The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack

The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S Kilpack

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Book Review of The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack

Yay! I am so excited that Sadie is back! I’ve fully enjoyed reading Josi Kilpack’s proper romances, but it’s a fun change of pace to get back to Sadie and her mystery-solving skills. Christmas, though? Uhhh…not quite ready for that. I guess I should get ready though, since it’s supposed to snow tonight (ugh…).  I have read a few of Josi Kilpack’s culinary mysteries and have enjoyed them, so when I had the chance to review The Candy Cane Caper I jumped on it. I’m so glad I did.

Blurb:

“This Christmas, Sadie Hoffmiller Cunningham is making a list and checking it twice. For the first time since she and Pete married five years ago, their combined families are gathering for the holidays in Fort Collins, Colorado, for a party that would make Santa and Mrs. Claus proud. She just has to bake the famous Cunningham Candy Cane Cake, make sure the looming snowstorm doesn’t derail everyone’s travel plans, and oh, yes, solve one teensy-tiny mystery before the big day.

At ninety-four and nearly blind, Mary, Sadie’s friend and neighbor, knows this will be her last Christmas. When Sadie learns that someone has stolen antique Christmas ornaments from Mary’s tree, she vows to find the thief, no matter what. The ornaments had been appraised at more than $40,000, but they were worth even more to Mary, who had intended to bequeath them to her great-granddaughter, Joy, as a final gift.

With Pete in Arizona wrapping up a case of his own, it’s up to Sadie to question the residents of Nicholas House, where Mary lives, and deduce who had the means and the motive to steal heirloom ornaments during what should be the most wonderful time of the year. When stories of other thefts surface, Sadie feels like she’s creating a “naughty” list that could rival Santa’s. Identifying the thief, recovering the ornaments, and restoring them to Mary’s tree in time will take a Christmas miracle—and maybe a few extra-special cookies.”

My Book Review:

Someday I want to be more like Sadie. I want to bake delicious cookies and desserts for people, be a little more brave and bold, and serve others like she does. Sadie is a fun character. She has a good, strong voice, and is a tough cookie. Yep, I totally just made that pun. Haha! She’s a little tough on the outside, but she has a very soft center. I love how much she cares about other people. She may not choose the best ways to show it sometimes (you need to read the part about her in the auto parts store—cringe worthy for sure), but she definitely cares.

Sadie is well developed, well written, and realistic. She’s a little cheesy sometimes, but then she breaks into something and makes up for it. Some of her choices are a little iffy at times, but it’s all in the name of solving the mystery. I loved learning about Joy and her story, and Mary is such a sweetheart. I hadn’t ever heard of any of the fancy ornaments Mary had, so I had to look some of them up. Wow. They put my ornaments to shame.

The story line is a little predictable, but I enjoyed the journey. I enjoyed watching Sadie make a fool of herself at the mall, and I enjoyed reading all about the relationship she has with Mary. One thing you know will be good in a Josi Kilpack culinary mystery are the recipes. There are some great ones for sure. I can’t wait to try the Candy Cane Cake. It sounds so good!

If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining holiday (or not) read, look no further. The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack will make you laugh, cry, cringe, and feel hungry for sweets all in one tidy package. The ending is super cute; it’s a little cheesy, but I liked it. If you’ve like her previous mysteries, you need to read The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack!

Candy Cane Blog Tour Image

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy” in this book. There might be a few teeny tiny laws broken, though.)

Age Recommendation: YA and up

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2qUWcYd

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack Daisies and Devotion by Josi S Kilpack Cover Art Promises and Primroses by Josi Kilpack
 

Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me by Julie Wright

Glass Slippers Ever After and Me by Julie Wright

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Book Review of Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me by Julie Wright

Glass Slippers Blog Tour Image UpdatedI have read a few of Julie Wright’s proper romances, and they’re so fun. When I heard she had written a new one, I had to get my hands on it! I couldn’t wait to read it. Thankfully, I get to review Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me—that’s even better than just reading it. I love the cover art on this book! The colors are so fun, and when you add the rose petals and the fancy shmancy heels, it looks like a fairy tale waiting to happen. The title is super cute too!

Blurb:

Can the fairy tale bring Charlotte the happiness she’s looking for, or was he always there to begin with?

A modern, reimagined Cinderella story.

When aspiring author Charlotte Kingsley finally gets published, she thinks all her dreams have come true. But the trouble begins when her publicity firm reinvents her quirky online presence into a perfectly curated dream life. Gone are the days of sweatpant posts and ice cream binges with her best friend, Anders, replaced instead with beautiful clothes, orchestrated selfies, and no boyfriend. Only, that carefully curated fairy tale life is ruining her self-esteem and making her feel like a fraud.

