Book Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

cover-the girl who knew too muchTitle: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Author: Tiffany Brooks

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Thriller

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Survivor meets Lord of the Flies in this fast-paced adventure with fascinating characters and pulse-pounding tension. Twenty teens are dropped off on a deserted island to compete for a cash prize. But Riley is looking for a vast treasure rumored to be hidden on the island. Only it turns out others also want the cache of riches and will stop at nothing to find it.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. Don’t get me wrong, the premise was interesting to begin with – a reality show of teens and a treasure hunt? It was a fun concept, and it’s definitely what interested me in the book in the first place, but what kept me reading was the characters and the mystery of the lost Incan gold. The book was filled with your usual teenage drama, without letting it get too out of hand. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes tension, secrets being kept, and odd behavior that doesn’t get sorted out until the end of the book – and that kept me guessing what everyone’s true motives were and whether any of the characters were reliable.

The writing itself was fantastic. The narrative flowed effortlessly without any major noticeable errors and did a good job of building the atmosphere without getting too bogged down by prose. The characters were well characterized and didn’t come across as too annoying or whiney. This isn’t one of those books where you’re going to find a lot of over-dramatic teen angst and stupid decisions, even if there’s a fair amount of misunderstandings and drama going around.

Overall? I loved the book. It was a solid read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an adventure to sink into.

Book Review: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass

cover-the forgotten memories of vera glassTitle: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass

Author: Anna Priemaza

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Vera has a nagging feeling that she’s forgetting something. Not her keys or her homework—something bigger. Or someone. When she discovers her best friend Riven is experiencing the same strange feeling, they set out on a mission to uncover what’s going on. Everyone in Vera’s world has a special ability—a little bit of magic that helps them through the day. Perhaps someone’s ability is interfering with their memory? Or is something altering their very reality? Vera and Riven intend to fix it and get back whatever or whomever they’ve lost. But how do you find the truth when you can’t even remember what you’re looking for in the first place?

The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass is a cleverly constructed, heartbreaking, and compelling contemporary YA novel—with a slight fantasy twist—about memory, love, grief, and the invisible bonds that tie us to each other.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Though this book started slow, I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected to. I’ll admit, I had my reservations. The book began with a lot of small mundane moments playing out, and I feared the book would continue at a sluggish pace. It didn’t help that the author had a penchant for awkwardly pointing out the color of each character’s skin – which I found rather jarring and unnecessary.

But as the story wound on, I became engrossed. Not necessarily because of the characters – they didn’t really grow or change much throughout the book – but because of the heart-rending “what if” of having people in your life disappear from one moment to the next and leaving no indication that they ever existed other than the feeling of loss. It was a powerful concept, and absolutely devastating for the characters. I found the story to be thought-provoking and emotional, and even if the book wasn’t filled with exceptional prose or character building, I still think it was an excellent read.

Book Review: The Gold In These Hills

cover-the gold in these hillsTitle: The Gold In These Hills

Author: Joanne Bischof

Genre: Literary Memoir, Christian Fiction, Historical, Contemporary

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Upon arriving at Kenworthy, California, mail-order-bride Juniper Cohen was met by the pounding of the gold mine, the rowdiness of its prospectors, and her greatest surprise of all: the love of the kind man who awaited her. But when the mine proves empty of profit, and when Juniper’s husband vanishes, doubt and discouragement are as prevalent as the pioneers fleeing this dwindling boomtown.

As winter blows in, Juniper pens a series of letters to her husband but fears she is waiting on a ghost—or worse, an outlaw. Carving out survival for her and her young daughter in a ghost town requires trusting in the kindness of a few remaining souls, including the one who can unlock the mystery of her husband’s disappearance.

A century later, trying to escape the heartache of his failed marriage, Johnny Sutherland throws himself into raising his child and restoring a hundred-year-old abandoned farmhouse in California’s San Jacinto Mountains. While exploring its secrets he uncovers the letters Juniper wrote to her Dearest John and is moved by the handwritten accounts that bear his name. Having learned that truth and courage go hand in hand, Johnny dares to love again, and armed with lessons from the past, a modern-day romance unfolds in the very same mountains that once held a love story that touched history.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This wasn’t the type of book I’d normally pick up had I known what it was, but I’m glad I did regardless. The book was well written, with a clear and easy-to-follow narrative. I loved the characters and the back and forth of the story unfolding through a mix of historical letters and viewpoints, and a contemporary viewpoint.

To be honest, I feel like this book was miss-categorized as Historical Christian Romance. Yes, there were elements of these categories, but at its heart, I would classify this book as a Literary Memoir that is both partially contemporary and partially historical.

