Surprisingly Yours: A Book Review

Julio and Olivia think they know what they’re doing, but when it comes to love, only June and Ellie, owners of Match Mavens, hold all the cards. And this time, it’s quite the family party in Surprisingly Yours.

Jessica Marie Holt writes books with incredible emotional pull, where each reader can find a message just for them. She also authors something a little less serious. The Granny Pact Collection—rom com. The kind of rom com that leads you to ask the one question you never thought you’d ask about the genre: Where has this been all my life? And like books one and two, Book Three, Surprisingly Yours, won’t let you down!

My Thoughts About Surprisingly Yours

“Make a list of the qualities that matter to you in a spouse.”

That’s what several of my youth leaders suggested.

Olivia, one of the main characters in Surprisingly Yours, would agree. In fact, she probably has so many qualities listed that Mr. Wonderful is still waiting for God to finish creating him. (Please excuse my blasphemy.)

Of course, I also had lists… Lots of them. And like the Match Mavens success stories (which sit at 100%), I managed the most important one… My husband loves me.

Olivia and Julio, the main characters in Surprisingly Yours, find their true loves, too, but unlike in the movies, they don’t recognize it right away. Why would they? After all, the Match Mavens are smarter than those young’uns think. The grannies know love doesn’t come at a glance—unless you’re Maddie. No, love comes through interaction, understanding, and a houseful of fabulous family with empanadas (skip the prietas). More than that, the Mavens know that opposites don’t always attract, and rarely are they opposites.

Only Good

Holt has created some of the funniest characters in her Granny Pact collection. June and Ellie, aka the Match Mavens, created out of love for her own grandmothers, take kooky to a whole new lovable level as they scheme up ways to turn two singles into one couple. If you’ve read Reluctantly Yours and Accidentally Yours, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

But she doesn’t stop there. Each one of Holt’s characters is lovingly created. This time, she brings stylishly handsome, happy-to-be-single, “suave” Julio together with list-making, responsible, “cute” Olivia. Together, they explore a bit of the Chilean culture—one Holt has experienced and loves.

This author hasn’t lost her way with words, either. I laughed my way through each chapter and fell in love with two more characters who totally deserve each other. (By the way, they are my favoritest couple so far!)

The official blurb

The grannies are back and ready for their next challenge!

Julio Rivera is happily unattached, but his family desperately wants him to get serious about his future and his love life. When they find a Match Mavens flyer in a supermarket window, they decide that this mysterious method is worth a try.

Ellie and June are all too happy to help. After all, it’s unnatural—maybe even criminal—for a handsome and charming young man like Julio to be single. Something must be done about it, and they are just the ones to do it.

Julio proves reluctant to give up his slacker ways, and the Mavens must come up with a clever solution for his unique problem—or risk marring their perfect matchmaking record.

More Info

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I recieved a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Royal Decoy: A Book Review

After intervening during an attack and saving the princesses’ life, Clare finds herself learning the art of being a princess as she becomes the Royal Decoy.

YA author Heather Frost published her first series, the Seers Trilogy with Cedar Fort, but her for her second series, Fate of Eyrinthia, she’s decided to give self-publishing a try. Royal Decoy: Book One brings the action of fantasy and the emotion of romance and entwines them together for a fast-paced adventure everyone can sink their knives into!

My thoughts about Royal Decoy

One of the wonders of fantasy other genres often don’t adopt is multiple story lines with various points of view. The layering effect that takes place brings extra depth to a story, especially with a mystery involved. A mystery such as: Who is attempting to kill the princess?

Royal Decoy includes two paralleling stories in the world of Eyrinthia. Clare becomes the decoy for the brash princess in Davendra. Why? To protect the peace treaty and subsequent marriage between the princess and the prince of Mortise. Prince Grayson of Ryden spends his time doing everything his father, the king, asks, no matter how much he despises it. All to keep seeing the one person who brings him joy–the King’s prisoner, Mia.

To give insight into the minds of the characters, several points of view come into play. Frost marks who you are following at the beginning of each chapter, making it easy. Some of these points of view come in later than others.

The Good

Within the first few pages, this book had me hooked. In fact, it was the word hitched that made me swoon. Frost used the word this way: hitched to her feet.