When a bestselling author takes Charlotte under her wing—almost like a fairy godmother—she helps Charlotte see the beautiful person she already is and the worth of being authentic. But is it too late to save her relationship with Anders? The clock is quickly ticking towards midnight, and Charlotte must decide between her fairy tale life and the man she loves, before he’s gone forever.

My Book Review:

I loved this book! One of the things Julie Wright does very well is giving characters a voice. Charlotte’s voice in this story definitely makes the book. I love her spunk and her realness. One of my favorite scenes happens at the beginning when Charlotte feels quite upset and eats a couple cartons of ice cream. Yep! She’s my kind of gal! Ice cream is for sure a great go-to comfort food when you’re down.  I love Charlotte’s enthusiasm toward her writing, and especially her reaction to rejection letters. Haha! Her reaction to meeting her favorite author also makes for a fun scene. She makes such a great character.

I like that Charlotte is a strong character. She has her flaws, for sure, but she’s so well developed, real, and relatable. I could definitely see myself hanging out, watching movies, and eating ice cream with my bestie Charlotte. Anders also makes a great character. He’s such a nice guy with a big heart. He, too, is well developed, real, and relatable. I love his romantic flair. Don’t tell my husband, but he could use a few lessons on romance from Anders. Of course, we’ve been married for 21 years and they’re just beginning to date—it’s only a little different.

The story line in this book is so fun. A writer (Julie Wright) writes about a young, struggling writer (Charlotte Kingsley). I love the concept. I wonder if any of the experiences Charlotte had mirror experiences that Julie Wright had when she first started her writing career. That would be a fun question to ask her, for sure.

I didn’t love the characters of Charlotte’s mom and step-dad, or the way they treated her and her sister. They’re not as likable or relatable as Charlotte, Anders, and Kat are. They do, however, add contrast to the story. They give the reader context and background information about Charlotte and Kat, and you can see why the girls are the way they are in some ways. Charlotte’s team of editor, publicist, and social media people also add another dimension to the story. You want to like and hate them at the same time.

I felt bad for Charlotte because she wanted success so badly that she was willing to give up some of herself in order to do it. It’s a hard lesson to learn, for sure. As an outsider, I wanted to scream at Charlotte a few times. I could see where it was all heading, and it didn’t look pretty. It’s one of those things that I’d rather learn as the reader rather than the participator, for sure!

I really enjoyed this book! If you like proper romances, fun love stories, fairy tales, or any of Julie Wright’s other books, you will love Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me.

Glass Slippers Blog Tour Image

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy,” except some brief kissing.)

Age Recommendation: YA and up

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2IV5ol8

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany's by Julie Wright Check Me Out by Becca Wilhite
 
 

The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden

The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden

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Book Review of The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden

I love it when a book takes you somewhere you’ve never been, and never knew you wanted to! You don’t know what you don’t know, right? I had never heard of Penny Dreadfuls until I read this book. In case you don’t know what they are (because I didn’t), they were sensationalized stories printed on cheap paper in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. The story would be sold in parts, with each part costing one penny. These stories were quite popular with the young men of the time. When I say sensationalized, I mean that they were more fantastical, involving characters like ghosts and vampires. Who knew, right? Now you know! These Penny Dreadfuls play a major part in The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden.

Blurb:

“Elizabeth Black is the headmistress of a girls’ school and a well-respected author of ‘silver-fork’ novels. But by night, she writes the Penny Dreadfuls that are all the rage among the working-class men under the pseudonym, Charles King.

Fletcher Walker began life as a street urchin, but is now the most successful author in the Penny Dreadful market, that is until Charles King. Determined to find the elusive Mr. King, Fletcher approaches Miss Black. Elizabeth agrees to help if only to insure her secret identity is never discovered.

What neither author anticipated was the instant attraction. It’s upper-class against working-class, author against author, where readers, reputations, and romance are all on the line.

  • A historical romance set in London, England in the 1830s. This Victorian time period was well-known for its gothic romances and ‘Penny Dreadfuls’—cheap sensational fiction read by young, working-class men. The Guardian described them as ‘Britain’s first taste of mass-produced pop culture for the young.’ With more than a million sold each week, they contributed to the growing fear of crime in mid-Victorian Britain.
  • Though Penny Dreadfuls were known for their tales of crimes, exploits, and supernatural beasts, the Highwayman heroes were popular for the story’s romantic elements.
  • The story drew its inspiration from the real-life Victorian author Elizabeth Caroline Grey, a high-class lady, who, it was rumored, wrote both ‘silver-fork’ novels and Penny Dreadfuls.”

My Book Review:

This book is so fun! I didn’t know anything about Penny Dreadfuls when I began reading, and now I feel like an expert. I completely got sucked into the story, the life, and the time period. The characters, especially, draw you into their lives. Each character is well written, developed, and so unique. Fletcher—oh Fletcher. He just might make you swoon if you’re not careful! And I love Elizabeth’s complexity. Her secret life makes you want to, well…find a cool secret life! Nothing too crazy. Does book blogging count as a secret life when you’re a sixth grade teacher? Probably not. It’s not cool enough. I’ll need to think about it for awhile.

