Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: Weddings and Wasabi by Camy Tang

Book Description
by F.I.R.S.T. Wild Card Tour


A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!


Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
***Special thanks to Camy Tang for sending me a review copy.***

About The Author:

Camy Tang grew up in Hawaii and now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious mutt, Snickers. She graduated from Stanford University and was a biologist researcher for 9 years, but now she writes full-time. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. On her blog, she ponders knitting, spinning wool, dogs, running, the Never Ending Diet, and other frivolous things. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ to read short stories and subscribe to her quarterly newsletter.


Visit the author's website.

Short Book Description:

After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work for her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family blowout, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life—a tall, dark, handsome biker, in form-fitting black leather, and Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!


Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle—a Harley Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out?


And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

Product Details:


List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 124 pages
Publisher: WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414120591
ISBN-13: 978-1414120591

My Thoughts:
Weddings and Wasabi is the first book by Camy Tang I have had the opportunity to read. The title really hooked me implying it may have something to do with sushi which is my favorite. I like that the books these days have really neat titles and book covers. Very modern and stylish, even the historical fiction books. 


I personally had a difficult time reading this book as I started to get in to it. There are a couple reasons why. My first impression of the heroine was that she was a little bitter about life and bitter towards a past relationship. I felt the author was trying to make that aspect of the story line humorous, but to me, it sort of made the heroine, Jenn, a little annoying.


Another thing I noticed was what I like to call the Cheese Factor of a romance-type book. I would rate the Cheese Factor a little high on this book. A little too cheesy and less realistic. I also think the number of relatives throughout the book was a bit confusing to try and keep track of them all. 


In theory, I think it is a good story line and I am only one person's opinion. I have heard that Camy Tang has some good books, I will definitely read one of those in the future.


And Now For The First Chapter...
The goat in the backyard had just eaten tonight’s dinner.


Jennifer Lim stood on her mother’s minuscule back porch and glared at the small brown and white creature polishing off her basil. She would have run shouting at it to leave off her herb garden, except it had already decimated the oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and her precious basil, which had been slated for tonight’s pesto.


Besides, if it bit her, she was peeved enough to bite back.


“Mom!” She stomped back into the house. Thank goodness the pots of her special Malaysian basil were sectioned off in the large garden on the side of the house, protected by a wooden-framed wire gate. Jenn was growing it so that she could make her cousin Trish’s favorite chicken dish for her wedding, which Jenn was catering for her. But everything in her backyard garden was gone. The animal was welcome to the only thing left, the ragged juniper bushes. Were juniper bushes poison? If so, the animal was welcome to them.


“Mom!” Her voice had reached banshee range. “There is a goat—”


“You don’t need to yell.” Mom entered the kitchen, her lipstick bright red from a fresh application and her leather handbag over her arm, obviously ready to leave the house on some errand.


“Since when do we own a goat?”


“Since your cousin Larry brought him over.” She fished through her leather purse. “His name is Pookie.”


Jenn choked on her demand for an explanation, momentarily distracted. “He has a name?”


“He’s a living being. Of course he has a name.” Her mother fluttered eyelashes overloaded with mascara.


“Don’t give me that. You used to love to gross me out with stories of Great-Uncle Hao Chin eating goats back in China.”


Mom sniffed and found the refrigerator fascinating. “That’s your father’s side.”


Jenn swayed as the floor tilted. You are now entering … the Twilight Zone. Her parent had evoked that feeling quite often in the past few weeks. “Where did Larry get a goat and why do we have it now?”


“They were desperate.”


Actually, Jenn could have answered her own question. That goat was in their backyard right now because everyone knew that her mom couldn’t say no to a termite who knocked on the door and asked if it could spend the night.


And outside of physically dropping the goat off at someone’s house—and she didn’t have an animal trailer, so that was out of the question—Jenn wouldn’t be able to get anyone else in the family to agree to take the animal, now that it was here. That meant leaving a goat in a niece’s backyard because no one else wanted to go through the hassle of doing anything about it.


Mom said, “You wouldn’t have me turn away family, would you?”


“Uncle Percy knows, too?”


“No, not Percy.”


“Aunty Glenda?” No way. Even if Larry were thirty-one instead of twenty-one, Aunty would still dictate to her son the color underwear he wore that day—how much more his choice of pet?


“No.” Mom blinked as rapidly as she could with mascara making her short, stiff lashes stick together, almost gluing her eyes shut.


The tiger in Jenn’s ribcage growled. “Mother.” Her fist smacked onto her hip.


“Oh, all right.” Mom rolled her eyes as if she were still a teenager. “It belongs to Larry’s dormmate’s older brother, but really, he’s the nicest young man.” Burgundy lips pulled into what wanted to be a smile, but instead looked hideously desperate.


Jenn tried to count to ten but only got to two. “I know Larry’s a nice young man. If an abundance of immaturity counts as ‘nice’ points.”


“Jenn, really, you’re so intolerant. Just because you’re smart and went to Stanford for grad school …”


The name of her school—and the one dominant memory it brought up—made her neck jerk in a spasm. It had only been for two years, but that was enough. Desperately lonely after spending her undergrad years living with her cousins, Jenn had only formed a few friendships among the other grad students, none of them close. There was only one she’d never forget, although she vowed she would every morning when she got up and saw the scar in the mirror.


“Why. Do we have. A goat.”