Hitched doesn’t mean stood up. It doesn’t mean rose. But it works! I knew exactly what Frost meant, even though she’d changed the entire definition! I loved the way she used it.

But that isn’t all Frost does well. Her understanding of how the emotion within both fast-paced action and love scenes made me bring my Kindle downstairs–on my birthday–to sit and read Royal Decoy. Keep in mind, I write and read regularly. When I want to relax while reading, I only choose books I’m totally invested in. And I couldn’t wait to see what happened next in this book!

Oh, and I had no idea who the “bad guy” was at the end until Frost divulged the information. The idea of this character being the “bad guy” hadn’t even crossed my mind. But it all made sense. She’d even dropped breadcrumbs. I just hadn’t studied them well enough. THIS IS RARE for me. I almost always guess in advance and correctly. By the time I reached the unveiling, I’d ruled out most of the characters I’d considered, dropped a major breadcrumb, and was totally off.

The A-Little-Less-Good

I can’t label this section okay or bad. It’s nearly an indifference. And after finishing the book, I can’t wait to see how it all works out at the end of the series. But at one point, I thought, oh my goodness, everyone has a plan to destroy someone else!

This isn’t a book with one good side and one bad side. There are multiple groups with their own playbook. And I’m not entirely convinced I’ve run into all of them. This makes it hard to keep track of everyone. But I managed to do it, and I’m certain most readers can as well.

The Official Blurb of Royal Decoy

 SERVANT blackmailed into becoming a princess’s decoy.
A BODYGUARD determined to keep her alive.

A PRINCE forced to execute his father’s brutal laws.
A PRISONER used to keep him compliant.

A WORLD on the brink of war.

In one horrible night, Clare goes from kitchen maid to royal decoy. She has three months to become the princess’s perfect double so she can ensure her betrothal to an enemy prince. Desperate to survive, Clare throws herself into self-defense training, taught by her distractingly attractive bodyguard. The danger increases when a ruthless assassin begins stalking her, intent on ending the tenuous peace.

Across the northern mountains, Prince Grayson is his father’s ultimate weapon. He carries out the king’s harsh orders because the one person he cares about is his father’s prisoner. Grayson’s silent obedience is tested when his father plans to exploit the marriage alliance between two of their greatest enemies. If Grayson submits, the blood of thousands will spill. If he resists, the girl who means everything to him will die.

The fate of Eyrinthia hangs in the balance. Some want peace. Some want war. All will be thrown into chaos.

More Info

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A Guarded Love: Book Review and Blog Tour

Kristen’s luck with men has been anything but good, and when a stalker shows up, she doesn’t know who to trust in A Guarded Love by Adelia Burke.

Adelia Burke isn’t new to writing. In fact, she has several books available, but after a terrible car accident, her writing was put on hold. Now, three years later, Burke releases A Guarded Love, a rewrite of the Perfect Match. This Christian sweet romance makes relaxing easy.

My Thoughts About A Guarded Love

Have you ever given thought to what it would be like to catch the eye of a famous country singer? Would paparazzi swarm your house and keep you from living the life you chose for yourself?

In A Guarded Love, Burke explores this very idea. The main character, Kristen, isn’t looking to date anyone, not after her most recent dating disaster. And, as a lover of classical music working on her masters in piano performance, she certainly has no interest in country music–let alone a country singer. But the paparazzi have different ideas, and Kristen soon finds herself surrounded by Landon Ross’ security detail.

I like to read sweet romances when I need a break. They provide a quick way for me to escape without the worry of missing an important part of the story line in heavier literature or of the world-building found in fantasy.

And that’s exactly what A Guarded Love is. A sweet love story without inappropriate scenes that sneak up on you in typical romances. Burke takes the idea of wholesome fiction a step further and builds a relationship with common interests and heart-warming healing. Trust plays a main part in the story, as does selflessness. These characteristics, along with Grandma and Grandpa’s adherence to prayer, make this a truly Christian work of art.

The Good

I enjoyed this story line. Having studied music myself, the idea of a music student who doesn’t like country music brought a smile to my face. Classically trained vocalists are taught to “leave the country at home” in order to learn correct vowel sounds. Not that there’s anything actually wrong with country.

