Saturday, February 28, 2015

Winner of THE GOOD GIRL Give-Away

The winner of a hardcover copy of THE GOOD GIRL by Mary Kubica is...

Kelliann Barton

Please contact me within the week with your information so that you can receive this fun thriller.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To My Friends - Book Review

Whenever Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks I sit up straighter and listen more carefully. He might just be my favorite speaker during LDS General Conference. I love that he brings the scriptures to life for me and reminds me of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ. I like that he pulls no punches. He means what he says and he says what he means. His words speak to my heart.

To My Friends : Messages of Counsel and Comfort is a collection of talks given by Jeffrey R. Holland over the last several years. Rand and I read them together and enjoyed being reminded of his words and his spirit as he lifts and encourages us to follow Jesus Christ.

Many of the talks we have heard before but some of them are new to us--either given at BYU and BYU-I Devotionals as well as a talk given to a national meeting of Christian evangelical leaders. It is true that these talks are available to listen to or read for free online but it is nice to have all of his important messages included in one beautiful book. Holland's testimony and spirit is strong in this collection.

To My Friends : Messages of Counsel and Comfort by Jeffrey R. Holland is published by Deseret Book in December 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of To My Friends. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Good Girl - Review and Give-away

Eve was completely surprised by the phone call. The caller, her daughter's friend, had exhausted all other possibilities looking for Mia and in desperation hoped that Mia might just be with her mother. Mia has disappeared. Immediately a search is organized for the daughter of a well-known Chicago judge and his socialite wife.

Told from the perspectives of Eve, Mia's mother; Gabe, the detective assigned to the case and Colin, the man who kidnapped Mia, The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is a page-turning mystery with plenty of twists and turns.

I've been in a bit of a reading slump--my nightstand overflowing with half finished books. I knew the She Reads Twitter chat with Mary was coming up and so I pulled The Good Girl from my shelves hoping that it would keep my easily distracted mind interested to the conclusion. It was exactly what I needed to break the bad pattern.

I especially enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold from the perspective of the perpetrator. This is a rare treat and being in his confused and dangerous mind was fascinating. The structure of the novel being told by three narrators with some sections before and after enhanced the mystery and the character development. The style was different but even as a debut author, Kubica makes it work.

The mystery kept me guessing but provided enough clues so the shocking ending was still plausible. With interesting characters; a fast-paced plot and an intriguing mystery, Kubica delivers a satisfying thriller without the gore.

**There is a character who swears.**

The Good Girl is published by MIRA and released in July 2014. The paperback printing of The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is out now and to celebrate I have a hardcover copy of The Good Girl to give away to one lucky reader.

To enter leave a comment on this post. The give-away will be open to entries until Friday, February 27th at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and be announced on Saturday, February 28th. US only.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Good Girl through She Reads. The give away copy was provided by the publishers. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Sunshine Away - Book Review

The peace and security, of the people living in the beautiful Pine Creek neighborhood of Baton Rouge, are shattered when golden track-star Lindy Simpson, just fifteen years old, is raped not far from her own home. Before this moment, the neighbors have been a close group of friends. The kids have grown up playing together in the woods behind their homes. The adults have held barbecues and helped each other with their yard work. Following the violent act, everything has changed. Several neighbors are suspect. People are distrustful and guarded. But the biggest change is in Lindy, who withdraws, changes and loses that early sparkle of innocence and naivete.

The narrator of My Sunshine Away is a fourteen year old boy who has long had a secret crush on Lindy. And he's a suspect of the crime.

Using magical language, My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh transports the reader back to the nostalgic days of the narrator's youth. Since the narrator (I honestly can't find a mention of his name) and I are the same age, as he tells of his experiences as a fifth grader watching the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster I was mesmerized by our shared history. Full of the recent historical events that shaped the narrator and most Americans, he includes these events and the reactions and feelings to thoroughly bring his characters to life.

My Sunshine Away is a coming of age novel. Just as the tragic and horrifying events of Lindy's rape shape her youth and the lives of her family, the narrator is also deeply affected by the crime and the shattering of an ideal. His own childhood is changed by this moment. It's powerful and moving and a good reminder that and individual's choices and actions affect so many others for good or bad.

