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31 July 2015

Review and Giveaway: A Bride at Last by Melissa Jagears

Can Silas and Kate overcome their rocky start and experience healing—and possibly love? Discover the answer in Melissa Jagears' new book, A Bride at LastNeither Kate nor Silas is prepared for the secrets and past hurts that have yet to come to light as they attempt to prove nine-year-old Anthony's paternity to the court. Can their wounded souls bind them together or will all that stands between them leave them lonely forever?

Celebrate the release of A Bride at Last by entering to win a $100 Memory-Making giveaway and RSVPing to Melissa's August 4th author chat party!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $100 gift card to Netflix (for a family movie night), Shutterfly (to create a family memory book), or TablePlayGames (for a family game night)
  • One copy of A Bride at Last
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/4. The winner will be announced at Melissa's 8/4 A Bride at Last Facebook author chat party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Melissa and fiction fans, as well as for a chance to win some great prizes!

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RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

My Review

While I've enjoyed the earlier books in this series, I didn’t enjoy A Bride at Last. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been busy (which meant I took several days to finish it when I normally finish a novel in a day or two) or I took several days to finish it because I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Or perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood for this particular type of Christian fiction—Christian romance set in the American West in the dying days of the nineteenth century.

Both the main characters were damaged individuals who had a lot of faults, and made a lot of mistakes in the way they dealt with each other. That shouldn’t necessarily be a negative: I don’t want to read novels where perfect heroine meets perfect hero, he rescues her after she stubs her toe and they live happily ever after. But I would like them to be a little less stupid about their faults. In this respect, I was particularly annoyed by the “hero”, who spent too much of the second half of the novel not forgiving the heroine for something in her past … even though she’d managed to get past something in his past (I hope that sentence makes sense!).

The result was the plot seemed to drag. The first half dragged as they went around and around in circles trying to solve one plot mystery, then the second half dragged as they went around and around in circles trying to get over her past—which, frankly, seemed contrived. Overall, not a novel I enjoyed. But maybe that’s just me.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

29 July 2015

2015 Reading Challenge: The Gifting by K E Ganshert

A Book Set in High School

The Gifting is written by Katie Ganshert, who has previously written some rather lovely Christian women’s fiction and a couple of romance novels. The Gifting trilogy, using the KE Ganshert pen name, is her first foray into young adult literature, and self-publishing. It’s written from a Christian world view, but not to the point where the faith elements are pushy (at least, not at this stage. I can see they might get more obvious as the series progresses).

The Gifting is a young adult dystopian thriller, along the lines of The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight or Anomaly with elements of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The first-person narrator, Tess Eckhart, sees strange things no one else sees … but lives in a society when any hint of imperfection is frowned upon, especially if that imperfection is mental illness. And seeing things is definitely not sane.

When her visions force her family to move from Florida to California, she meets Luka, the most popular guy in school, who all the girls are hot for and who doesn’t date any of them (remind you of anyone, Twilight readers?). For some unknown reason, he befriends Tess (remind you of anyone, Twilight readers?), because there’s something they have in common (remind you of anyone, Twilight readers?).

Yes, I would have enjoyed The Gifting more if it hadn’t been full of things that happened to Bella. It also seemed a bit odd that it wasn’t clear when it was set: Tess uses a laptop and iPad, which makes the technology seem very 2015, yet other aspects of the novel suggest it must be set at least twenty years in our future.

Like Twilight, The Gifting has that combination of plot and pace which kept me turning pages and resenting when I had to put my Kindle down for unimportant daily tasks like work and sleep. But the writing in The Gifting is better, and Tess isn’t nearly as annoying as Bella. The first-person point of view worked well—it would have destroyed some of the tension if we’d known what Luka was thinking.

Overall, The Gifting was an excellent read, and if I didn’t already have 100+ books in my to-read list, I’d be clicking to buy the sequel. The second book in the trilogy, The Awakening, is already available and the third book, The Gathering, is currently available for pre-order.

This book counts towards my 2015 Reading Challenge as a book set in high school (finding one was harder than I thought!).

27 July 2015

Review: Emails from Heaven by Sam Neumann

David Grasso has gotten an email from no one. He knows this is impossible, but with a blank “sender” field and no other identifying marks, he’s left incapable of tracing the source. The email claims to be from his brother, but David knows it can’t be, because his brother is dead.

Upon reading the body text he becomes furious, not at the obvious attempt at deceit, but at what the email says. Furious someone would use his brother’s name to perpetuate a lie. Furious the lie existed at all.

EMAILS FROM HEAVEN is a novel following David Grasso’s struggle to make sense of the email and those that followed. As a graphic designer at a high-powered ad firm in downtown Chicago, David spends most of his waking hours at the office. He’s unmarried, has few friends, and his coworkers bore him. His life is a monotonous running clock. But when the email arrives, his world is turned on end, and he will go to any length to reveal the source and explain the seemingly inconceivable circumstances that led to it showing up in his inbox.

This is the story of one man’s struggle with mystery, death, and the idea of faith. When logic is suspended, all that remains is one timeless question:

What if?

Not What I Was Expecting

Most of Emails from Heaven is told from the point of view of David Grasso, a graphic designer at the JF&A Integrated Advertising Agency. He’s relatively happy with his work at the beginning of the novel, but gradually becomes more and more disaffected with office life and the petty social hierarchies within.