The characters made sense. One with a large family. One with a broken family. And two that make family a priority. I liked that. They aren’t polar opposites and they don’t have everything in common. But they do want the same thing.

Burke didn’t spend and innate amount of time discussing how hot her characters are. A pet peeve of mine, this made me soo happy. Instead, she wove most of the descriptions into the story naturally. She also did a great job of showing that love isn’t something immediately born, but something that comes when two people decide to put in the time.

The Okay

While there were occasional physical-reaction descriptors, I found the book mostly lacking when it came to how the characters reacted to their environment. The suspenseful sections (and there are plenty) have few sentences where the racing hearts and rolling drops of sweat are the focus–the subject of a short sentence, an incomplete thought. A way to help the reader focus on physical reactions as well as the story line. These are important in storytelling.

When I read, I want my physical reactions to mimic those written in the book. I may not sweat and my heart rate may not spike, but I might read faster. My eyes might widen. I might wrinkle my nose in disgust. But Burke’s writing did not bring those reactions. And there was so much possibility for it, it kind of made me sad.

There were a few spots with minor typos–missing words and a couple of other spots with extra words, but I easily recognized what Burke meant, and compared to some books, these typos were minor. Overall, her writing is good.

The Official Blurb of A Guarded Love

An unsuspecting college student is inadvertently thrust into the paparazzi spotlight when a country music star mingles at a local karaoke club. After an unexpected photo surfaces online, the power of clickbait media sends two people from different worlds on a collision course with destiny.

A break from touring proves to be anything but relaxing, as Landon Ross navigates a whirlwind of tabloid manipulation, crazed fans and heightened security protocol. Each detail of his life is carefully structured and scheduled. But the unexpected arrival of a talented local music major makes him re-evaluate everything.

More info

Purchase your copy of A Guarded Love on Amazon.

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A Guarded Love Blog Tour

Visit these websites to read more reviews of A Guarded Love and receive more entries in the giveaway listed below!

June 1st Crossroad Reviews
June 2nd Community Bookstop
June 3rd TBA
June 4th Bibilo Leviosa
June 5th Bonnie Gets a Say
June 6th Fire and Ice
June 7th TBA
June 8th My Book a Day
June 9th Baroness’ Book Trove
June 10th Movie Review Mom
June 11th Kameo Monson
June 12th LUW Romance Writers
June 13th Book.Amour
June 14th The Phantom Paragrapher

Giveaway Information

Win prizes by leaving comments on A Guarded Love review posts throughout the blog tour (follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter square below) and by visiting Adelia Burke’s Facebook group (use the link provided in the Rafflecopter square). Prizes include free online courses and eBooks. KameoMonson.com is not running said contest and is unaware of the rules. Please contact Trina Boice with questions at trinaboice@gmail.com

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review and participation in the blog tour. All opinions are honest and my own.
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Goodbye Nauvoo: A Book Review

Based on real events Goodbye, Nauvoo by Marie Woodward tells the story of three women who battle their fears as Latter-day Saints prepare to leave their beloved homes behind.

Marie Woodward introduced her first book, Goodbye, Nauvoo, to the public in November 2019. A dramatized history of her pioneer ancestors, Woodward relates the stories of three women who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These women traveled to Illinois during the height of threatening mobs and before the martyrdom of Joseph Smith Junior in the mid-19th century.

My Thoughts on Goodbye, Nauvoo

As a teenager, I’d walk into my parents’ bedroom and search the shelves for something new to read. Oftentimes, I looked for Latter-day Saint historical fiction. Mom occasionally suggested one of the books on the shelves, and like most genres, I’d digest it quickly.

Those of us with ancestors who lived during the birth of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ often feel closer to them when reading their stories and other stories from their time. Much of our religious knowledge and culture come from that time period.

And our ancestors didn’t simply form a church and worship together. In a country that touts religious freedom, they lived through threatening mobs. Mobs who beat, robbed, and killed many of them before chasing all of them from their homes because of their religion… and the government turned a blind eye.

