahead and shut down posts in the week following Christmas. That means my book review that’s queued up for Christmas Eve will be the last scheduled post of the year here at Author Unpublished!

Posting will resume with the new 2015 schedule starting Monday, January 5th. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to run my schedule in the new year yet. For those of you who have noticed a drop off of post counts in the last few weeks… well, my year has been a little crazy. I started homeschooling my daughter in October, and will be continuing to do so throughout the upcoming year.  Unfortunately that means I have a little less time than I’d originally planned (back when I was doing a book review twice a week and a Free Fiction Friday every week). I’d like to return to that schedule, but I also would like to find time in the upcoming year to work more on my writing (which has woefully been left in the dust) as well as get started on my copy-editing business. I’m not sure where things are gong to fall yet, but I’ll let you know within the next few weeks. My blog’s schedule may be a little all-over-the-place for awhile until I find a schedule that’s going to work for the amount of time I have and the amount of things I want to get done.

Also, for those of you paying attention: This upcoming January 29th is my blog’s official 2 year anniversary! Gosh, can you believe it’s been 2 years already? It’s hard to believe that up until two years ago, I’d completely stopped reading fiction—I literally hadn’t picked up a book since high school. Two years later I’m reading 100+ books a year. That’s insane! I’m glad I started to read again. I can hardly remember what it was like to not read for the entire year, and I can’t imagine having not met all the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know over the past two years. It’s been a thrilling ride, and here’s to another year of the craziness!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to seeing you all again in the upcoming new year!

Book Review: Simple Gifts

review-cover-simple gifts

Title: Simple Gifts (Just Curious/Miracles/Change of Heart/Double Exposure – Westmoreland Saga 3.5)

Author: Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught

Genre: Romance, Anthology, Holiday (Christmas), Contemporary, Historical

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Bestselling authors Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught present their most dazzling and wonderful Christmas tales — the perfect treat for every romantic at heart…

Jude Deveraux: In the snow-covered hills of Virginia, a young widow finds that miracles really do come in the least expected packages, in “Just Curious,” praised as “one of Deveraux’s best” (Philadelphia Inquirer).”Change of Heart,” set in modern-day Colorado, is the touching story of a clever twelve-year-old who plays matchmaker for his bighearted, impractical mother.

Judith McNaught: This celebrated author magically portrays Regency London in “Miracles,” the enchanting tale of a world-weary lord — and an outrageous proposal. In “Double Exposure,” a determined young woman arrives to photograph a magnificent wedding at a reclusive tycoon’s Newport estate, and manages to unlock the secrets of a man’s heart.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Simple Gifts by Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught is a Christmas Romance anthology of four short stories (Just Curious, Miracles, Change of Heart, and Double Exposure)—and honestly, it’s a bit of a gem. I thought about delving into the depths of each story one by one in this review, as I usually do with anthologies, but finally decided, I don’t want to ruin it for you—it was that good.

These stories are wonderfully well written with only a partial-handful of errors to the books, and are otherwise easy to read, beautifully detailed, and engaging. Both authors had a way of drawing in the reader so that even though the stories are decidedly short-lived, I always felt engrossed in what was happening. The romances were deliciously heartwarming and gut-wrenching at the same time, and littered with a fun array of vivid characters.

If I had to point out one negative (and there is only one) it’s that I really wish the stories had been longer. I’m not a big fan of short stories—and though the authors did a great job of writing the stories in such a way where for the majority, they didn’t feel rushed or like huge amounts of time had been skipped…. near the end of the romances the books had a habit of making huge leaps and bounds towards the relationships that felt rushed and forced. It was like watching a flower bloom in slow motion and then BAM having it sped up 200% at the last five seconds.

I will say, out of the set my favorite story was probably Just Curious by Jude Deveraux, and my least favorite was Change of Heart by the same author. Where Just Curious was a giggle-worthy, heartwarming story of love-at-first-sight, Change of Heart was a bit of a let down. The female love interest (Miranda) was painted as a naïve airhead by both her genius son and the author. It was hard to enjoy a romance story where the heroine was dumb as bricks.

That aside, I really enjoyed this Christmas anthology. I loved the characters, the writing, and the stories themselves… which for an anthology of short stories, is a new thing for me. If you’re looking for a quick set of heartwarming romances to enjoy over the holidays, you’re probably going to enjoy this. I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone who needs a holiday romance read.

Book Review: Maybe This Christmas

review-cover-maybe this christmas

Title: Maybe This Christmas

Author: Janet Dailey

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Holiday (Christmas Themed)

Rating: 2

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Description/Synopsis:

Two heartwarming Christmas stories from beloved New York Times bestselling author Janet Dailey–and filled with romance, charm, and delightful holiday spirit. Some Christmas vacation! An unexpected blizzard just stranded Jennifer Glenn in the heart of the mountains, and her boots aren’t made for walking. But the Jeep’s buried in a snowdrift and a lonely log cabin is the only shelter for miles around. Just her luck: there’s only one bed. She’s not about to share it with Logan Taylor, even though the handsome rancher swept her up in his arms and carried her over the threshold. He can just take the chair by the fire like a gentleman–if he is a gentleman–and he can just stop calling her darlin’. Or she’ll never fall asleep! Happy holidays were only a memory for Dina Chandler in the years after her husband’s plane disappeared over the jungle. But the Christmas to come will be a celebration like no other…now that Blake has returned. His long ordeal has changed everything–except his passionate love for the woman who was once his wife. Winning her back will be the greatest challenge–and the greatest gift–of all.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Maybe This Christmas by Janet Dailey is a short 2-book anthology of purportedly “heartwarming” holiday-themed romance novels. The novels were originally written in the 70’s and despite the marketing claiming the books were updated and re-written for the modern times for their second publishing (2003), I’ll admit… there’s little heartwarming about these stories, and except for short 2-page scenes depicting Christmas…. they aren’t even holiday related. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s delve into the first book.