The uniqueness of the story draws you in. All the members of the “Dread Penny Society,” and their cause, remind me a lot of today’s Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad. It’s hard to think of a better cause to support! I loved watching their operations take place, and knowing the lives they saved. The only thing that was a bit off for me was that I kept wanting to read “Dead Poets Society” instead of “Dread Penny Society.” The former is one of my all-time favorite movies. That’s just me, though.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The characters come to life on the pages, and they draw you into their lives and stories. There’s a lot of wit, which I love. I like the relationship between Elizabeth and Fletcher, and I like how the “Penny Dreadfuls” stories play into the plot. There are also some great causes highlighted like education and help for the poor and needy. Of course I love the tension and the romance as well!  

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (Some minor violence and kissing)

Age Recommendation: Young Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/31G3wnY

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden
 
 
 

Six Ingredients with Six Sisters’ Stuff

Six-Ingredients-with-Six-Sisters-Stuff

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Book Review of Six Ingredients with Six Sisters' Stuff

My style of cooking on busy weeknights usually includes scrambled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, or tacos. Tacos and a salad bar are about as fancy as I get on weeknights because they’re so busy. Like many families, I teach during the day. Then in the evenings the kids have dance, mountain biking, and sewing. Plus, they have weekly church activities on top of all that. There’s not a lot of time for fancy meals. However, with this new cookbook Six Ingredients with Six Sisters’ Stuff, that may change! My family will be so happy. The recipes only have six ingredients—I can do this!

Blurb:

“With only six ingredients or less per recipe, making dinner has never been easier.

Six Sisters’ Stuff is one of the most popular blogs for quick and easy cooking and entertaining at home for families. In their eighth cookbook, they tackle how to master meals for any cook with any skill level with more than 100 easy recipes made with incredible flavor combinations from just six ingredients or less.

From beginning cooks learning the basics to busy parents looking to save time in the kitchen, this cookbook is loaded with entrees, side dishes, and desserts. Whether it’s a one-pot wings dish or a no-bake peanut butter bar this cookbook is a fool-proof solution to meal planning and features ‘Kid Favorites’ recipes.”

My Book Review:

I have quite a few of the Six Sisters’ cookbooks, and I use recipes from all of them. They’re great recipes. I like them because they usually use ingredients you have on hand, and they taste good too. What I like about this new cookbook is that each recipe only has six ingredients. I went through the cookbook and it’s true—six ingredients or less. And they’re not crazy ingredients. It’s all stuff you probably already have, or you use often.

One feature that I love in this cookbook is the little “kid approved” hand that appears on many of the recipes. Basically, it means that kids have tried and liked those recipes. Yes! It’s always good to have a few go-to kid friendly recipes when you have picky eaters. Sadly, my picky eater won’t eat a few of them, like the Easy Baked Gnocchi, because they have sauce on them. Yep, she won’t eat ANY kind of sauce. Ugh. I think most kids will, though.

I like the colors in this cookbook. The green is so calming, for some reason. The photographs of the food are well done. They’re clear, bright, and look delicious! I like the layout and think it’s easy to read and follow. They make it easy to find everything with a table of contents at the front and a good index at the back. The recipes are also divided into “Main Dishes,” “Side Dishes,” and “Desserts.” I have a digital copy of the book, so I bet the paper copy is even better!

So, let me tell you about a few of my favorite recipes:

Ground Beef Enchilada Casserole looks and sounds so good! I don’t make enchiladas very often because of the time it takes to put them together. This recipe makes it super easy to do in casserole form.    

Six Sisters' Stuff Ground Beef Enchilada Casserole

Slow Cooker Ritz Chicken is very similar to poppy seed chicken, which is one of my family’s favorites. The only difference is that there aren’t poppy seeds on top of the Ritz crackers. We love this! I’ve never made it in the crockpot, so I’ll give it a try! I love a good crockpot recipe!

Six Sisters' Stuff Slow Cooker Ritz Chicken

Lemon and Dill Salmon. Yum! I love salmon. I don’t make it often. Okay, I’ve never actually made it. I love to eat it at restaurants, but I’ve never made it at home. That will change I hope, because this looks so good!

Six Sisters' Stuff Lemon and Dill Salmon

The Green Chile Rice sounds amazing! It will go perfect with any Mexican dish. I can’t wait to try it.

Six Sisters' Stuff Green Chile Rice

No-Bake Coconut Bars. Seriously? These look sooooo delicious! Like your own homemade Mounds Bar. They look so easy, too! Mmmmmm.