Being a Latter-day Saint wasn’t easy. Those of us who are their descendants are grateful for the sacrifices they made and the faith they instilled in their children. It provided us with the gift and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Memories of these feelings surfaced when I discovered Goodbye, Nauvoo, and I chose to read it. Woodward set the story in Nauvoo at a time when the Saints prepared to leave the city for what later became Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Good

Goodbye, Nauvoo includes some lesser-known historical facts. It touches on the sentiments after founder Joseph Smith Junior’s murder. And mentions certain groups, such as the Rigdonites, who broke away from the Church after the Prophet’s death. Readers learn of the hardships Saints faced when selling their property as well as how they thronged to the Nauvoo Temple and feared the mobs while holding to their faith.

The book flows well. Woodward did a good job of mirroring one true story with a fictional one–Giving the book a nice lift and creating my favorite part. When she used fiction to fill in the blanks, she chose appropriate-to-the-time situations.

The Okay

Today’s authors tend to repeat the mantra “show don’t tell.” It reminds us that people want to immerse themselves in the story. While reading Goodbye, Nauvoo, I was an outsider looking in. The book tells readers how each character felt, the thoughts that they had, and why. I struggled to connect to the characters because of this. A certain amount of “telling” is good, even necessary, but I prefer less than what is found in Goodbye, Nauvoo.

I believe Woodward, whether accidentally or on purpose, set the characters apart from the audience in order to stay as true to her family history as possible–something she explained in the back-matter as important to her. Readers who expect that will receive better enjoyment from the story.

Knowing the history

While some details of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are given, Goodbye, Nauvoo glosses over much of it. Readers who know the history will better appreciate this book. Woodward hasn’t set out to explain all of what happened to this religious group. To cover such a great amount of history would take volumes upon volumes.

People who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should still be able to understand the basics of the story. In fact, they may find themselves wanting to learn more about this rarely known tidbit of American history. Afterall, Latter-day Saints were chased from the early United States, then helped settle much of the west. But Goodbye, Nauvoo won’t provide more than a basic insight into that history.

The official blurb of Goodbye, Nauvoo

Goodbye, Nauvoo is based on the lives of three real women from a pioneer family: Martha, a young mother who wants nothing more than to see the completion of the Nauvoo temple and to keep her family together; Lydia, who doesn’t believe she could ever let herself love again after the death of her husband Danny; and Lucy, who wrestles with her own past demons as she struggles to parent her daughters. All three women learn about love, family, and forgiveness in a town they can no longer call home.

more info

Purchase your copy of Goodbye Nauvoo on Amazon.

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I purchased this book: all opinions are honestly my own.
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One Minute to Midnight: A Book Review

Louis Finley wants to get married, but first, he must overcome his family’s unseemly reputation in town. Can he? Read One Minute to Midnight to find out.

One Minute to Midnight by Jessica Marie Holt continues the Unsung Legacies collection as a stand-alone story that includes characters you’ve come to love in the other books.

My thoughts about One Minute to Midnight

I originally read One Minute to Midnight, not for review, but as a beta reader. Beta readers share their opinions about a book with the author, make small suggestions, and sometimes catch minor typos.

The experience can be both daunting and wonderful. In some cases, you read books that need months to years worth of work. Other times, you read stories so well-written from the start that you immediately fall in love. Those are the kinds of beta-read books you’ll see reviewed here.

Basics of the Story

If you’ve read Sunlight and Shadows, then I only have to mention that One Minute to Midnight follows the Finley family – mainly Louis Finley. Of course, you’ll also recognize Big Jim, Betty, Dottie, Jesse, and other favorite characters from the collection.

Louis has a lot to overcome after his older brothers and depressed father created an unseemly reputation for his family. But his desire to marry the girl of his dreams fills him with determination to make a living. Unfortunately, nearly every business owner in town turns him away, despite their advertisements for needed help. In the end, Louis looks to Big Jim for work, the man hurt most by his missing brother Walter.

Set in the late 1800s, this book takes you to the South where hardworking men struggle to see people for who they really are. A trip north shows city men aren’t much different. But sometimes, when everything seems convoluted and impossible–and maybe it is–those same men discover the truth.

Only Good

Toward the end of my reading, I had to wait for Holt to write chapters as I read. That was hard–way worse than waiting for your favorite TV show. The characters attached themselves to my heart. Even better, Holt managed to twist the story just right, and it didn’t end as I expected. I definitely approved!