Though there was definitely an underlying romance for many of the characters, I wouldn’t categorize this as a romance book. The theme of the book was more about faith and challenges, intertwined with a family saga – and romance just happened to be a part of that.

Though I am not religious myself, I found the religious theme throughout the book wasn’t preachy or overbearing and was beautiful in a way the characters used their faith to decipher the challenges in their lives and overcome them.

Overall, I’m glad I read the book. I found it to be a compelling and poignant story about the hardships we deal with in life, and how we find ways to keep looking forward.

Book Review: Witch Please

review-witch pleaseTitle: Witch Please [Fix-It Witches 1]

Author: Ann Aguirre

Genre: Paranormal Contemporary Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Danica Waterhouse is a fully modern witch—daughter, granddaughter, cousin, and co-owner of the Fix-It Witches, a magical tech repair shop. After a messy breakup that included way too much family “feedback,” Danica made a pact with her cousin: they’ll keep their hearts protected and have fun, without involving any of the overly opinionated Waterhouse matriarchs. Danica is more than a little exhausted navigating a long-standing family feud where Gram thinks the only good mundane is a dead one and Danica’s mother weaves floral crowns for anyone who crosses her path.

Three blocks down from the Fix-It Witches, Titus Winnaker, owner of Sugar Daddy’s bakery, has family trouble of his own. After a tragic loss, all he’s got left is his sister, the bakery, and a lifetime of terrible luck in love. Sure, business is sweet, but he can’t seem to shake the romantic curse that’s left him past thirty and still a virgin. He’s decided he’s doomed to be forever alone.

Until he meets Danica Waterhouse. The sparks are instant, their attraction irresistible. For him, she’s the one. To her, he’s a firebomb thrown in the middle of a family war. Can a modern witch find love with an old-fashioned mundane who refuses to settle for anything less than forever?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This book was an often funny and incredibly sweet romance, and if you love romcoms, it’s probably going to be perfect for you. I enjoyed the sweet nature of Titus’ and Danica’s relationship. Titus especially was an adorable break from the usual main male lead in most romances.

I liked the interweaving of the magical lore woven into what would otherwise be a contemporary meet-cute type of romance. I wish the author had leaned into the magical aspect a little more – it was definitely my favorite part of the plot. The author did a fantastic job of being all-inclusive, with all types of characters, and it was nice to see an array of races and relationships represented.

Not everything was rainbows and puppies though.

My least favorite part of the plot was how it didn’t really get resolved. The author did a good job of incorporating the bigoted grandmother witch, a mysterious magic book that only shows you spells when you need it, and a witch hunter bent on coming after the witches of the small town the story took place in…. But there was no real confrontation with the witch hunter, the conflict with the grandmother didn’t get truly resolved, and the weird magical workings were never thoroughly explained. It felt like the rom-com aspect of the story took over, and once that was resolved, the book was over, regardless of the other threads that needed tying up. Because of this, it felt like the story was unfinished, and all the time spent on the plot was a waste of time.

Editing-wise, the book was hit or miss. The book flowed well and was easy to read, and I truly enjoyed the dynamics between Titus and Danica, but the author had a penchant for using uncommon word choices that stuck out like a sore thumb – and worse, used those word choices repeatedly.

And the sex scenes… were awkward. I expected them to be sweet like the romance, especially considering the main male lead was a virgin…. But they were uncharacteristically spicy, which just seemed out of place. I guess, in the end… I think the book needed some polishing. It wasn’t bad – there were some parts of it that I liked, and I smiled more than once while I was reading it, but it wasn’t as cohesive as I’d expect.

Overall? It was okay. If you like romcoms, you’ll probably like this, but don’t expect it to be a deep read.

Book Review: Burning Desire

review-burning desireTitle: Burning Desire [Turn Up The Heat 2]

Author: Marie Harte

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Firefighter Tex McGovern struck out with Bree Gilchrist the first time. And the second. And the third… He should probably just stay away. After all, Bree’s father is his boss, and pursuing her goes against the firefighter brotherhood. No matter how much he desires her, Bree is off limits. Period. But as things start to heat up between them, Tex decides some codes are meant to be broken…

Bree distrusts Tex. The displaced cowboy-turned-rescue-worker is too wild and wicked for his own good. Then she sees him helping people with no thought to himself, and she can’t help wondering what could be if she were suddenly his. But her father will not have his daughter dating a firefighter, and he can break Tex’s career. That’s a heavy burden to place on anyone, and Tex and Bree are forced to decide if the sparks between them are enough to risk the fallout to them both.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I didn’t think it was possible for a formulaic contemporary romance to go so terribly wrong, but here we are. I honestly can’t imagine what the author was thinking when she chose to start the book not only after the lead couple had already met but after two failed dates as well. Where was the romance? The sparks of desire? Off-screen. That’s where. It was an awful way to sequence events and completely demolished any build-up for what should have been the main theme of the book. You know, actual romance.