The novel is also a mystery, as doubt and suspicion is cast on several neighbors. The reader can not fully be sure that the narrator is not guilty of the crime though he frequently professes his innocence. Well plotted with just enough evidence to keep the reader guessing, My Sunshine Away is a compelling read.

At times heart wrenching and painful, the novel is also filled with heroics and hope. I hope to encourage other friends to read My Sunshine Away because I'm anxious to discuss the elements and themes of the novel that impressed me. It would be a fabulous book club read.

There is some bad language in the novel.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh is published by Putnam and released on February 10, 2015. 

**I received a complimentary copy of My Sunshine Away. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Winner of The Secret of Midwives Give-away

Happy Valentines Day!

The winner of an ARC copy of The Secret of Midwives 
by Sally Hepworth is...

Ashley Walker

Congratulations! Please contact me with your information within a week to claim your prize.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Crazy Love You - Book Review

Ian, a graphic novelist, has fallen in love with Megan and wants to marry her. She's beautiful, sweet and fulfills his dreams of a settling down and having a family. But Ian's past and especially his childhood friendship with Priss is getting in the way of his relationship with Megan.

Priss has been his closest friend since tragedy shook his childhood. Bullied in school, Ian was regularly defended by Priss whose violent vengeance unnerved him but inspired the popular graphic novels Ian would later write. Priss has always been his defender. His protector. And he's been grateful, but now that he's becoming closer with Megan, they seem to become the target of Priss's violence and sinister retribution.

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger kept me on the edge for the entire book. Priss was a frightening character--dangerous and unpredictable. At the same time, Ian is a completely unreliable narrator and I couldn't quite shake the feeling that he was lying throughout the book. Combined, these elements created a rushing, thrilling read that I couldn't put down and was nervous to read at night.

With dark twists and surprises, the plot was riveting and bewildering; suspenseful and chilling. I love a great psychological thriller and Crazy Love You definitely delivered.

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger is published by Touchstone and released on February 10, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of Crazy Love You. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I - Book Review

While reading The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir, I joked that it was so suspenseful--I just couldn't wait to know who Queen Elizabeth I would marry. Of course, everyone knows that Queen Elizabeth was the famous Virgin Queen who died unmarried and without a child heir. However, I thought that she had publicly and adamantly declared that she would never marry very early in her reign. The Marriage Game by Weir details the history of the intrigue Elizabeth played with amorous and political suitors from around Europe. She kept them guessing and courting for years.

Focusing primarily on the relationship between Elizabeth and her childhood friend Robert Dudley, Weir tells the romantic and turbulent story of their courtship, friendship and working alliance. Elizabeth kept Dudley close to her for years--promoting, trusting and teasing him. Rumors of their affair were rampant within the court and Weir uses her experience as a historian and her knowledge of the Tudors to paint a very plausible account of their story.

Previously, I have only read some of Weir's history--The Six Wives of Henry the VIII--which I really enjoyed. I was definitely curious to read her fiction. Truthfully, her style still felt a bit aloof for fiction and it still felt more like a history with dialogue. Once I got used to her style, I really enjoyed learning more about Queen Elizabeth. I've been fascinated with this period of history for many years so I know the basics and political accomplishments of the queen. It was enjoyable and enlightening to read more of Elizabeth's personal relationships and the way she used her marriageability to manipulate world leaders and hold off conflicts with the European countries.

The Marriage Game : A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir is published by Ballantine Books on February 10, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Marriage Game. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Secrets of Midwives - Book Review & Give-away

The midwives who delivered my five babies captured my heart. Their kindness and wisdom blessed my life and the lives of my babies as the midwives shared the precious moments of birth with us. Well educated and in tune with a woman's body, one midwife I now consider a friend, also diagnosed my thyroid issue. I've written more about my experiences with childbirth, certified nurse midwives and hypnobirthing *here*.

So given my history, it was not a surprise that I really enjoyed The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth. Three women. Grandmother, mother and daughter have all become midwives. While their personal beliefs and philosophies about hospitals, doctors, birthing centers and home deliveries differ, they all share they goal of delivering healthy babies from healthy mothers.