“It’s only for a few days—”


“We don’t know a thing about how to take care of—”


“They’re easy—”


“Besides which, this is Cupertino. I’m sure there are city laws—”


“It’ll be gone before anyone notices—”


“Oh, ho, you’re right about that.” Jenn strode toward the phone on the wall. “I’m calling the Humane Society. They’ll take it.” Although they wouldn’t provide a trailer to transport it. How was she going to take the goat anywhere, much less to an animal shelter?


Mom plopped onto a stool and sighed. “That boy was so cute. His name was Brad.”


There went her neck spasming again. But Brad was a common name. She grabbed the phone.


“Such a nice Chinese boy. Related to the Yip family—you know, the ones in Mountain View?”


The phone slipped from her hand and bungee-jumped toward the floor, saved only by the curly cord. She bent to snatch it up, but dizziness shrouded her vision and she had to take a few breaths before straightening up.


“Oh, and he went to Stanford. You two have something in common.” Mom beamed.


No. He wouldn’t.


Yes, he would.


“Brad Yip?”


Mom’s eyes lighted up. “Do you know him?”


Sure, she knew him. Knew the next time he came for his goat she’d ram her chef’s knife, Michael Meyers style, right between his eyes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: Restless in Carolina by Tamara Leigh

Restless in Carolina: A Novel (Southern Discomfort)Book Description
by F.I.R.S.T. Wild Card Tour

A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
***Special thanks to Ashley Boyer, Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tamara Leigh began her writing career in 1994 and is the best-selling author of fourteen novels, including Splitting Harriet (ACFW Book of the Year winner and RITA Award finalist), Faking Grace (RITA Award Finalist), and Leaving Carolina. A former speech and language pathologist, Tamara enjoys time with her family, faux painting, and reading. She lives with her husband and sons in Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.





SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Tree-huggin’, animal-lovin’ Bridget Pickwick-Buchanan is on a mission. Well, two. First she has to come to terms with being a widow at thirty-three. After all, it’s been four years and even her five-year-old niece and nephew think it’s time she shed her widow’s weeds. Second, she needs to find a buyer for her family’s estate—a Biltmore-inspired mansion surrounded by hundreds of acres of unspoiled forestland. With family obligations forcing the sale, Bridget is determined to find an eco-friendly developer to buy the land, someone who won’t turn it into single-family homes or a cheesy theme park.

Enter J. C. Dirk, a high-energy developer from Atlanta whose green property developments have earned him national acclaim. When he doesn’t return her calls, Bridget decides a personal visit is in order. Unfortunately, J. C. Dirk is neither amused nor interested when she interrupts his meeting—until she mentions her family name. In short order, he finds himself in North Carolina, and Bridget has her white knight—in more ways than one. But there are things Bridget doesn’t know about J. C., and it could mean the end of everything she’s worked for…and break her heart.

Product Details:


List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421680
ISBN-13: 978-1601421685

My Thoughts

Restless in Carolina was an interesting read. It's the first book I have read with a large amount of the dialogue occurring in the main character's head. Her thoughts, the things she wants to say, the things she should say are all part of the "conversations" throughout the entire story. At first, I thought this was strange, but the story line was interesting enough that it kept my interest. Tamara Leigh does create unique, interesting characters. Each character has something about them that stands out, like a character flaw, a nervous habit, a sickness, an uncommon physical characteristic, an unusual pet, etc. 


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Deep breath. “…and they lived…”


I can do this. It’s not as if I didn’t sense it coming. After all, I can smell an H.E.A. (Happily Ever After) a mile away—or, in this case, twenty-four pages glued between cardboard covers that feature the requisite princess surrounded by cute woodland creatures. And there are the words, right where I knew the clichĂ© of an author would slap them, on the last page in the same font as those preceding them. Deceptively nondescript. Recklessly hopeful. Heartbreakingly false.


“Aunt Bridge,” Birdie chirps, “finish it.”


I look up from the once-upon-a-time crisp page that has been softened, creased, and stained by the obsessive readings in which hermother indulges her.


Eyes wide, cheeks flushed, my niece nods. “Say the magic words.” Magic?


More nodding, and is she quivering? Oh no, I refuse to be a party to this. I smile big, say, “The end,” and close the book. “So, how about another piece of weddin’ cake?”


“No!” She jumps off the footstool she earlier dubbed her “princess throne,” snatches the book from my hand, and opens it to the back. “Wight here!”


I almost correct her initial r-turned-w but according tomy sister, it’s developmental and the sound is coming in fine on its own, just as her other r’s did.


Birdie jabs the H, E, and A. “It’s not the end until you say the magic words.”


And I thought this the lesser of two evils—entertaining my niece and nephew as opposed to standing around at the reception as the bride and groom are toasted by all the happy couples, among them, cousin Piper, soon to be wed to my friend Axel, and cousin Maggie, maybe soon to be engaged to her sculptor man, what’s-his-name.


“Yeah,” Birdie’s twin,Miles, calls from where he’s once more hanging upside down on the rolling ladder I’ve pulled him off twice. “You gotta say the magic words.”


Outrageous! Even my dirt-between-the-toes, scab-ridden, snot-on-the-sleeve nephew is buying into the fantasy.


I spring from the armchair, cross the library, and unhook his ankles from the rung. “You keep doin’ that and you’ll bust your head wide open.” I set him on his feet. “And your mama will—


”No, Bonnie won’t.


“Well, she’ll be tempted to give you a whoopin’.”


Face bright with upside-down color, he glowers.


I’d glower back if I weren’t so grateful for the distraction he provided. “All right, then.” I slap at the ridiculously stiff skirt of the dress Maggie loaned me for my brother’s wedding. “Let’s rejoin the party—”


“You don’t wanna say it.”Miles sets his little legs wide apart. “Do ya?” So much for my distraction.