One Minute to Midnight comes filled with perfect sentiment and well-rounded, imperfect characters who love their family and have the desire to forgive. Holt includes some amazing and accurate descriptions of New York from this time period. But it’s the story that captured my heart.

If historical fiction with a riveting emotional pull and a touch of sweet romance (but not too much) makes you turn the pages before doing the dishes, you’ve been warned. This book will have your heart like it has mine. So, if you can manage a sink full of dirty dishes, then I highly recommend this exceptional book!

Official Blurb

North Carolina, 1875–With one brother in the grave, another on the run, and his father’s farm failing farther and farther into disrepair, twenty-year-old Louis Finley must do what he can to secure his own future and save the family he has left. But first, he has to face the past, and find out what he’s really made of.

Other Info

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Vasilisa: A Book Review

Vasilisa knows she’s forest born, but what exactly does that mean? Others call her ogre-child, but that can’t be true. After all, she’s good, not evil.

M.L. Farb, author of the King’s Trials duology, has created Vasilisa, a fantasy fairy tale youth and adults won’t want to miss. First, read my review. Second, read the book. Third, enjoy the back matter that Farb stocked with questions, explanations, and definitions!

My Thoughts on Vasilisa

I may write women’s fiction, but I am a sucker for good fantasy. In fact, it may be my favorite genre. Why do I write women’s fiction then? Because I have no idea how to create worlds filled with magic and wonder. So, for now, I stick with what I understand: stories with a different kind of magic.

That said, I won’t set foot near poorly written fantasy, and plenty of that lands on Amazon. But self-published M.L. Farb is up there with some of my favorite fantasy authors. Jeff Wheeler, M.L. Forman, and Brandon Mull, to name a few.

Basics of the Story

Vasilisa takes readers into a world echoing that of Slavic Russia. The main character, born in the forest, now works as a servant on the lands owned by her best friend’s parents. Her forest heritage gives her strength, but to keep her mother and friend safe, she often allows others to bully her.

Like me, Vasilisa yearns for the forest. She aches to return to her birch trees. Her dreams call her there, but she has to wait. And waiting is especially difficult when she keeps getting in trouble. The lack of knowledge surrounding her forest heritage only adds to her longing.

This incredible novel tells of a young woman who finds herself while protecting those she loves. Called evil by others, now she proves her skills of trickery and deception can also be used for good.

Only Good

Farb labels her books YA, but adults will love Vasilisa as much as any other fantasy book. Public unrest, self-discovery, war, romance, and the choice to be good or evil pack these pages. Teachers and parents, this book is perfect to read together. The questions in the back only make it better. Whether you need a book for yourself or your child, you can count on a perfectly clean read with adventure at every turn!

Official Blurb

Vasilisa has always been strong. She’s strong enough to break the arm of the bully that daily taunts her. She won’t because she and her mother are servants at the Orlov manor, and her mother would be punished for her retaliation. Instead, Vasilisa bides her time until she is sixteen and can return to the forest.

Only Staver, the master’s son, shows her kindness. His friendship pulls as strong as the forest, but their classes are divided forever by law. She is a forest born, fatherless servant and her future at the manor holds mockery filled drudgery.

War threatens. The forest calls. Will she stay to protect the one who can never be more than a friend, or flee to the peace that the forest offers?

More Info

Purchase your copy of Vasilisa on Amazon; preorder for $2.99 through May 17, 2020

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I received a copy of Vasilisa in exchange of this review. All opinions are honest and my own. 
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The Other Family: A Book Review

Ally Anderson’s daughter needs her help, especially after a peanut scare at school. But is Ally ready for all that comes her way when the doctor requests genetic testing?

The Other Family by Loretta Nyhan is book number six for this author! Nyhan’s books range from middle-age coming-of-age stories to paranormal-witchy stories. Like me, she admits to not living well without chocolate. And really, can you blame her? She also loves green tea and her Brady-Bunch family that she’s raising in the Chicago area.

My Thoughts on The Other Family

I chose to read Nyhan’s most recent novel after realizing it deals with similar topics as I NOT David. A skeptical spouse and a child with a medical condition in the same genre as my book? Yes, please! I wanted to see how her characters handled situations and familiarize myself with her writing style.

What’s the basics of the story?