To make matters worse, I didn’t like the main male lead. His macho boy’s club banter with his coworkers and friends wasn’t appealing. It felt very cliché, including the dialogue. You may ask, what about the main female lead? If you see her, let me know. Several chapters into the book, and other than a brief run-in, there was very little to be seen of the characters outside of the male lead’s pining for her. I honestly can’t tell you anything about her personality at all beyond the fact she wore demon’s horns to a bachelorette party.

At 6% into the book, I gave up. I wasn’t engaged, I didn’t get to know the characters, and there was no romance to be seen. I don’t know where this went wrong, but it felt like the book still needed some heavy content editing. Although the narrative was clear and easy to follow, I think the overall writing just missed the mark.

Book Review: True Love Cowboy

review-true love cowboyTitle: True Love Cowboy [McGrath 3]

Author: Jennifer Ryan

Genre: Contemporary Western Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Jon Crawford has returned to Montana, determined to take over his father’s ranch and raise his daughter in Big Sky Country, leaving the big-city life behind once and for all. He doesn’t have time to fall in love, but he doesn’t count on stubborn but beautiful Trinity McGrath, who arouses his protective instincts even as she tries to push him away.

Life hasn’t always been easy for Trinity, but now she has everything she needs—her family, friends, and a safe and secure life. With a business to build, Trinity doesn’t have time for romance…until Jon comes barging into her life and all her intentions are turned upside down!

Still, an attraction like theirs is too powerful to deny, and sometimes true love comes along when you least expect it. But when someone from Jon’s past comes back with a vengeance, Trinity and Jon will have to do everything they can to save themselves and their new love…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted so badly to like this book, but to be honest, it was perhaps one of the most lackluster, soulless romance reads I’ve ever picked up. Here’s the thing: There’s nothing technically wrong with it. It isn’t full of typos, the characters are likable, and the plot is good. These are all good things, and if you like formulaic romance and just want something to read while you’re sitting in a waiting room, this is fine. It’s not great, but it’s okay.

But that’s about where my praise ends. This book is not standalone. It’s so clearly a story that’s slotted into a series to fill a gap. All of the backstory is summed up in about two pages, dumped like a bucket of wet sand in the middle of the narrative. There’s zero sexual tension between the main characters – even though they’re nice, sweet people, that’s about how you’d sum up their romance too. It’s nice. It’s sweet. But it’s not romantic or sexy in any possible way. The sex scenes were painfully analytical, like a list being checked off in quick succession. It felt gross.

The entire time I was reading it felt like someone told the author “we need another book, have it done in six months” and so she picked two characters in an already established series, and spit out a book. There’s no passion to the writing. No poetry.

Was it terrible? No. It was fine. But it was JUST fine.

Book Review: Down With This Ship

review-cover-down with this shipTitle: Down With This Ship

Author: Katie Kingman

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Kole Miller does one thing really well: write fanfiction for the show The Space Game. Everything else is a struggle: like managing her anxiety, frequent crushes, and plans after high school. But when her blog, Spacer, wins a major fanfiction contest, her traffic soars.

With massive readership comes criticism Kole isn’t prepared for, including getting stuck in the heated ship wars surrounding the show. And then an invitation to speak at The Space Game’s official convention arrives in her inbox.

When the most competitive kids in her Creative Writing class discover Kole’s writing Spacer, her blog is taken hostage and she risks them hitting ctrl+A+del on Spacer. To win it back, Kole must face both her inner demons and the ones at Crystal Lake High before they make the drama not just about The Space Game, but about Kole herself.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m very tentatively giving Down With This Ship by Katie Kingman 3-stars. Here’s the thing… there’s a very specific audience for this book, and if you aren’t part of that target audience (like I’m not), you most likely aren’t going to enjoy this book. The story leans heavily into the fan-fiction culture and has a very contemporary teen feel to it… and that isn’t going to be for everyone.

If you are a teen, and you enjoy fan fiction – you’ll actually probably love this book. You’ll be able to relate to it, and you’ll get a kick out of the hijinks. If you’re an adult though… I’d pass this one up.

Personally, the writing wasn’t great. There wasn’t a lot of atmosphere or description. The main character was somewhat of a cynical brat and had very shallow relationships with those around her. As I said, if you’re a teenager, you’ll probably love every minute of drama-filled angst, but I wanted more. The teens in this book talked like they were in middle school. Despite being from a school that focuses on academics, none of the children seemed very smart or mature, and the parents were down-right awful. It was very cliché and tropey in some ways.