Six Sisters' Stuff No Bake Coconut Bars

Six Ingredients - Blog Tour

Content Rating GContent Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2NX7SDd

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

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Pictures of the recipes taken from the digital copy of the Six Ingredients with Six Sisters’ Stuff cookbook. They are for review only. Please do not copy or use them for any reason.

Bill Marriott: Success is Never Final by Dale Van Atta

Bill-Marriott by Dale Van Atta

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Book Review of Bill Marriott: Success is Never Final by Dale Van Atta

I have a love/hate relationship with biographies of successful people. This book talks about what Bill Marriott was doing when he was my age, how much money he’d earned, and the success he’d achieved, and it makes me feel a little underwhelmed about my own achievements. I know it’s not fair or productive, so I don’t dwell on it, but…wow.  Maybe I need to up my game? Get into the hotel business? Nah, I guess raising a family and teaching sixth graders has its own importance, and it’s what I love. So I’ll stick with it for now. It does go to show you what you can accomplish if you work hard, and that’s a take-away we can all learn from. I hope you enjoy my book review of Bill Marriott: Success is Never Final by Dale Van Atta.

Blurb:

“Bill Marriott—son of J. Willard Marriott, who opened a root-beer stand that grew into the Hot Shoppes Restaurant chain and evolved into the Marriott hotel company—grew up in the family business. In his more than fifty years at the company’s helm, Bill Marriott was the driving force behind growing Marriott into the world’s largest global hotel chain.

Bill Marriott: Success is Never Final gives readers an intimate portrait of the life of this business titan and his definition of success. Bill shares details about his private struggles with his domineering father’s chronic harsh criticism; his innovations in the hotel industry; and the boundless passion and energy he demonstrated for his work, family, and faith. Bill also shares spiritual experiences that allowed him to recognize God’s guidance in his personal life.

  • Details the story from Bill Marriott’s first job in his family’s restaurants to his monumental decisions in building Marriott into the largest hotel chain in the world.
  • A boat explosion, just a week after his father died, caused a fire that severely burned Bill’s body and damaged his hands so significantly, it was unclear if he would be able to use his fingers.
  • Part of Bill’s management legacy includes substantial and widespread philanthropic work, educational programs, and community outreach.
  • As a business leader, Bill has met with American presidents, foreign dignitaries, and other business moguls. The biography is filled with newly told, behind-the-scenes, intimate stories such as ‘family dinners’ with the Eisenhowers and the Marriotts.
  • Readers will learn the fascinating details about the successes and failures of Bill’s business ventures and relate to his challenges of balancing roles as a CEO, a husband and father, and a man of faith.

This is the remarkable story of a man who had the vision to create a multibillion-dollar business, who understood the power of giving, and who lived the creed that hard work will pay off but success is never final.”

My Book Review:

I’ve stayed in Marriott hotels before, and I’ve seen them as we’ve traveled, but I didn’t know very much about its beginnings or the man who took it to the top. Now I know a lot about each of those things, and lots of other stuff as well! This book is VERY detailed. I’m not sure how anyone can remember so much from so long ago. I know that both Bill Marriott and his father, J. Willard, kept good journals, and I have to say that it paid off. There is so much information in this book! It even goes into detail about the Marriott ancestors that crossed the plains to end up in Utah.

Not only does it chronicle Bill’s life, but it goes in-depth into his father and mother’s upbringings as well. There is a lot about the relationship between Bill and his father. Unfortunately, most of it doesn’t sound very good. This book goes step-by-step into how the Marriott company began and evolved over the years. I had never heard of a Hot Shoppe restaurant before. Have you? They sound like quite an adventure! I found it interesting to learn about several things Bill tried that didn’t do very well. Did you know he owned a cruise ship? Or a few theme parks? Crazy, right?

Bill Marriot: Success is Never Final is well written. As I stated previously, it’s VERY detailed. There were a few things that I didn’t really care to know, but it was interesting to see how everything shaped Bill’s life in the way it did. I can tell that this book was very well researched. I thought the book flowed well; it was mostly easy to read and understand. There were a few technical paragraphs talking about stocks or financing that I didn’t know anything about. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand them as well.

 My favorite thing about this book was to see Bill’s drive, work ethic, and devotion to his family and faith. I’m not sure how he fit it all in! I’m sure he didn’t want some of his failures to be brought up, but it was also good to see that he is just a normal guy who makes mistakes and learns from them. His work ethic and charity are such a good example of what you need to do to succeed at something.

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (Although there is not a ton, there is some profanity in this book.)