The Other Family deals with main character Ally Anderson and her life as she tries to deal with her daughter’s autoimmune problems and allergies. But that’s not all she has on her plate. Her soon-to-be-ex throws a few kinks in her direction. Moreover, her daughter’s latest doctor thinks genetic testing would help narrow down the possible diagnoses. However, Ally is adopted, and her mom has never spoken of her birth family. And, of course, Ally meets some relatives and then can’t figure out how to tell her mom.

The Good

This book, written in first person, has several quirky events and characters to add just the right amount of humor. Its current Amazon rankings, which are above the top 15 books in both women’s humorous fiction and humorous literary fiction, easily prove that point.

For me, the main character’s newly found family, best described as lovingly eccentric, balances Ally’s serious mother well. But, occasionally, they seem a little over the top. Still, they know how to love life even when hardship strikes. They also understand what’s most important in life. Those things say a lot, and I’d probably invite them into my home for a short period of time.

The Not Bad

Ally, on the other hand, is one high-strung character who doesn’t give up. Many mothers of children with health conditions find themselves in similar positions. Ally takes on the world from every direction. She sets some important things on the back burner because the rest of life exhausts her. And she finds herself in a few pickles because of it. In many ways, she’s realistic.

She drives me crazy–batty.

We generally love books with characters we can relate to. Those who make us cry, laugh, and smile. Ally made me want to scream. She’s the mother who does everything for her child by running around like a chicken with its head cut off. It’s her weakness. Nyhan did a great job building her weakness. Ally knows what she wants. She’s determined to get there. But she takes some asinine steps along the way.

None of that makes her a bad character. She’s just not a character for me. I didn’t relate to any of the characters like I wanted to. So you’ll understand why The Other Family isn’t my favorite book of all time. But it could still be yours.

Clean factors

The Other Family contains a spattering of moderate curse words as well as separated-but-still-married characters who contemplate dating others. The book is clean of sexual discussion but does have one slightly funny moment of accidental nudity. The scene is harmless, but I mention it for those who might feel differently. While a book I consider clean enough for older teenagers, its subject matter is for adults.

The Official Blurb

With a dissolving marriage, strained finances, and her life in flux, Ally Anderson longs for normal. Her greatest concerns, though, are the health problems of her young daughter, Kylie. Symptoms point to a compromised immune system, but every doctor they’ve seen has a different theory. Then comes hope for some clarity.

It’s possible that Kylie’s illness is genetic, but Ally is adopted. A DNA test opens up an entirely new path. And where it leads is a surprise: to an aunt Ally never knew existed. She’s a little wild, very welcoming, and ready to share more of the family history than Ally ever imagined.

Coping with a skeptical soon-to-be-ex husband, weathering the cautions of her own resistant mother, and getting maddeningly close to the healing Kylie needs, Ally is determined to regain control of her life. This is her chance to embrace uncertainty and the beauty of family—both the one she was born into and the one she chose.

Other Info

Purchase your copy of The Other Family on Amazon.

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I received no compensation or free merchandise for this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

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Book Review: The Redpoint Crux

When Red finds herself no longer able to qualify for rock-climbing competitions, she returns home, defeated, to the ballet.

Morgan Shamy’s personal knowledge of ballet and piano along with her husband’s gold-medal expertise in rock climbing makes her uniquely qualified to write the Redpoint Crux, where the three skills are woven together in a retelling of the novel Phantom of the Opera and the ballet Giselle.

My Thoughts on The Redpoint Crux

After reading the description of this particular book, I wondered if it could be a retelling of the Phantom of the Opera. A few phrases stood out, making me think it might be. These included: “A series of murders” and “a tortured young man who lives beneath the depth of the theater.”

The first chapter of the Redpoint Crux takes place in the mountains where the main character, Red, finds herself in quite a predicament… dying after falling from a cliff. An older sensation, similar to being whisked back in time, opens the next scene as readers are introduced to the theater and its new owner, Liam.

Most of the story takes place in the theater, which is located in Halifax, Canada.

Being a person who enjoyed the Phantom of the Opera novel by Gaston Leroux, my mind started making connections. I found Christine, Raoul, Meg, Carlotta, Madame Giry, a few other characters, and obviously, the phantom within this new novel. Throughout the story, other similarities came into view, a mirror with a hidden passage leading into a private room, a chandelier scene, a music box, a torture room of sorts, a violin at a funeral… a noose.