“You don’t like Birdie’s stories ’cause they have happy endings. And you don’t.”


I clench my toes in the painfully snug high heels on loan from Piper.


“Yep.”Miles punches his fists to his hips. “Even Mama says so.”


My own sister? I shake my head, causing the blond dreads Maggie pulled away from my face with a headband to sweep my back. “That’s not true.”


“Then say it wight now!” Birdie demands.


I peer over my shoulder at where she stands like an angry tin soldier, an arm outthrust, the book extended.


“Admit it,”Miles singsongs.


I snap around and catch my breath at the superior, knowing look on his five-year-old face. He’s his father’s son, all right, a miniature Professor Claude de Feuilles, child development expert.


“You’re not happy.” The professor in training, who looks anything but with his spiked hair, nods.


I know better than to bristle with two cranky, nap-deprived children, but that’s what I’m doing. Feeling as if I’m watching myself from the other side of the room, I cross my arms over my chest. “I’ll admit no such thing.”


“That’s ’cause you’re afraid. Mama said so.” Miles peers past me.


“Didn’t she, Birdie?”


Why is Bonnie discussing my personal life with her barely-out-of-diapers kids?


“Uh-huh. She said so.”


Miles’s smile is smug. “On the drive here, Mama told Daddy this day would be hard on you. That you wouldn’t be happy for Uncle Bart ’cause you’re not happy.”


Not true! Not that I’m thrilled with our brother’s choice of bride, but…come on! Trinity Templeton? Nice enough, but she isn’t operating on a full charge, which wouldn’t be so bad if Bart made up for the difference. Far from it, his past history with illegal stimulants having stripped him of a few billion brain cells.


“She said your heart is”—Miles scrunches his nose, as if assailed by a terrible odor—“constipated.”


What?!


“That you need an M&M, and I don’t think she meant the chocolate kind you eat. Probably one of those—”


“I am not constipated.” Pull back. Nice and easy. I try to heed my inner voice but find myself leaning down and saying, “I’m realistic.”


Birdie stomps the hardwood floor. “Say the magic words!”


“Nope.”Miles shakes his head. “Constipated.”


I shift my cramped jaw. “Re-al-is-tic.”


“Con-sti-pa-ted.”


Pull back, I tell you! He’s five years old. “Just because I don’t believe in fooling a naive little girl into thinkin’ a prince is waiting for her at the other end of childhood and will save her from a fate worse than death and take her to his castle and they’ll live…” I flap a hand. “…you know, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me.”


Isn’t there? “It means I know better. There may be a prince, and he may have a castle, and they may be happy, but don’t count on it lasting. Oh no. He’ll get bored or caught up in work or start cheatin’—you know, decide to put that glass slipper on some other damsel’s foot or kiss another sleeping beauty—or he’ll just up and die like Easton—” No,
nothing at all wrong with you, Bridget Pickwick Buchanan, whose ugly widow’s weeds are showing.


“See!”Miles wags a finger.


Unfortunately, I do. And as I straighten, I hear sniffles.


“Now you done it!” Miles hustles past me. “Got Birdie upset.”


Sure enough, she’s staring at me with flooded eyes. “The prince dies? He dies and leaves the princess all alone?”The book falls from her hand, its meeting with the floor echoing around the library. Then she squeaks out a sob.


“No!” I spring forward, grimacing at the raspy sound the skirt makes as I attempt to reach Birdie before Miles.


He gets there first and puts an arm around her. A meltable moment, my mother would call it. After she gave me a dressing down. And I deserve one. My niece may be on the spoiled side and she may work my nerves, but I love her—even like her when that sweet streak of hers comes through. “It’s okay, Birdie,” Miles soothes. “The prince doesn’t die.”


Yes, he does, but what possessed me to say so? And what if I’ve scarred her for life?


Miles pats her head onto his shoulder. “Aunt Bridge is just”—he gives me the evil eye—“constipated.”


“Yes, Birdie.” I drop to my knees. “I am. My heart, that is. Constipated. I’m so sorry.”


She turns her head and, upper lip shiny with the stuff running out of her nose, says in a hiccupy voice, “The prince doesn’t die?” I grab the book from the floor and turn to the back. “Look. There they are, riding off into the sunset—er, to his castle. Happy. See, it says so.” I tap the H, E, and A.


She sniffs hard, causing that stuff to whoosh up her nose and my gag reflex to go on alert. “Weally happy, Aunt Bridge?”


“Yes.”


“Nope.” Barely-there eyebrows bunching, she lifts her head from Miles’s shoulder. “Not unless you say it.”


Oh dear Go—No, He and I are not talking. Well, He may be talking, but I’m not listening.


“I think you’d better.” Miles punctuates his advice with a sharp nod.


“Okay.” I look down at the page. “…and they lived…” It’s just a fairy tale—highly inflated, overstated fiction for tykes. “…they lived happily…ever…after.”


Birdie blinks in slow motion. “Happily…ever…after. That’s a nice way to say it, like you wanna hold on to it for always.”


Or unstick it from the roof of your mouth. “The end.” I close the book, and it’s all I can do not to toss it over my shoulder. “Here you go.”


She clasps it to her chest. “Happily…ever…after.”


Peachy. But I’ll take her dreamy murmuring over tears any day. Goodness, I can’t believe I made her cry. I stand and pat the skirt back down into its stand-alone shape. “More cake?”


“Yay!” Miles charges past me.