Floss and Grace are surprised to discover that Neva is 30 weeks pregnant and that she has hidden this pregnancy from them for so long. Tuned in to the signs of pregnancy, they are shocked that they have completely missed the clues from their granddaughter and daughter. Not only has Neva kept the pregnancy from them, she is remaining mum about who the father is--insisting only that the baby has no father.

Grace is obsessed with finding out who the father of her grandchild is and Floss realizes that keeping her own secret may be hurting those she loves.

The Secrets of Midwives was a captivating read. I read the majority in one evening once I became intrigued by their characters' lives and experiences delivering babies. The women in the story are each different though they've chosen a common profession. They are at times unlikable and abrasive; occasionally soft and vulnerable. They do fall into their specific type-cast roles: the country midwife on her bicycle, the hippy midwife with her oils and massage and the certified nurse midwife delivering in hospitals near emergency medical care. Yet, each woman has an individual personality and becomes a well developed character as the plot moves forward.

There's hardly a time when a gathering of my friends doesn't end up in sharing of birth stories. These emotional moments shape us as women. They're part of our larger story. The delivery scenes in The Secrets of Midwives are dramatic, powerful and beautiful. The novel is heavy on birthing philosophy but ultimately the story wins out and the relationships between Floss, Grace and Neva become more important than the propaganda.

I thoroughly relished the novel. It's well written and perfectly plotted to be a quick, delightful read that pulled at my heartstrings.

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth is published by St. Martin's Press on February 10, 2015.

I have an extra ARC copy of The Secrets of Midwives to give away to one lucky reader.

To enter leave a copy of this post. The contest will be open to entries until Friday, February 13th at 11:59pm MST. One winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Saturday, February 14th. Open to US only.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Secrets of Midwives. No additional compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Tutor - Book Review

From the cover :

A bold and captivating novel about love, passion, and ambition that imagines the muse of William Shakespeare and the tumultuous year they spend together.  

The year is 1590, and Queen Elizabeth’s Spanish Armada victory has done nothing to quell her brutal persecution of the English Catholics. Katharine de L’Isle is living at Lufanwal Hall, the manor of her uncle, Sir Edward. Taught by her cherished uncle to read when a child, Katharine is now a thirty-one-year-old widow. She has resigned herself to a life of reading and keeping company with her cousins and their children. But all that changes when the family’s priest, who had been performing Catholic services in secret, is found murdered. Faced with threats of imprisonment and death, Sir Edward is forced to flee the country, leaving Katharine adrift in a household rife with turmoil.

At this time of unrest, a new schoolmaster arrives from Stratford, a man named William Shakespeare. Coarse, quick-witted, and brazenly flirtatious, Shakespeare swiftly disrupts what fragile peace there is left at Lufanwal. Katharine is at first appalled by the boldness of this new tutor, but when she learns he is a poet, and one of talent, things between them begin to shift, and soon Katharine finds herself drawn into Shakespeare’s verse, and his life, in ways that will change her forever.

Inventive and absorbing, The Tutor is a masterful work of historical fiction, casting Shakespeare in a light we’ve never seen. 

My thoughts :

Just as Katherine is beguiled by the dashing poet, I was charmed and enthralled by Andrea Chapin's novel The Tutor. Katherine is a delightful character. She's smart but not flawless. She's human and susceptible to seduction and the emotions of the heart. It is delightful to see her opposite Shakespeare and imagine that a passionate and equally brilliant woman must have influenced his early poetry.

Filled with dangerous and riveting subplots--a family struggles to stay safe in an atmosphere of political and religious unrest while it appears to implode with intrigues from within--the novel moves at a thrilling pace. The supporting cast is developed enough that even with a large number of characters, they are relatively easy to keep straight.

While the novel is passionate and filled with poetry to stir the soul, I appreciate that it is free from erotic sex scenes. Chapin allows the romantic and sexual tension to build with the shared poetry between Katherine and Will. The portrayal of Will Shakespeare is remarkable. The cunning, brilliant and flamboyant man comes to life within Chapin's pages. He keeps Katherine and the reader on their toes and constantly guessing at his true intentions. 

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin is a mesmerizing and luscious novel filled with romance and mystery. I could barely put it down at night to sleep. 

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin is published by Riverhead Books and releases on February 5, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Tutor. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**