Of course, the story line caught my attention, too. But as I continued reading, the Redpoint Crux diverted from the Phantom of the Opera. Some characters changed. becoming different than they first appeared. Other mysteries popped up–mysteries I now recognize as similar to the story told throughout the ballet Giselle. Ghost-like ballerinas, a mentally-tortured character, a hero, and a love story that I hope isn’t over.

The difference between the chapters that take place at the theater and the chapters that take place away from it is fairly stark. Candles and behaviors similar to those found in the late 19th to early 20th-centuries with tutus and pressed suits (except for the main character, who misses rock climbing and wears casual clothes) fill the pages surrounding the theater. Modern technology and speech patterns cover the pages of the scenes away from the theater. These differences work well together throughout the story, and combine toward the end when Red must make a choice.

As I discovered similarities between the Redpoint Crux and the Phantom of the Opera, I worried they were too alike. I worried because the author’s description doesn’t mention a retelling. But in the end, I enjoyed The Redpoint Crux. Morgan Shamy writes well. She does a great job setting up a scene and making your heart race at the right moments. The ending of her novel surprised me some, and I hope there is a sequel planned. I still have questions that a character promised to reveal answers to. And they haven’t been answered yet. So, don’t take too long, Morgan; I’ll be waiting.

I do suggest the author mention her story is a retelling in the description. That way people familiar with the other stories (especially the well-known Phantom of the Opera) know to expect that. However, the fact that it is a retelling shouldn’t stop anyone from reading the Redpoint Crux. The differences are enough to make it time-worthy.

The Official Blurb

When Megan Van Helsburg gets kicked off the U.S.A. Climbing Team, she has no choice but to return home and leave her climbing career behind. With no coach, no money, and no prospects, she joins the corps de ballet determined to improve her strength and agility. But the ballet theater is in dire straits. Not only do a series of murders break loose, but the ballerinas are becoming deathly thin and brain-dead. As Megan investigates, she meets Bellamy, a tortured young man who lives beneath the depths of the theater. Megan falls hard and fast for Bellamy, who becomes her mentor, but something is off about him.

It isn’t until the company announces they’re doing Giselle for the fall performance that Megan realizes the parallels between the ghost story and the lives around her. Megan must find a way to not only save her climbing career, but balance her feelings for Bellamy, and stop the murders and dying girls before she, too, is numbered among the dead.

More info

Pre-order your copy of The Redpoint Crux on Amazon

Follow Morgan Shamy on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and her website.

I received this a copy of this book for free in exchange of a honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Book Review: Time Twist

Arianna agrees to decorate the Victorian mansion, hoping for a break from reality. Instead, she discovers a different kind of reality.

Jeanie R. Davis, author of Time Twist, calls herself an Arizona transplant. As mother of four daughters and a grandmother with extensive travel experience, Davis somehow manages to write wonderful books for us to enjoy. Her experiences certainly add flavor to her writing talents.

My Thoughts on Time Twist

Until Time Twist, I hadn’t read a time-travel novel in years. But I have watched a couple of time-travel Hallmark movies. I enjoyed the differences in Davis’ story. People don’t wake up in some weird century with no way to get home or with no understanding of how they got to the 21st-century. From the start, Christopher knows how he came to exist in the world of motorized vehicles and cell phones, and by the time he meet Arianna, he’s figured out modern society. Arianna doesn’t spend time introducing him to carbonated soda or the microwave. In fact, she has no idea Chris is from the future.

So, instead of the bumbling, but adorable Englishman who can’t figure out the 21st-century, readers find intrigue, adventure, and a love story worth reading. Arianna, an interior decorator, deals with a mad-man of a client, and Christopher supports her in the background as he works to solve his own mystery.

The first chapter of Time Twist immediately grabbed my attention. However, the second chapter almost felt foreign as I found myself in the beginning scenes of a Hallmark-style novel. Then, that specific trope fell away in an appropriate and pleasing manner as the stories of the first and second chapters wove together.

As I read and learned the backgrounds of the characters–the disappointments in their lives and the pains and agonies they’d experienced–I came to expect the story to go a particular way. It didn’t. It’s travel down the story-telling path worked well, but still left me with a minor question I hope to have answered as I read the rest of the series. In no way, though, was the book a disappointment. I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it.