Age Recommendation: 16+

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2ZVIKid

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand  The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
 

Review of The Lady in the Coppergate Tower

The Lady in the Coppergate Tower by Nancy Campbell Allen

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Book Review of The Lady in the Coppergate Tower by Nancy Campbell Allen

You know me; I love a good fairy tell retelling. I love how authors are able to take a familiar story and rethink it, looking at it from different angles perspectives. Looking at the characters in a unique way, and trying to find a story within a story are also something I enjoy about retellings. When I saw that Nancy Campbell Allen had done a re-telling of Rapunzel I was super excited. Having it steampunk made it all the more fun! I love this little world she is creating surrounding Blackwell Manor and its residents and friends, so I couldn’t wait to read it. I hope you enjoy my review of The Lady in the Coppergate Tower by Nancy Campbell Allen.

Blurb:

“Hazel Hughes believes there is nothing remarkable about her, not even her strange ability to heal the sick and injured. Her employer, Doctor Sam MacInnes recognizes her special talent, but because of the difference in their social status, he can’t tell her how much he admires her. When a mysterious count arrives in London and reveals to Hazel the existence of a twin sister, she agrees to accompany him to the wilds of Romania, where she learns that her healing skills are needed to save her twin’s life. Worried for her safety, Sam insists on accompanying her.

Faced with dark magic, malfunctioning automatons, and dangerous magical artifacts, Hazel and Sam learn to rely on each other as they untangle a dangerous and dark web of mystery surrounding the mysterious count, and search for a way to free Hazel’s sister from the cursed walls of a Coppergate Tower before time runs out on all of them.”

My Book Review:

I seriously love this little steampunk Victorian society that Nancy Campbell Allen has created. It’s so fun and imaginative! I love that you can take such a prim and proper time period and add robots (automatons), transcribers (pagers), submarines, and so much more! It’s also fun to see characters from past books make appearances; it kind of brings it all together.

I liked the cover art of the book before I started reading it, but once I had gotten to know the characters inside the book, the characters on the cover didn’t work for me. I know it’s picky, but I didn’t think they looked anything like the characters in my head. Haha! It’s not that big of a deal, though.

The story line is unique and fun. I thought the fancy, important count coming to get Hazel was a bit creepy, and don’t think I would have gone with him if it’d been me. Hazel’s intentions to save her sister were genuine, though, and that would be a compelling reason to go with him. I thought a few parts were a bit predictable, but a lot of it surprised me. It had enough twists and turns to keep me reading. I had to know more about the sister! What was happening to her? What could Hazel do to save her?

Nancy Campbell Allen does a great job of describing and developing characters. Each character has his or her own characteristics, voice, and personality. I especially liked Sam and Hazel. They have differing viewpoints of the situation at hand, and each of them handles it in a unique way. I liked seeing their strengths and weaknesses throughout the book. As the book progresses, you get to see growth and development in both Hazel and Sam. I enjoyed watching them evolve and change.

Another thing Nancy Campbell Allen does well is describe this world she has created. I love the descriptions of all the high-techie Victorian era stuff! Because it predates our current technology, things are named differently (I gave some examples above), and I enjoy her depictions of them. I enjoy reading her writing because it’s easy to read and understand, it’s entertaining, and it all flows well. It’s clever, too, which makes it more fun to read.

I enjoyed The Lady in the Coppergate Tower. I liked the beginning and middle a lot more than I liked the ending, though. I didn’t like the ending. Most of the story leads up to the ending, and It felt like it took a long time to get there. Then, once I got there, the ending felt a bit rushed to me. It also felt a little too unrealistic, and I still had some questions that didn’t get answered. The other thing I didn’t love about the ending was that it felt a little too much like a copy-cat of something else. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into more detail than that, but I felt like I’d already seen the ending. Overall, though, it was a fun book. I liked it.

Blog Tour The Lady in the Coppergate Tower

Content Rating PG-13+Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book, except for kissing. There is some violence, though. A couple characters are attacked, and another character is abused. A couple characters die.)

Age Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/334zivR 

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

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Featured Image Credit: Goodreads.com
 

The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

The Orphan's Song by Lauren Kate

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Book Review of The Orphan's Song by Lauren Kate

I’ve never been to Venice, but now that I’ve read this book, I seriously need to go. While I was reading, coincidentally, my friend was in Venice. She posted a lot of pictures from her amazing trip, and I definitely felt a little social media jealousy. What a beautiful city! I can only imagine what it had been like in the 1700s. We probably romanticize it more than it was, but since we weren’t there, why not? I did not know anything about the Ospedale degli Incurabili—a hospital and orphanage for children, and so it was fun to delve into that world. I find it so interesting that they taught the children there to love, appreciate, and excel at music, and it also provided funding for the hospital and orphanage. The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate is a masterfully written story, and I loved it!

Blurb:

“As befitting a book set in eighteenth century Venice, Italy, the novel spins a riveting tale of secrets kept and secrets revealed and the far-reaching consequences of both. Based on a gripping chapter in Venice’s remarkable history, The Orphan’s Song brilliantly recreates both the glamour and seedy underbelly of a city at its zenith.