Next time— No, there won’t be a next time. I’m done with Little Golden Books.







Excerpted from Restless in Carolina by Tamara Leigh Copyright © 2011 by Tamara Leigh. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: Love Finds You in Snowball Arkansas by Sandra Bricker

Book Description

The Love Finds You series of full-length novels give readers a peek into the flavor of local life across the United States. The novels are uniquely named after actual American towns with quirky, interesting names that inspire and are just plain fun! This means that each fictional story draws on the compelling history or unique character of a real place.

In Snowball, Arkansas, so what if Lucy can't hook a fish. She has a plan to snag something else...and his name is Justin.

My Thoughts

Lucy's plan to get what she believes is the right thing for her backfires on her over and over again. She fails miserably at being something other than what she is because she believes that is how to obtain her goal. In the end, Lucy learns that not only is it easier to just be yourself, it also places you in the right opportunities.

I found it interesting a whole book could take place in a weeks time and still move at a good pace. First time I have read Sandra Bricker. She has a charming voice and created characters that felt unique and alive.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review: Against All Odds (Hereos of Quantico Book 1) by Irene Hannon

Book Description from Goodreads

For FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Evan Cooper and his partner, dignitary protection duty should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately, Monica Callahan isn't making it easy. Estranged from her diplomat father--who is involved in a sensitive hostage situation in the Middle East--she refuses to be intimidated by a related terrorist threat back in the States. That is, until a chilling warning convinces her that the danger is very real--and escalating. As Coop and his partner do their best to keep her safe, Monica's father triggers an abduction that puts his daughter's life at risk. And with every second that ticks by, Coop knows that the odds of saving the only woman who has ever breached the walls around his heart are dropping. After all, terrorists aren't known for their patience--or their mercy.

My Thoughts

I went into reading this book a little skeptical because I felt it would have a high cheese factor. FBI agent protects damsel in distress. And sometimes when I read these so-called suspense thriller type books, there's no real thrill. If there is a crime such as a murder, it's so sugar coated its not believable.

But, Irene Hannon surprised me with this one. Characters actually got their throats slit and beat up and blown up. I mean, there are terrorists in this story. They are not nice people. I liked that the reality of the situations the characters were in was not diluted. All in all, nicely done.

Okay, so there still was a little bit of the cheese factor with the big tough FBI agent and the damsel he rescues.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review and Win a Night on the Town Giveaway: My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren

Book Description from The Back Cover

Unknown to her quaint town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley is the star host of My Foolish Heart, a popular syndicated talk radio show. From her home studio, she gives listeners advice on romance...even though she's never had a date.

It's not that she doesn't want to, but since a tragic accident took her mother's life, panic attacks have trapped her inside her small neighborhood. And though she always reminds listeners that their perfect love could be right next door, it can't possibly be true for her. Especially when a new neighbor moves in. Sure, he's handsome, but with his unruly dog and Neanderthal manners, Caleb Knight is the last man she'd ever fall for.

To Issy, love isn't worth the risk. Until she starts to have feelings for a caller-a man she's never met but finds honest, charming, and sensitive. A man she doesn't realize lives right next door.

My Thoughts

First off, this is a pretty good book. I have never read a book by Susan May Warren prior to this one so had no expectations. I give it four stars. A couple of things that stood out to me...

When the book first begins, the author sets up four different seemingly main characters right away. My immediate thought was it was going to be too confusing to keep track of all four main characters and their individual story lines. But, I was pleasantly surprised by how well Warren told each character's story, intertwined them together and eliminated all confusion.

A second thought I had was, "Susan May Warren doesn't hold back. She attacks the tough stuff head on!" When you pick up a fiction work, it takes you into an imaginary world and you expect most of the time that life is good in this world of fiction. Books make me happy. A small town. A ranch out West. A top secret mission overseas. Worlds you read about and momentarily wish you could live in. While My Foolish Heart is based in a small town that rallies around their high school football team and knows everyone by name, these characters deal with some real hardships. Life wasn't imaginary and perfect. It was real.

Another aspect of the book I found interesting is each character in their own way was trying to overcome their own hardships and fears by focusing on other people, giving advice to their friends, hiding weakness and refusing to ask for help. In the end, what rescued each of them from their own hardship was allowing themselves to be "healed." Asking for help, admitting weakness, taking their own good advice.

I look forward to picking up another book by Susan May Warren.

Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest Deep Haven book, My Foolish Heart!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who's never had a date, Susan has put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!




The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:

* A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)

* A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel

* The entire Deep Haven series

To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 16th. The winner will be announced that evening during Susan’s Miss Foolish Heart Party on Facebook! Susan will be chatting with guests, hosting a book club chat about My Foolish Heart, testing your Deep Haven trivia skills, and giving away tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, donuts, and more!) Don't miss the fun and BRING YOUR FRIENDS!



Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Disclaimer: This book was given to me free for this review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

A Cowboy's Touch (A Big Sky Romance)Book Description from the Back Cover


Abigail Jones intends to spend just one summer in middle-of-nowhere Montana with her Aunt Lucy. Time away from her job is just what Abigail needs to reassess her life. The slow pace has her breathing deeply for the first time in years. And the majestic scenery encourages her to get reacquainted with herself...and God.


What she didn't count on what the handsome widowed cowboy who owns the ranch where her aunt lives. When the rancher loses his daughter's nanny, Abigail decides to lend a hand for the summer.


Wade Ryan can't help being attracted to Abigail. But he's given up everything to protect his daughter, and he's not about to risk it all on a pretty face.