I recommend Time Twist for readers 14-years-old and above, though it is adult fiction. Readers will find some discussion of sex before marriage and how it relates to Arianna’s ‘old-fashion morals’ as well as some violence. There are also a couple of kissing scenes.

Official Blurb

Arianna Miller tosses her luggage and her hopes into her Subaru and sets out to prove her talent—by decorating a Victorian mansion thirty miles from nowhere. She needs a fresh start and a break from painful memories. However, she is soon haunted by reminders of her past and endangered by foreboding mysteries.

Christopher Flemming is determined to stop his father’s crime spree, which began in nineteenth century London and now threatens present day Colorado. He must find and destroy the time-traveling machine that brought them forward in time. More importantly, he needs to save Arianna.
Because of Christopher’s blurred focus, Arianna finds her attraction to him untenable. She wants to help him, but he refuses to reveal his connection to the mansion.

Everything changes when Arianna stumbles onto the time machine before Christopher does. Will her future end up in the past?

More Info

Purchase your copy of Time Twist from Amazon. You can also pre-order your copy of Time Trap: The Somerset Series Book Two, which is available March 16, 2020.

Follow Jeanie R. Davis on Facebook, Goodreads, and her website.

I received this book for free in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Book Review Flight of the Spark

Iskra lives in a small village with an abundance of laws to keep her safe, but do they keep her from happiness too?

Award-winning author Evelyn Puerto has given us a gift: Flight of the Spark Book One of the Outlawed Myth Fantasy Series. Like many authors, she spent years writing her first novel, but as you’ll see below, those years were well spent.

A lover of borscht and liberty, Puerto presumably also loves her psychotic cat.

My Thoughts on Flight of the Spark

Most fantasy takes a few chapters for me to settle into as I get used to the world the author creates and work to pronounce the names of the characters (perhaps the one thing I’d change about the genre). Flight of the Spark starts with Iskra, the main character, traveling from her little village of Gishin to Shinroo with a friend and the traders. Because Puerto took the time to introduce the world in a way I could process as I read, the story of this 15-year-old traveling a dangerous path wasn’t hard to grasp. It opened up my ability to savor the story without worry of forgetting some worldly law.

At first, I expected my review to discuss how Flight of the Spark shows the vast differences between communism and capitalism. People burdened by the laws forced on them in the name of safety, and the people who soar because few laws keep them from their dreams–aka the riskers.

But the more I read, the more I realized that while the story does have similarities to communism with leaders who live lavish lives while commoners live in cookie-cutter hovels, it focuses more on one emotion everyone experiences: fear. The villagers surrounding Iskra may be burdened by laws and aspects of communism, but fear keeps them in bondage.

Fear kept Iskra in bondage. Then Xico, a risker, saves her from a bandit, and a new world opens up to her. With that new world fear crashes down, and she has to decide what matters most in life.

The story, alone, intrigued and later amazed me, but the writing and characterization reaches levels every author wishes to attain. The years Puerto spent perfecting this novel shines through, brightening her talent for all to see.

Flight of the Spark falls under the YA fantasy genre. However, it does have closed-door sex between a married man and a prostitute, which is shown later in a negative light through his grief. There is also closed-door sex between husband and wife.

The Official Blurb

Iskra doesn’t question the rules. The rules are there to keep her safe from those who are deemed unsafe or unfair. Anyone who breaks the rules is taken, never to be heard from again. But that’s the price everyone gladly pays for peace and safety. And no one wants to live like the Riskers–barbarians who reject order and justice, and could kill or be killed at any moment.

When a friend is taken because of Iskra, the guilt forces her to do the unthinkable: seek out the Riskers. Iskra’s quest to save her friend quickly entangles her fate with a cryptic prophecy and a young Risker named Xico, who ensnares her heart and is willing to put it all on the line to win her.

With every risk Iskra takes, the closer she gets to true freedom. But every choice carries a consequence. The choices she makes set events she never imagined into motion, and the price of her freedom could very well be her life and the life of the man she loves.

More Info

Purchase your copy of Flight of the Spark on Amazon

Follow Evelyn Puerto on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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