Known as ‘the city of masks,’ Venice, circa 1736, is notorious for its excesses and its reputation as the place where lovers and revelers don Carnevale disguises to move secretly within society. On most days the city’s sick and orphans are the only bare faces wandering the city. Yearning to join the masked revelers are two foundlings raised within the walls of the Hospital of the Incurables, a famous house of worship that serves as both hospital and orphanage. Over centuries, its massive stone complex (still standing today) has been reinvented as a conservatory for the best singers and musicians on the continent, an ingenious plan that brings acclaim to the church and its coffers.

Among the talented foundlings are Violetta and Mino, lonely teens with big dreams who meet for the first time on an off-limits rooftop. Violinist Mino is a self-taught luthier with aspirations that reach far beyond his humble beginnings. Violetta, a gifted soprano who, despite her desire to rise to soloist in the church’s renowned choir, yearns to break free of the Incurables’ walls and embrace the unknown on the outside. Their tentative private duet—first musical, then romantic—is strictly forbidden, and the risks they take launch them on separate journeys that radically transform their lives.

Mino is determined to find the mother who abandoned him as a toddler, while Violetta steadfastly avoids entanglements and motherhood in her quest for stardom as a legendary soprano with a secret nighttime life. But both will find themselves tossed by society’s cruel unpredictability as they navigate the world and its endless seductions. Despite their separations and painful discoveries, they’ll discover that fate has more in store for them than they could ever have imagined for themselves. With its stunning plot twists and sophisticated sense of history, The Orphan’s Song blends the author’s signature fast-paced storytelling with an enchanting love story for the ages.”  

My Book Review:

I loved this book! Wow. Just wow. The characters, descriptions, feelings, and emotions transform this book into an intimate view of a very personal story. You become a part of Mino and Violetta’s story. You’re there to witness the highs, lows, and everything in between. You laugh and cry with them. You feel their love and their hate. In return, their story becomes a part of yours.

The Orphan’s Song is very well written. The writing sucks you in from the very beginning. I loved the descriptions of the Venetians with their masks, beautiful clothing, and fancy parties. It’s not hard to see why Mino and Violetta wished for more. From their rooftop they could see so much, and they couldn’t have any of it. As the reader, you feel their loss and their want. The way Kate writes the scene of the mother abandoning her child makes it so real and raw and personal.

Violetta, Mino, and the many other characters just come to life on the page. It may be a platitude, but it is so true, in this book. Seriously. Each character is well developed, realistic, unique, and has his or her own personality. The characters switch off narrating the chapters, and I never had to think about who was talking.

One of my favorite things about this book are the feelings portrayed. The writing is so superb that you feel the emotions of the story. I also loved the complexity of the plot and the characters. I was definitely surprised by some of the events and some of the decisions the characters made. The story flowed well, and I loved it. I could not put this book down.  

Content Rating RContent Rating: R (Profanity, including at least one “f” word. “Intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos. Violence including murder and domestic violence.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2Jnt8zi

 

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How Not To Die Alone by Richard Roper

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

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Book Review of How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

No one wants to die alone, right? That seems to be something everyone can agree on. Just thinking about it brings panic and sadness, and you never want to hear of anyone else going through it either. So how do you prevent that from happening? It’s all about connections. Connections with other people bring us joy, love, sorrow, happiness, safety, pain, frustration, peace, and so many more. The difficult thing is that in order to make a connection you need to put yourself out there and be vulnerable, and that’s scary. Once you’re out there, there’s a chance you will get hurt, and that’s scary too. In How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper, Andrew sees this dilemma and is paralyzed by it. What about you? How far would you go to not die alone?

Blurb:

“No one wants to die without having really lived.

Andrew’s been feeling stuck.

For years he’s worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that’s what his co-workers believe.

Then he meets Peggy.

A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades.

Could there be more to life than this?

But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it’s time for him to start.”

My Book Review:

Have you ever told a little lie? Has that lie ever exploded into something out of control? Well, that is what Andrew deals with in this book. He told a lie his first few minutes at a new job, and several years later he still has to perpetuate that falsehood. It takes on a life of its own, and immobilizes him. So he’s alone. But he’s not. Strange how that works.

The writing style of this book hooked me from the beginning. It’s witty yet somber, crass yet sensitive, all-out yet half-hidden, truthful yet full of lies, alone yet together, bursting with love yet loveless, alive yet dead, and the end yet the beginning. As you can tell, contradictions abound in this book. It’s quite the feat to put all of that into one cohesive story, yet Roper skillfully pieces it together.