Warning: There will be spoilers. Many of them. Don’t feel bad, you aren’t going to want to read this book. I should include that if you do choose to read this book and skip this review, here are your trigger warnings: There is blatant problems with males in these stories not understanding what “no” means. This may prove as a trigger to some readers who may have dealt with abusive or damaging relationships in the past.

Darling Jenny was the excruciating story of Jennifer Glenn, a secretary who flees her life in the city after her boss makes unwanted advances, and moves in with her sister in the lovely town of Jackson Hole.

Right away, I was put off by the writing. Don’t get me wrong, the narrative is decently written for the most part. There was only one error that I found (Pg., 130, Line 32), and the writing flowed easily and was reasonably well constructed. The story was engaging in all the right places. I didn’t get bored. However, the writing tended to lean towards the overly-descriptive and the author had a penchant for info dumps when it came to describing characters. It’s not my favorite tactic when it comes to writing, but I was able to push through.

The real problem was the believability. The character’s actions were so overblown and dramatic that half the time I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Their decisions made little sense, and the main character, Jennifer, was infuriatingly dense. The only character worse than her, was Logan, the main male lead who practically forced himself upon her on several occasions (leaving her struggling to the point of drawing blood), and had the brilliant line of: “I’ll touch you any damned time I please!”

I cringed.

Despite the story’s “updating”, the misogyny and male entitlement in this book were disgustingly vivid. By the time I reached the last page, I was literally staring down at the book saying “What The Flip did I just read?”

The romance made no sense whatsoever. The entire book Jennifer was trying to avoid Logan. She was pissed off at him 98% of the time (with good reason I might add), and other than the sexual attraction she felt towards him… didn’t seem to know him all that well. I rolled my eyes when she first thought she’d fallen in love with him. He constantly pushed her into uncomfortable situations, refused to call her by the name she preferred, and treated her like property (which he didn’t even have claim to!) I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

It didn’t get any better. Jennifer was so adamant about her dislike for Logan and his unavailability that I could only stare in wonder at the ending. The pair should never have been in a romantic relationship. Period. The frustrating part is that I generally like romances where the two main characters bicker and fall in love. I don’t know what this was exactly, but despite the decent writing, it was a terrible book. I’m amazed that this managed to get re-published in 2003. By 2014 standards, this would have ended straight in the trash can.

In the end, I can’t recommend, nor would choose to re-read Darling Jenny. I give it 2 stars only because A) the writing itself was decent and B) I finished the story. The characters and plot were so offensive and unbelievable that I can’t in good conscience give it three stars (My usual “Meh.” rating). As a woman, I found this story incredibly offensive. I understand that in the 70’s this was the typical romance that was printed… but it should have been heavily edited (as the marketing indicated) before it was reprinted.

The second book in this anthology was Strange Bedfellow, and like the first book in the anthology, it certainly had its issues. This story was about  Dina Chandler and the mess of her marriage when her husband is lost and presumed dead for three years in the South American jungles. He suddenly comes back and both discover that neither one of the couple is the same person they remembered. Cue a crap-ton of fighting. I wouldn’t call this a romance by almost any stretch of the word.

Like Darling Jenny, Strange Bedfellows was decently written. Once again, the writing was easy to follow, engaging, and error free. However, The author has a penchant for skipping large amounts of time and over-describing everything. The biggest problem, once again, was with the romance and characters.

If you don’t want to read spoilers, stop now… cause here they come.

Dina and Blake hated each other’s guts. They bickered non-stop throughout the story all the way until the last few pages. To be honest, it was a bit exhausting to read. Every single moment was a battle with them, and I couldn’t help but be put on edge by the chauvinistic way Blake treated his wife. Several times he made comments to his wife that would have made any good Feminist boil with rage.

Their relationship was unhealthy and abusive. Blake was constantly cornering his wife (and I use that term loosely… remember, they hadn’t seen each other in three years), often standing in her way and crowding her or somehow restraining her from going anywhere he didn’t want her to go. He was constantly trying to pressure her into sex, even trying to force her (and somewhat succeeding) several times. He wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and believe me, she said it plenty of times. The whole thing was sickening to watch from a reader’s perspective.

Then, suddenly, near the end of the book the two are completely fine. Blake’s personality seems to do a 180 and he goes from glaring at her all the time and pushing her around to declaring his undying love and asking her opinion on things… like this is something he’s been doing all along. It felt fake. Again, I know this book was originally written in the 70’s… but even with that caveat, it’s pretty disturbing.

I’ll be honest… I read the book (both books) from start to finish. As much as I hated the characters and the plots, the writing sucked me in. It wasn’t the best romance writing I’ve seen, but it was pretty solid. It’s the characters, and their actions that I find so disturbing and unbelievable. I can’t say that I enjoyed the book—it had a lot of serious problems—and I can’t recommend it for those same reasons. I don’t think the author is a bad writer per se…. but I think it was a poor choice to republish these two stories without giving it a very thorough modern makeover.  There’s no excuse for publishing a book in this modern age—particularly a romance book which is geared mostly towards woman—and having the relationships between the characters portrayed this way as if it were okay. The way the men treated the women in these books was mind-bogglingly disturbing. It’s not okay. If you’re looking into buying this book as a fun romantic holiday read…. run the other direction. You won’t find that here.