The initial premise was intriguing: a man receiving emails from his dead brother. The style of the writing was also intriguing, a mix of third person and omniscient which shouldn’t have worked, but somehow fit with the unusual plot. It has to be said the editing was choppy, especially around point of view, and—frankly—plot. It started off as a mystery with a supernatural touch, as David puzzles about the origin of the strange emails and reflects on his relationship with his dead brother.

But it gradually morphed into something different, more like a commentary on modern office life, a cross between The Office and Dilbert. We see David in the office environment, gradually losing interest as he begins to see through the office politics and befriend the office loser.

It’s not to say the story wasn’t good—it was—but it wasn’t the story we’d been promised. The other way it wasn’t as promised was that I thought it was a Christian novel (my blog is Iola’s Christian Reads: I pretty much expect that’s the kind of novel I’m going to be offered to review). But Emails from Heaven wasn’t “Christian” in that it didn’t meet the usual specifications people have for Christian fiction, particularly around the use of swearing, smoking and drinking. There was no sex, but that was more a function of plot and character: David and especially Martin were too reclusive to have lady friends.

But this plot segue means I didn’t think the essential question in the story was answered, and maybe this is my problem, but I like there to be answers. Both parts of the book—the emails from heaven and the struggle against office politics—were good, but they didn’t hang together well enough.

As an aside, the author advertises himself as a New York Times Bestselling Author. I'd never heard of him so I checked: one of his previous books made #23 on the Non-Fiction ebook list for one week, which makes it sound like the kind of boast David Grasso's bombastic manager would make.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

24 July 2015

Review and Giveaway: A Heart's Promise by Colleen Coble

Will the promise Emmie makes to her friend mean the end to her dreams of a future with Isaac? Find out in book five, A Heart's Promise, of Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series. Emmie Croftner let Isaac Liddle go to avoid telling him about her past. But Isaac remains determined to win Emmie’s heart and hand. Can she live happily without Isaac?

Take a day off and head to the beach with a new giveaway from Colleen: five books (books one–five in Colleen's A Journey of the Heart series) and a beach bag to tote your new books in!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Heart's Promise
  • A Lands' End beach tote
  • A copy of A Heart's Betrayal
  • A copy of A Heart's Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart's Obsession
  • A copy of A Heart's Danger
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 31st. Winner will be announced August 3rd on Colleen's website.


Five Down, One to Go

Amazon Description

Emmie makes a promise to her friend that, if fulfilled, could mean the end to her dreams of a future with Isaac.

Emmie Croftner let Isaac Liddle go to avoid telling him about her past. But Isaac remains determined to win Emmie’s heart and hand. Though Emmie resolves to keep her heart in check, it hurts when she sees that another woman has set her bonnet for Isaac.

Then Emmie’s dear friend extracts a costly promise: if anything happens to her in childbirth, Emmie will marry her widower and raise the baby herself. And it seems Emmie may have to fulfill that promise. But can she live happily without Isaac?

My Review

This is going to be a short review, because I disliked the same things about this novella as I disliked about the previous four in the series, and I’m pretty much only reading and reviewing it because that was the condition for signing up for the tour—that I’d review all six books in the series. My bad.

The characters aren’t inspiring (and Emmie seems to have had a character transplant since the last book), the plot is predictable (thanks to the spoilers in the plot summary on the book’s copyright page) and the writing is merely average (although Coble has made some “massive changes” since the books were first published).

I’ve also decided that while I enjoy reading a book series, I’m not as keen on a serial like this, where each book is an episode in a larger whole (actually, it’s a single book that’s been cut in three. A cynic would say that’s so the publisher can charge $6.99 each for six books instead of $14.99 each for two).

The one plus is that it’s a quick read. Especially when you can skim because you already know what’s going to happen.

Thanks to the publisher and Litfuse Publicity for providing a free ebook for review.

22 July 2015

Review: Daughter of the Regiment by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Impressive as Always

I’m always impressed by Stephanie Grace Whitson’s books, by her writing, by her characters, by her historical accuracy, and by the way she manages to weave those things together to always produce a novel worth reading. I admit, Daughter of the Regiment wasn’t the easiest novel to get in to, at least for me.

It’s set in Missouri, and I’m not American so I had no idea where it was. It appeared to be in the South but it wasn’t a state that’s featured in other fiction I’ve read about the War Between the States (it’s really more West than true South, which might explain my confusion). And I was initially confused about which side was which—I’m used to North and South, not Confederate and Union (I read this before the recent fracas about removing the Confederate flag from whichever building it was on. I’ll know for next time. Confederate is South).

Anyway, it’s the early days of what later becomes known as the Civil War, the War of Northern Aggression or the War Between the States (depending on where you live and, I suspect, how old you are). Maggie Malone is left alone on the family farm in Little Dixie, Missouri, after her two younger brothers go off to fight for the Union. She goes off to search for them after raiders destroy the farm and she realises the local sheriff—a Confederate supporter—isn’t exactly proactive about rounding up the miscreants.

Maggie manages to make a place for herself in the regiment, and what follows is a fascinating insight into a different side of army life. There’s also an unlikely friendship with a planation belle, a love interest, and a subplot which addresses deeper issues of faith, love and family. The writing is excellent, and I very much enjoyed the story. Recommended for fans of historical fiction.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

This book counts towards my 2015 Reading Challenge as a book by a female author. Really, it should have been a book by a male author as I mostly read female authors!