Truthfully, Andrew’s job sounds terrible. There’s no way I could ever do what he does. I’m glad he’s there to do it, but I’ll take a classroom full of sixth graders over his job any day. When people die, if they don’t have friends or loved ones to find them, they could be dead for months without anyone noticing. Sad, right? After the authorities are called, Andrew goes into the home to search for clues about lost loved ones, or anyone that might have known the person. He’s looking for help paying for the funeral, and for someone to come mourn at the funeral.

Not fun, right? Yeah. Honestly, it’s something I’d never thought or heard of until I read this book. The story takes place in London, and I did a little research to see what they do in the United States. I found this article. It pertains to New York; I couldn’t find anything about where I live. It sounds like it’s about the same.

I love the uniqueness of this book. I’ve never read anything like it. The characters are very well developed, realistic, and they all have their own personalities. Andrew makes such an interesting main character. Even after a whole book it’s difficult to read him or guess what he’ll do next. There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding an event in his past, and it definitely has an impact on his current day. There are a few times that he does cringy things. Seriously cringy things. And it makes you want to scream.

I like Peggy a lot; especially how she handles everything that goes on. Andrew’s boss and colleagues are quite the bunch. I vacillated between annoyance and disgust with them. His sister Sally is something of a mystery. That’s one thing I would have liked more info on, but instead Roper leaves it to the reader to decide what really happens there. Sally’s husband is a jerk. I’ll leave it at that.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s quirky, unique, and packs a big punch. I love the dynamics and relationships between the characters. I also love watching Andrew grow and develop along the way. How Not to Die Alone is very well written. The story flows well, the plot is interesting, and there are some great vocabulary words. I love the connection between the title, Andrew’s job, and Andrew’s personal circumstance–it’s very clever. The cover art definitely grabs your attention.

The big take home from this story is to be honest. Be honest with others and with yourself. All.the.time. Another take-away is the importance of connections.

“Connection is the antidote to depression”

               –David Kozlowski

It’s hard to make connections because you need to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. That’s never a comfortable thing to do, and it takes a lot of practice, but it’s so worth it. True connections with good people make life so much more enjoyable. And who knows? It could save your life one day.  

Content Rating RContent Rating: R (Profanity, including multiple “f” words. “Intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos. Domestic violence, and the death of a couple of characters.)

Age Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 3.5/5   (I lowered my rating from a 4 because of language.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2X7lJMM

 

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A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake The Other Side of the Bridge by Camron Wright The Evolution of Thomas Hall by Kieth Merrill
 
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When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

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Book Review of When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

Thankfully, I grew up in a loving home. I married a kind and loving man. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship. I know people who have been, and my heart breaks for them. This book speaks to those people. There are some very difficult things discussed in this book. It’s good for people like me to see how difficult those situations are. This allows me to be more aware and to be more compassionate. It’s also good for those who are in the situation to read, so they know that there is hope and a way out. When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh delves into the topic of domestic violence, child abuse, and the foster care system. Those topics can be a bit heavy, so thankfully, Ms. Marsh evens it out with a touch of healing and hope.

Blurb:

“Beth thought her violent childhood was something she left in the past—until she met Erin. Now the abuse of her step-father has returned in terrifying nightmares.

Beth became a child psychologist so she could help children who are broken and hurting, but Erin, the fifteen-year-old who killed her father, is different. If Beth can’t reach her and find out why she did it, Erin will spend the rest of her childhood behind bars. To most people, it looks simple—Erin is either crazy or evil, but when Beth looks into Erin’s haunted eyes, she’s sure that something terrible was done to this girl. Erin, however, isn’t talking.

Beth believes Erin might open up to someone with whom she feels a kinship. Of course, Beth knows she shouldn’t share her own past with a patient, but the clock is ticking toward Erin’s trial, and Beth is out of options.

Little does Beth know that taking this terrifying leap will not only reveal the truth about Erin, but will rip Beth’s past wide open as well—and a connection between them that will shake Beth to the core.”

My Book Review:

I’m not good with violence. Any kind of violence.  You know all those movies and tv shows that everyone loves because of the action and things blowing up? The good guys usually win, but lots of people die in the process? Yeah, well, my husband laughs at me (now you can too) because I close my eyes through most of the movie. I don’t like watching violence. I don’t like watching people get hurt, and I really don’t like watching people die. So, I close my eyes.

Unfortunately, when you’re reading a book, you can’t close your eyes. It doesn’t really work that way, does it? There’s not a good way to escape from what happens on the page. Therefore, I just have to read, and maybe skim, the best I can. When the Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh has a few scenes that I wish I could have closed my eyes through. I found them very difficult to read. Reading scenes that describe children (and women) being physically abused is tough to do.

I understand the purpose of those events in the story. They are there to give history and to show where the character is coming from. I realize they also show the evilness of a character. For me, personally, I don’t like to read them. It took me awhile to read because it’s a quite depressing in some parts. Therefore, I did lower my rating a bit because of this content. Not everyone will feel the same way.