By the time I got to about 30% into the book, I was over it. Maybe part of that is because I don’t understand or appreciate the fan-fiction culture. Maybe not. For a teen, I’d rate this 4 stars, because I do think there’s a specific

group of people that are going to love this book to bits, although I don’t fall into that category… for the rest of us, maybe pass this one up.

Book Review: Breaking The Rules

reviewcover-breaking the rulesTitle: Breaking The Rules [Breaking 1]

Author: Ember Leigh

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

For Travis, there’s only ever been one rule: stay away from his best friend’s sister. But Amara Valenzuela has transformed from meek and sweet to a woman that Travis can’t keep his eyes—or hands—off of.

Before long, however, Travis learns that being with Amara isn’t just breaking the rules. She’s a dangerous distraction.

In a room full of hot, hard, sweaty bodies, these two have more than fitness on their minds. Will the undefeated MMA fighter be strong enough to resist the charms of his best friend’s sexy and sweet little sister…or will trying to win her heart be the showdown of his life?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Listen, Breaking The Rules by Ember Leigh wasn’t as bad as you might assume by seeing this one-star rating, but I just could not get into it.

The narrative actually flowed fairly well. The grammar and punctuation were correct, and I didn’t run into any major typos. All good things.

However, despite these strong points, I still had trouble. I didn’t feel anything for the characters. They weren’t particularly interesting and I didn’t really like them to be honest. Their attraction felt superficial because any sexual tension the author threaded through the story was overshadowed by the constant mention of it. It seemed like every few seconds the couple was thinking about boning each other, and it drained the impact. Sadly, there didn’t seem to be any plot outside of the romance and it just wasn’t enough to carry the book for me.

I grew bored. For some readers, this won’t be an issue… but it was for me, and I chose not to carry on.

Book Review: Her Wicked Stepbrother

cover-her wicked stepbrotherTitle: Her Wicked Stepbrother [Nolan Bastards 0.5]

Author: Amy Olle

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Novella

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

My stepbrother hates me.

That’s fine, because I hate him too.

I hate his crooked smile and the way he looks at me, like he’s a sugar addict and I’m the last cupcake on earth. I hate that he makes me feel like I’m more than that lost little girl whose mom didn’t want her, then leaves and doesn’t come home again for days.

And I really, really hate that he flirts with other girls.

A lot of other girls.

But it’s fine. Really, it is. Soon, he’ll be leaving to attend university on the other side of the world, and I’ll only have to see him on holidays and at the rare family get-together. It’ll all be just fine.

As long as I don’t fall in love with him.

WARNING

I don’t usually read novellas, and had I realized this book was so short, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up — but I’m glad that I did. Despite being short, this book didn’t read like the usually rushed novella – it felt like a full-length novel up until it ended.

Despite the title, it wasn’t thinly veiled erotica either. I am intrigued to read on in the series and continue the character’s stories further. The romance and tension between the main characters were well executed and the family dynamics between the teens and the parents was handled realistically. The characters felt real – which is an amazing accomplishment for a novella.

I look forward to more!

– SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Book Review: The Matchmaker’s Match

cover-the matchmaker's matchTitle: The Matchmaker’s Match [Man’s Best Friend 3]

Author: Nicole Flockton

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The last person Meredith Turner expects to see at her best friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner is the guy she had a one night stand with. What’s worse, Lincoln Forrest is the best man and as maid of honor, her partner. To add insult to injury, she has to leave the rehearsal dinner early, and Lincoln is the one to help her with a deeply personal problem. The aftermath of that night brings big changes for them both.

Lincoln Forrest has helped his best friend meet the woman of his dreams, but recently he’s made a series of bad decisions, the biggest being leaving his career with the Army. Now the former K-9 handler is looking for a new career and trying to get his life back on track. Helping Meredith in her time of need connects her to him more than he expected. On a mission to right the wrong he created, Linc will do whatever is needed. But when the attraction that first drew them together flares to life again, will the obstacles between them be too much to overcome? Or has the matchmaker met his match?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I adored The Match Maker’s Match by Nicole Flockton. The only true qualm I had with it, is that it simply wasn’t long enough for my tastes. I wanted more.

The romance between Lincoln and Meredith was hopeful with a twist of sweet seduction. They made a great couple, even with all the baggage they brought with them.
 
I loved the theme of dogs throughout the book and series, and the writing was both clear, easy to read, and flowed well. I have nothing to complain about. If you like contemporary romance with HEA’s, this book is for you.