Under Abigail's care, Wade's home and daughter thrive. And with Wade's touch, Abigail's heart feels at home at last. But Abigail knows this elusive rancher is hiding something. Will her own secrets separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?


My Thoughts


This story is about a young career woman whose stress level has gotten so intense causing physical issues that her mother had to intervene and send her on a much needed trip away from the busyness of life. As an investigative reporter, Abigail was sure to dig up some dirt anywhere she went, even on vacation. And dirt she found in the form of a cowboy with secrets.


The mystery in this book was the best part and I wish the author had dug more into that piece of the story and less on the unappealing romance storyline. If you like a good cowboy in your story, Wade definitely fit the bill. I found myself wishing I could meet one myself. All in all, not a bad read.


Disclaimer: I received this book free from The B & B Media Group, Inc for this review. My thoughts are solely mine and not anyone else's.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

She Walks in BeautyBook Description from Back Cover:


During New York City's Gilded Age...The GAME is played amid banquets and balls. The PRIZE is a lifetime of wealth and privilege. The RULES will test friendships and the desires of a young woman's heart. Clara Carter is the social season's brightest star... but at what cost?


My Thoughts:


This story is about a young woman who is forced to debut in New York City's elite society in the hopes of landing the most eligible bachelor. Clara Carter is at the mercy of her Aunt who is so beholden to the rituals of the age. It doesn't matter that Clara may have dreams of her own that don't involve marrying the heir to the richest family in New York City. It doesn't matter that the corsets she is forced to wear are so tight, she can barely eat or sit or even breath. It doesn't matter that Clara has to compete with her best friend for the same man. It doesn't matter that Clara doesn't love the chosen mark, the heir, but rather is falling in love with someone else. The only thing that matters to Aunt and Clara's father is that she shine and dazzle and make sure the wealthiest bachelor proposes marriage before the debut season is over. Clara, being the dutiful young woman she has always been, abides by all these oppressive rules Aunt crams down her throat. But it costs her a great deal. 


I really enjoyed this story. It was my first Siri Mitchell book read. I wanted so badly to free Clara; to tell her to just leave and be her own person. And for heaven's sake, take off that cursed corset!!! Who invented those crazy things??? Siri Mitchell wrote Clara's story well and really focused on her throughout the entire book. Sometimes in reading a story, you connect with multiple characters because their stories are important as well. Clara put up with so much burden, she deserved her own spotlight. I was very enlightened about the rituals surrounding debuting in society. It always looks so glamorous in movies and on TV. 


My absolute favorite part of the book was the last three pages! I promise you, this is a book worth reading and it will grab you all the way until the end. I look forward to reading some more books by Siri Mitchell.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Daily Dose #5

Participating in the weekly meme by Good Golly Miss Holly called the Daily Dose.

Pictures that are inspiring me this week:

My niece and my dog feeding the fish.

Big sister and little brother. My niece and nephew.

American symbols of Freedom and Justice and Liberty!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review: A Billion Reasons Why by Kristin Billerbeck

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.


Enjoy your free peek into the book!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Thomas Nelson; Original edition (February 1, 2011)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kristin Billerbeck was born in California to an Italian father and a strong Norwegian/German mother. Her mother tried to teach her to do things right, how to cook, clean, sew, and budget accordingly—all the things a proper girl should know in order to be a contributing member of society. Yet Billerbeck said she “failed miserably,” although her grandmother must still hold some hope since she gave her a cookie gun for her 40th birthday.

Billerbeck has authored more than 30 novels, including the Ashley Stockingdale series and the Spa Girls series. She is a leader in the Chick Lit movement, a Christy Award finalist, and a two-time winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award. She has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. She lives with her family in northern California. Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

There are a billion reasons Kate should marry her current boyfriend.

Will she trade them all to be madly in love?

Katie McKenna leads a perfect life. Or so she thinks. She has a fulfilling job, a cute apartment, and a wedding to plan with her soon-to-be fiance, Dexter.

She can think of a billion reasons why she should marry Dexter…but nowhere on that list is love.

And then in walks Luc DeForges, her bold, breathtaking ex-boyfriend. Only now he's a millionaire. And he wants her to go home to New Orleans to sing for her childhood friend's wedding. As his date.

But Katie made up her mind about Luc eight years ago, when she fled their hometown after a very public breakup. Yet there's a magnetism between them she can't deny.

Katie thought her predictable relationship with Dexter would be the bedrock of a lasting, Christian marriage. But what if there's more? What if God's desire for her is a heart full of life? And what if that's what Luc has offered all along?

MY THOUGHTS:

When I first saw this book offered for review by The B & B Media Group, I jumped at the chance to read it. After all, it's a Billerbeck story. And the ones I've read have always been fun reads. I have to admit, the first few chapters disappointed me a bit. I wasn't sure it sounded at all like a Billerbeck book. But, I was pleased when at some point during the book, it suddenly took on the life of a typical Kristin Billerbeck story. 

I loved her descriptions of the city of New Orleans. I could really picture the life of the city during the story. After the first few chapters, the book reads through with no real lulls or dead spots, like some stories have. I did find myself getting anxious for Katie to just wake up and smell the roses about what she needed and really wanted to do with her life. But, true to real life, sometimes we just don't see what is right in front of us.

All in all, an easy, fun read with all the flair and life of New Orleans and the spunky voice of Kristin Billerbeck.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595547916
ISBN-13: 978-1595547910


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



A Fine Romance

Katie McKenna had dreamed of this moment at least a thousand times. Luc would walk back into her life filled with remorse. He’d be wearing jeans, a worn T-shirt, and humility. He’d be dripping with humility.