Looking past the difficult content, this book is well written. The characters are well developed, realistic, and unique. Each one has his or her own personality and traits. You definitely feel Beth’s emotions, as an adult and as a child. I liked Beth’s character. She was strong, yet still vulnerable. I also liked her brother Jack’s character. He was tender and loving even after having been through some rough things.

Although most of the other characters are secondary, I came to love some of them, or hate some of them, just as much as Beth and Jack did. I didn’t always understand them or where they were coming from, but that’s why I love reading—it always helps you look at situations from different vantage points.

Ms. Marsh’s writing style flows well, grabs your attention, and is easy to read and understand. She brings up many hard issues in this book. Even though it’s tough to read, it’s always good to see things differently, and maybe to understand things a little more. Some of the topics brought up are physical and emotional abuse, murder, death, loyalty, foster care, domestic violence, love, family, hope, healing, therapy, and overcoming hardship. It’s a lot to take in, but it does speak to hope and healing, even after going through hard times.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. If I hadn’t been reviewing it I may not have finished, but the story is compelling and I did want to know what happened. I cared for Beth and Jack, and wanted to see their story through.  

Content Rating RRating: R (Profanity, including at least one “f” word. Physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence, murder, attempted rape, and the death of at least one character.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 3.5/5

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2ZFtOoZ

 

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The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M. Eden

The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M Eden

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Book Review of The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M. Eden

I have always thought that it would be fun to go back in time and spend at least a week in England during the early nineteenth century. At least from all the books I’ve read that have taken place during this time (which is a lot), it seems like such a nice time to live. Now, you’d need to go spend time with a more wealthy family, but nevertheless, I think it would be fun to see. I don’t want to stay there forever, just long enough to experience it for a minute. Regency books have always been one of my favorite to read, so I was excited to see Sarah M. Eden’s new book The Heart of a Vicar. The cover art is beautiful, and sets the perfect tone for the book.

Blurb:

“Young love is all too fleeting, as Harold Jonquil painfully discovered years ago when Sarah Sarvol, the niece of a neighboring landowner, captures his heart. After an idyllic few weeks in the throes of blossoming love, reality intervened. They could have no future. Following their disastrous parting, Harold attempted to push aside thoughts of love and regret, but Sarah has never left his heart. Now, years later, he has achieved his lifelong aspiration of becoming the local vicar. However, the role proves more difficult than he imagined. He feels hollow and uninspired—until the most important person in his past returns, challenging him as no one ever has.

When Sarah’s ailing uncle summons her back to the family estate in England, there is only one person from her past she is reluctant to see again: Harold Jonquil, the only man who has ever claimed her heart. But when she comes face-to-face with her former beau, she hardly recognizes the aloof and dull man before her. She is determined to help Harold rediscover the passion he once felt toward his chosen profession. Soon, despite their exasperation with each other, they cannot deny the stirring of feelings long buried—but is it too late for second chances?”

My Book Review:

I love being transported back in time to England in the early 1800s. In The Heart of a Vicar, Eden does a fantastic job describing the scenery, the large estates, and the people that live there. Her descriptions make you feel like you are there, a part of it all. I especially love the people in this book. Although there are a lot of them, they each get the attention they deserve. Each character is well developed and so life-like. Each has his or her own personality, traits, and quirks.

Sarah comes across as determined, happy, and loving. I love her independence and love of people. Her fun with the blacksmith is one of my favorite parts of the story. Scott isn’t focused on as much, but he plays a big part in bringing the story together. Harold may struggle at times, but I really liked his character. He wanted to do the right thing in the right way; he just needed a little help getting there. It was fun to watch his growth as the story progressed. I thought it was funny that his little quirk ended up playing such a big role in the story.

The Jonquil family seems like a family anyone would want to be a part of. They know how to have fun, and how to come together to help each other.  One of my favorite parts of this family is their focus on the children. In many other books about this time period, children are taken care of by governesses, and the parents don’t interact with them a lot. That is not the case in this book, and it is a feature I loved. Another feature I loved about the Jonquil family was how deeply they cared for each other and took care of one another.

The Heart of a Vicar is well written. I like the flow of it, and Eden’s writing style. It’s easy to read and understand, and easy to get sucked into. One of the reasons I love reading so much is because you get to live different lives, see different places, and experience things you’d otherwise never get to experience. I felt that in this book. Becoming a part of this neighborhood was so much fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It’s the perfect summer get-away. Although it’s not titled a “proper romance” like many of Eden’s previous books, it is one. It’s a sweet, romantic story that happens to be clean. You all know how much I appreciate that. The Heart of a Vicar by Sarah M. Eden will make a perfect addition to any proper romance, or romance, collection.

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Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy” in this book. There is some brief kissing, and some abusive tendencies of one character.)

Age Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2ItM4uh

 

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Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden