All posts filed under: Book Reviews

Hope at Dawn by Stacy Henrie (Of Love and War #1)

The Specs: HOPE AT DAWN (Of Love and War, Bk 1) by Stacy Henrie, 2014, Forever (an imprint of Grand Central Publishing), $8.00/C$9.00, pb. 384pp, 978-1-455-59880-9 Livy Campbell is the daughter of an all-American family; with two brothers fighting overseas, she desperately wants to help her family and accepts the first job she’s offered, as a schoolteacher in Hilden, Iowa. Friedrick Wagner, a handsome German-American living in Hilden, just wants to provide for and protect his family, but the fear and prejudice against people like him makes that increasingly difficult. Complicating things is his growing attraction to Livy, a match that can never be. With an uncertain future ahead of them, Livy and Friedrick must tread carefully to retain their faith and their freedom. Condensing a timeline of real events in 1918-1919 including the liberty loan drives and a language law passed by the Governor of Iowa in 1918; Henrie sets the fictional town and characters of Hilden in a hotbed of anti-German sentiment and fear. While the romantic tension could be stronger and Friedrick’s …

The Pelican Bride by Beth White (Gulf Coast Chronicles #1)

It is an age of exploration where men, out of greed or naked courage, fought for their own destinies and their women helped shape  a civilized community out of the marshes. Southern native Beth White is no stranger to the historical genre but she enters new territory with The Pelican Bride, the first in a series of romantic adventure novels set in eighteenth century French Louisiana. Huguenots in flight, Geneviève Gaillain and her sister Aimée, escape France and journey to the New World where they’ve each agreed to marry a settler. As both girls wade through the murky waters of finding a good spouse and surviving the difficulties of Colonial life, the secrets they brought with them may drown the community. Following the fates of the “Pelican Brides” of 1704, we discover with them the joys and disappointments of matrimony, and the faith and courage that is a lifeline in the midst of brutality and tragedy. In other words, this is not your typical mail order bride story. With a fast-paced plot full of dynamic characters inspired by the real settlers of the …

The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

The World’s Fair of 1898 was the biggest thing to ever hit the Western town of Omaha. The Fair was held in conjunction with the Indian Congress and included a visit by President William McKinley and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Fair-goers flocked to Omaha from miles around, and with the promise of their purses came thieves, opportunists, prostitutes, and performers setting up shop along the fair’s Midway and the Grand Court. When a hot air balloon stolen from the Fair crashes on the farmhouse of the Sisters Egan, they take in its injured pilot, Ferret Skerritt. Ferret, a ventriloquist and con, weaves them a tale of his grand love affair with Cecily, a beautiful actress closely guarded by a one-eyed witch. The deeper the sisters are drawn into his fable, the more the magic of the fair is unveiled, complete with spiritualists, masquerades, a Chamber of Horrors and other surprises. The Swan Gondola is a beautiful portrayal of love and loss set against a glorious backdrop so vivid, it becomes an entire world. The …

A Match of Wits by Jen Turano (Ladies of Distinction #4)

The Specs: A MATCH OF WITS (Ladies of Distinction, Bk 4) by Jen Turano, Bethany House, 2014, $14.99, pb, 348pp, 9780764211270 The Wild West had better watch out when Agatha Watson comes to town! Cooling her heels after a hot story earned her more than a few enemies, the last thing Agatha expected to uncover in the Colorado territory was Zayne Beckett, the man who broke her heart two years ago. Zayne is in no condition to be left on his own and since Agatha always knows best, she’s determined to bring Zayne with her back to New York, whether he likes it or not. But her time away hasn’t made her any less of a target and Zayne thinks he’s man enough to keep Agatha out of danger, but he didn’t count on risking his heart in the process. Turano’s knack for comic timing shines in her latest book and many of the borderline absurd situations Agatha finds herself in are laugh-out-loud funny, especially if they involve a certain P-I-G named Matilda. In many ways, …

Truth Be Told by Carol Cox

The Specs: TRUTH BE TOLD Carol Cox, Bethany House, 2014, $14.99, pb, 350pp, 9780764209574 Arizona Territory, 1893. Amelia Wagner loved the summers spent alongside her father, working at his newspaper business in Granite Springs, dedicated to bringing truth to light as the masthead states. So when it’s Amelia’s turn to take over the business, it comes natural to her to pick up her father’s investigation into the Great Western Investment Company. Befriended by Benjamin Stone, one of Great Western’s newest employees, has Amelia found an advantageously placed ally or are Benjamin’s attentions just a distraction? Because something is going on in Granite Springs and someone doesn’t want Amelia to learn the whole story. Cox returns to her beloved Old West with another inspirational romance. Like her other novels, this one packs a lot of warmth, a dose of adventure, and humor, but the crisis is a bit too pitch perfect (real phrase?) for the genre – once you’re there, you know how it all plays out. With the investigative element in the plot, fans of …

Beauty and the Beast by Marianna Mayer

Beauty and the Beast by Marianna Mayer, illustrations by Mercer Mayer I’ve saved the best for last. This is the book made me fall in love with fairy tales. Mayer uses richly detailed paintings to illustrate this classic story of Beauty and the Beast, setting it somewhere in the medieval era. Mayer depicts the Beast’s strange and magnificent castle by including elements of Egyptian and Art Nouveau influences. Mayer is a master at hair. It’s one of the little things that I love about this book from Belle’s father’s beard to the fur on the Beast’s cloak, and every single illustration that features Beauty close-up. Her hair is gorgeously done with the individual strands that are first lined and then filled in… it just looks so realistic. It’s beautiful. Also, Beauty is a bibliophile and when she’s sitting in the tower, book in hand, so regal in her natural grace, posture and yes, her stunning jewelry, well, I just wanted to be her. Speaking of jewelry, I love the butterfly wing coronet in one scene, …

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (Cruel Beauty Universe)

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart. Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny. Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him. With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people. But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls …

King Midas and the Golden Touch by Charlotte Craft

King Midas and the Golden Touch, as told by Charlotte Craft, illustrated by K.Y. Craft (Morrow Junior Books) I’ve always liked the story of King Midas which began as a Greek myth about a king who in his quest for gold, stands to lose everything he truly loves. What really stands out for me about this particular rendition are the beautifully detailed illustrations by Craft of a king in all his glory, and the apple of his eye, his daughter Aurelia. I wish I knew why dogs played such a role in the background of Craft’s illustrations though. Just like in Sleeping Beauty, here too the castle is filled with canine companions which humanizes these graceful servants and royal occupants. What makes King Midas an interesting figure compared to other fairy tale characters who falter – whether by greed or naiveté (ex: The Goose Girl), is that he pursues his own redemption. He isn’t condemned to his fate and he isn’t rescued from the outside. While you can argue that the legend of King Midas …

The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Ruth Sanderson

Set in the 15th c., costumes and knowledge about period dancing provided by Nan Hurlburt. One major change that I liked about this version is the disappearance of each of the princes who tries to discover where the 12 girls are going to.  In some other stories I’ve read, the punishment for failure is death. I also like the introduction of Michael as the garden boy to Lina, the youngest of the sisters.  In some versions, the hero is represented as a hardened soldier, a bit older, and is matched to the eldest girl.  In this one, there is an appropriate similarity in ages between the potential match that is a modern update, but welcome. The cause of the enchantment of the princes (without spoiling it) is one hat I haven’t seen before, and quite unexpected.  I don’t quite understand the conditions of the spell that is cast but since it is just a fairy tale, perhaps we don’t need to. The princesses’ costumes are of course, glorious in golds, greens, and blues, some with …

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Come and mend your broken hearts here. Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her — beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing — it’s taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late. (GoodReads description) The Specs ISBN: 0062001035 , hd, 472pp, 2011 by GreenWillow Books, YA, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance There is so much humor in this book, I love it.  This is one of my favorite moments, near the beginning of the book (so not spoiling anything): “[…] Azalea looked down to see a pudgy little hand reaching out from beneath the tree, grabbing at his trouser ankle. Azalea cringed. “Not …