That should have been her first clue that such a scenario had no bearing on reality.

“Katie,” a voice said.

The sound sent a surge of adrenaline through her frame. She’d forgotten the power and the warmth of his baritone. A quick glance around her classroom assured her that she must be imagining things. Everything was in order: the posters of colorful curriculum, the daily schedule of activities printed on the whiteboard, and, of course, the children. All six of them were mentally disabled, most of them on the severe side of the autism spectrum, but three had added handicaps that required sturdy, head-stabilizing wheelchairs. The bulk of the chairs overwhelmed the room and blocked much of the happy yellow walls and part of the large rainbow mural the kids had helped to paint. The room, with its cluttered order, comforted her and reminded her of all she’d accomplished. There was no need to think about the past. That was a waste of time and energy.

Her eyes stopped on her aides, Carrie and Selena. The two women, so boisterous in personality, were usually animated. But at the moment they stood huddled in the corner behind Austin’s wheelchair.

Carrie, the heavyset one in the Ed Hardy T-shirt, motioned at her.

“What?” Katie pulled at her white shirt with the delicate pink flowers embroidered along the hem and surveyed the stains. “I know, I’m a mess. But did you see how wonderfully the kids did on their art projects? It was worth it. Never thought of the oil on the dough staining. Next time I’ll wear an apron.”

Selena and Carrie looked as though there was something more they wanted.

“Maddie, you’re a born artist.” Katie smiled at the little girl sitting behind a mound of colorful clay. Then to the aides: “What is the matter with you two?”

Selena, a slight Latina woman, shook her head and pointed toward the door.

Katie rotated toward the front of the classroom and caught her breath. Luc, so tall and gorgeous, completely out of place in his fine European suit and a wristwatch probably worth more than her annual salary, stood in the doorway. He wore a fedora, his trademark since college, but hardly one he needed to stand out in a crowd.

As she stared across the space between them, suddenly the classroom she took such pride in appeared shabby and soiled. When she inhaled, it reeked of sour milk and baby food. Her muddled brain searched for words.

“Luc?” She blinked several times, as if his film-star good looks might evaporate into the annals of her mind. “What are you doing here?”

“Didn’t you get my brother’s wedding invitation?” he asked coolly, as if they’d only seen each other yesterday.

“I did. I sent my regrets.”

“That’s what I’m doing here. You can’t miss Ryan’s wedding. I thought the problem might be money.”

She watched as his blue eyes came to rest on her stained shirt. Instinctively she crossed her arms in front of her.

“I came to invite you to go back with me next week, on my plane.”

“Ah.” She nodded and waited for something intelligible to come out of her mouth. “It’s not money.”

“Come home with me, Katie.” He reached out his arms, and she moved to the countertop and shuffled some papers together.

If he touches me, I don’t stand a chance. She knew Luc well enough to know if he’d made the trip to her classroom, he didn’t intend to leave without what he came for. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.” She stacked the same papers again.

“Give me one reason.”

She faced him. “I could give you a billion reasons.”

Luc’s chiseled features didn’t wear humility well. The cross-shaped scar beneath his cheekbone added to his severity. If he weren’t so dreaded handsome, he’d make a good spy in a Bond movie. His looks belied his soft Uptown New Orleans upbringing, the kind filled with celebrations and warm family events with backyard tennis and long days in the swimming pool.

He pushed through the swiveled half door that separated them and strode toward her.

“That gate is there for a reason. The classroom is for teachers and students only.”

Luc opened his hand and beckoned to her, and despite herself, she took it. Her heart pounded in her throat, and its roar was so thunderous it blocked her thoughts. He pulled her into a clutch, then pushed her away with all the grace of Astaire. “Will you dance with me?” he asked.

He began to hum a Cole Porter tune clumsily in her ear, and instinctively she followed his lead until everything around them disappeared and they were alone in their personal ballroom. For a moment she dropped her head back and giggled from her stomach; a laugh so genuine and pure, it seemed completely foreign—as if it came from a place within that was no longer a part of her. Then the dance halted suddenly, and his cheek was against hers. She took in the roughness of his face, and the thought flitted through her mind that she could die a happy woman in those arms.

The sound of applause woke her from her reverie.

“You two are amazing!” Carrie said.

The children all murmured their approval, some with screams of delight and others with loud banging.

Luc’s hand clutched her own in the small space between them, and she laughed again.

“Not me,” Luc said. “I have the grace of a bull. It’s Katie. She’s like Ginger Rogers. She makes anybody she dances with look good.” He appealed to the two aides. “Which is why I’m here. She must go to my brother’s wedding with me.”

“I didn’t even know you danced, Katie,” Selena said. “Why don’t you ever come dancing with us on Friday nights?”

“What? Katie dances like a dream. She and my brother were partners onstage in college. They were like a mist, the way they moved together. It’s like her feet don’t touch the ground.”

“That was a long time ago.” She pulled away from him and showed him her shirt. “I’m a mess. I hope I didn’t ruin your suit.”

“It would be worth it,” Luc growled.

“Katie, where’d you learn to dance like that?” Carrie asked.

“Too many old movies, I suppose.” She shrugged.

“You could be on Dancing with the Stars with moves like that.”

“Except I’m not a star or a dancer, but other than that, I guess—” She giggled again. It kept bubbling out of her, and for one blissful moment she remembered what it felt like to be the old Katie McKenna. Not the current version, staid schoolmarm and church soloist in Northern California, but the Katie people in New Orleans knew, the one who danced and sang.

Luc interrupted her thoughts. “She’s being modest. She learned those moves from Ginger and Fred themselves, just by watching them over and over again. This was before YouTube, so she was dedicated.”

Katie shrugged. “I was a weird kid. Only child, you know?” But inside she swelled with pride that Luc remembered her devotion to a craft so woefully out-of-date and useless. “Anyway, I don’t have much use for swing dancing or forties torch songs now. Luc, meet Carrie and Selena. Carrie and Selena, Luc.”

“I don’t have any ‘use’ for salsa dancing,” Selena said. “I do it because it’s part of who I am.”

“Tell her she has to come with me, ladies. My brother is having a 1940s-themed wedding in New Orleans. He’d be crushed if Katie didn’t come, and I’ll look like a hopeless clod without her to dance with.”

Katie watched the two aides. She saw the way Luc’s powerful presence intoxicated them. Were they really naive enough to believe that Luc DeForges could ever appear like a clod, in any circumstance or setting? Luc, with his skilled charm and roguish good looks, made one believe whatever he wanted one to believe. The two women were putty in his hands.

“Katie, you have to go to this wedding!” Selena stepped toward her. “I can’t believe you can dance like that and never told us. You’d let this opportunity slip by? For what?” She looked around the room and frowned. “This place?”

The cacophony of pounding and low groans rose audibly, as if in agreement.

“This may be just a classroom to you, but to me, it’s the hope and future of these kids. I used to dance. I used to sing. It paid my way through college. Now I’m a teacher.”

“You can’t be a teacher and a dancer?” Selena pressed. “It’s like walking and chewing gum. You can do both. The question is, why don’t you?”

“Maybe I should bring more music and dancing into the classroom. Look how the kids are joining in the noise of our voices, not bothered by it. I have to think about ways we could make the most of this.”

But she hadn’t succeeded in changing the subject; everyone’s attention stayed focused on her.

“You should dance for the kids, Katie. You possess all the grace of an artist’s muse. Who knows how you might encourage them?”

Katie laughed. “That’s laying it on a bit thick, Luc, even for you. I do believe if there was a snake in that basket over there, it would be rising to the charmer’s voice at this very minute.”

Luc’s very presence brought her into another time. Maybe it was the fedora or the classic cut of his suit, but it ran deeper than how he looked. He possessed a sense of virility and take-no-prisoners attitude that couldn’t be further from his blue-blood upbringing. He made her, in a word, feel safe . . . but there was nothing safe about Luc and there never had been. She straightened and walked over to her open folder to check her schedule for the day.

Tapping a pencil on the binder, she focused on getting the day back on track. The students were involved in free playtime at the moment. While they were all situated in a circle, they played individually, their own favorite tasks in front of them.

“Carrie, would you get Austin and Maddie ready for lunch?”

“I’ll do it,” Selena said. “And, Katie . . . you really should go to the wedding.”

“I can’t go to the wedding because it’s right in the middle of summer school.”

“You could get a substitute,” Carrie said. “What would you be gone for, a week at most? Jenna could probably fill in. She took the summer off this year.”

“Thanks for the suggestions, ladies,” Katie said through clenched teeth. “But I’ve already told the groom I can’t attend the wedding for professional reasons.”

The women laughed. “I’m sorry, what reasons?” Carrie asked, raising a bedpan to imply that anyone could do Katie’s job.

It was no use. The two women were thoroughly under Luc’s spell, and who could blame them?

“Maybe we should talk privately,” Luc said. He clasped her wrist and led her to the glass doors at the front of the classroom. “It’s beautiful out here. The way you’re nestled in the hills, you’d never know there’s a city nearby.”

She nodded. “That’s Crystal Springs Reservoir on the other side of the freeway. It’s protected property, the drinking water for this entire area, so it’s stayed pristine.”

“I’m not going back to New Orleans without you,” he said.

Apparently the small talk had ended.

“My mother would have a fit if I brought one of the women I’d take to a Hollywood event to a family wedding.”

Katie felt a twinge of jealousy, then a stab of anger for her own weakness. Of course he dated beautiful women. He was a billionaire. A billionaire who looked like Luc DeForges! Granted, he was actually a multimillionaire, but it had been a long-standing joke between the two of them. Did it matter, once you made your first ten million, how much came after that? He may as well be called a gazillionaire. His finances were too foreign for her to contemplate.

“And who you date is my problem, how?”

“If my date tries to swing dance and kicks one of my mother’s friends in the teeth, I’ll be disinherited.”

“So what, would that make you the fifth richest man in the United States, instead of the fourth?”

“Katie, how many times do I have to explain to you I’m nowhere near those kinds of numbers?” He grinned. “Yet.” He touched his finger to her nose lightly. “My fate is much worse than losing status if you don’t come. My mother might set me up to ensure I have a proper date. A chorus line of Southern belles. And I guarantee you at least one will have the proverbial glass slipper and think her idea is so utterly unique, I’ll succumb to the fantasy.”

“Wow! What a terrible life you must lead.” She pulled a Keds slide from her foot and emptied sand out of her shoe. A few grains landed on Luc’s shiny black loafer. “To think, with courtship skills like that, that any woman wouldn’t be swept off her feet—it’s unfathomable.” She patted his arm. “I wish you luck, Luc. I’m sure your mother will have some very nice choices for you, so go enjoy yourself. Perk up, there’re billions more to be made when you get back.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Katie.”

He was right, but she didn’t trust herself around him. She’d taken leave of her senses too many times in that weakened state. Since moving to California, she’d made it her goal to live life logically and for the Lord. She hadn’t fallen victim to her emotions since leaving New Orleans, and she’d invested too much to give into them now.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I only meant that I’m sure there are other nice girls willing to go home and pretend for your mother. I’ve already done that, only you forgot to tell me we were pretending. Remember?”

He flinched. “Below the belt.”

A pencil fell from behind her ear, and she stooped to pick it up, careful not to meet his glance as she rose. “I’m sorry, but I’m busy here. Maybe we could catch up another time? I’d like that and won’t be so sidetracked.” She looked across the room toward Austin, an angelic but severely autistic child in a wheelchair. He pounded against his tray. “The kids are getting hungry. It’s lunchtime.” She pointed to the schedule.

Luc scooped a hand under her chin and forced her to look at him. “Where else am I going to find a gorgeous redhead who knows who Glenn Miller is?”

“Don’t, Luc. Don’t charm me. It’s beneath you. Buy one of your bubble-headed blondes a box of dye and send her to iTunes to do research. Problem solved.”

He didn’t let go. “Ryan wants you to sing at the wedding, Katie. He sent me personally to make sure you’d be there and sing ‘Someone to Watch Over Me.’ I’m not a man who quits because something’s difficult.”

“Anyone worth her salt on Bourbon Street can sing that. Excuse me—” 

“Katie-bug.”

“Luc, I asked you kindly. Don’t. I’m not one of your sophisticated girls who knows how to play games. I’m not going to the wedding. That part of my life is over.”

“That part of your life? What about that part of you? Where is she?”

She ignored his question. “I cannot be the only woman you know capable of being your date. You’re not familiar with anyone else who isn’t an actress-slash-waitress?” She cupped his hand in her own and allowed herself to experience the surge of energy. “I have to go.” She dropped his hands and pushed back through the half door. “I’m sure you have a meeting to get to. Am I right?”

“It’s true,” he admitted. “I had business in San Francisco today, a merger. We bought a small chain of health food stores to expand the brand. But I was planning the trip to see you anyway and ask you personally.”

“Uh-huh.”

“We’ll be doing specialty outlets in smaller locations where real estate prices are too high for a full grocery outlet. Having the natural concept already in these locations makes my job that much easier.”

“To take over the free world with organics, you mean?”

That made him smile, and she warmed at the sparkle in his eye. When Luc was in his element, there was nothing like it. His excitement was contagious and spread like a classroom virus, infecting those around him with a false sense of security. She inhaled deeply and reminded herself that the man sold inspiration by the pound. His power over her was universal. It did not make her special.

“Name your price,” he said. “I’m here to end this rift between us, whatever it is, and I’ll do the time. Tell me what it is you want.”

“There is no price, Luc. I don’t want anything from you. I’m not going to Ryan’s wedding. My life is here.”

“Day and night . . . night and day,” he crooned and then his voice was beside her ear. “One last swing dance at my brother’s wedding. One last song and I’ll leave you alone. I promise.”

She crossed the room to the sink against the far wall, but she felt him follow. She hated how he could make every nerve in her body come to life, while he seemingly felt nothing in return. She closed her eyes and searched for inner strength. He didn’t want me. Not in a way that mattered. He wanted her when it suited him to have her at his side.

“Even if I were able to get the time off work, Luc, it wouldn’t be right to go to your brother’s wedding as your date. I’m about to get engaged.”

“Engaged?” He stepped away.

She squeezed hand sanitizer onto her hands and rubbed thoroughly.

“I’ll give a call to your fiancĂ© and let him know the benefits.” He pulled a small leather pad of paper from his coat pocket. “I’ll arrange everything. You get a free trip home, I get a Christian date my mother is proud to know, and then your life goes back to normal. Everyone’s happy.” He took off his fedora as though to plead his case in true gentlemanly fashion. “My mother is still very proud to have led you from your . . .” He choked back a word. “From your previous life and to Jesus.”

The announcement of her engagement seemed to have had little effect on Luc, and Katie felt as if her heart shattered all over again. “My previous life was you. She was proud to lead me away from her son’s life.” She leaned on the countertop, trying to remember why she’d come to the kitchen area.

“You know what I meant.”

“I wasn’t exactly a streetwalker, Luc. I was a late-night bar singer in the Central District, and the only one who ever led my reputation into question was you. So I’m failing to see the mutual benefit here. Your mother. Your date. And I get a free trip to a place I worked my tail off to get out of.”

She struggled with a giant jar of applesauce, which Luc took from her and opened easily. He passed the jar back to her and let his fingers brush hers.

“My mother would be out of her head to see you. And the entire town could see what they lost when they let their prettiest belle go. Come help me remind them. Don’t you want to show them that you’re thriving? That you didn’t curl up and die after that awful night?”

“I really don’t need to prove anything, Luc.” She pulled her apron, with its child-size handprints in primary colors, over her head. “I’m not your fallback, and I really don’t care if people continue to see me that way. They don’t know me.”

“Which you? The one who lives a colorless existence and calls it holy? Or the one who danced on air and inspired an entire theater troupe to rediscover swing and raise money for a new stage?” Luc bent down, took her out at the knees, and hoisted her up over his shoulder.

“What are you doing? Do you think you’re Tarzan? Put me down.” She pounded on his back, and she could hear the chaos he’d created in the classroom. “These kids need structure. What do you think you’re doing? I demand you put me down!”

Special thanks to:
Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist @ The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.
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