Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review #6: A Bramble House Christmas

Title: A Bramble House Christmas
Author: CJ Carmichael
Published: October 26th, 2015
Page Count: 172
Price (eBook): ~ $3.99
Format Read: NetGalley PDF
Genre: Romance
Date Read: November 8th - November 14th, 2015
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Synopsis: When Finn Conrad finds out that his father bequeathed a large sum of money to the nurse who cared for him in his last few weeks, he is convinced that she must be up to something sinister. His mother and sisters urge him to visit Montana, where she'll be spending the Christmas holiday, to find out more about this woman who seemingly manipulated their father into giving her his money.

Willa Fairchild is just a mother struggling to protect her six-year-old son from the world. Now that he's been declared cancer-free, she knows that she ought to release her grip on him, but it's difficult. Since his father left shortly following his diagnosis, it's been difficult for both of them. 

Finn no longer believes in love, following his parents' divorce. He comes to Marietta, Montana under his nom de plume, hiding his identity from a woman he believes had sinister intentions with his father. Once he meets her, however, it becomes apparent that she's nothing like what he expected. 

My Thoughts: I loved everything about this book. It's one of my favorites that I've read this year, and I will happily recommend it to all the family and friends who enjoy romance novels. 

It's no big secret that I'm not generally a fan of romance novels. I've read quite a bit of Nora Roberts, but little else captures my attention. Most of the time I find the heroes to be weak and the heroines simpering and pathetic. This is not a genre that I generally pick up, but for some reason this book stood out to me (in spite of the fact that I don't like the cover at all). When I do pick up a romance novel, I don't often finish it, so the fact that I not only read this, but finished it and loved it is saying something to me.

Willa's character is real. She's soft and warm, but we want our romantic heroines to be soft. We're not looking for a strong female lead who's going to sweep in and save the day. If we did, we'd be reading a different genre. 

Her concern for her son is touching, and Scout's story -- not to mention the fact that he is a key character in the book and not simply a plot device! -- tugged at my heart strings. His condition forced Willa's character to develop independent of the romantic storyline, which I very much like. Kids are often little more than props in romantic stories (which is one reason I don't often finish them!) but in this case I felt like Scout was a fully-developed character himself, which was lovely. 

Finn is masculine without being macho. His manliness isn't shoved into our faces. He's sensitive to his mother and sisters' needs while the relationships are still kept realistic and varied. They aren't a perfect, happy family without any problems in their relationships, and I liked that about him. I loved the fact that he was an artist, because this, too, is not typical romance novel fare. He's not a man in uniform, and his occupation isn't a prop to make him more attractive to the reader (or to the heroine, for that matter).

I fell a little bit in love with both of them, and Ms. Carmichael did an amazing job of making them both appealing. Most romance novels I've read start out with one character being an unappealing ass while the other is the partner they've always wanted. One then has to work their way toward the other. In this novel, however, the conflict is more external (the inheritance money) and less to do with the characters' personalities.

The magical touches in the book just made it that much more appealing.

I will definitely be looking at the other books in this series! I loved all the characters I was introduced to!

Highly Recommended!

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is my honest opinion of the novel.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review #5: Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire

Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire

Title: Flesh and Blood
Author: Simon Cheshire
Published: March 2nd, 2015
Page Count: 336
Price (eBook): ~ $8.89
Format Read: NetGalley PDF
Genre: Horror
Date Read: November 6th - November 8th, 2015
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Recommendation: Not Recommended

Summary:  Sam Hunter's family has always struggled until his father, a musician, sells a song and suddenly they have millions of pounds to allow them to move to an affluent neighborhood. The family moves into a large house near an estate (in England, an "Estate" is like the American "Projects") and they meet their new neighbors, the Greenhills. But why does everyone they meet have a thin line of yellow mucous on their upper lips? And why do his parents seem so cheerful all of a sudden? Everyone around him seems strange, and Sam believes that the Greenhills must be up to something. He begins to investigate, using all of his skills as a journalist, but he never expects what he actually finds.

My Thoughts: Ugh. I hated it. Not so much as to give it a one-star rating, but this book was quite awful.

To begin with, the book starts out with several pages (I didn't count) of a massive info-dump that details the life that Sam and his family had before they moved, through to the journey to their new home, and details of how his father got the money. All of this information is redundant, and the reader doesn't need to read it in order to get into the book. This is the sort of thing that I hate in a novel and I hope that when I finally begin writing mine, I won't do this myself. 

I won't ever read another book by Simon Cheshire because of this one annoyance. It's death for an author in my books.

The second thing that bothered me is that the author made a show of being English. I've lived in England, and I know the slang pretty well as a result, but I felt like the entire book was anglicized to the point that it was difficult to read as an American. And I mean that it wasn't just an annoyance, but that I almost couldn't get through it because I had to use context to figure out terminology I hadn't encountered when living in England or enjoying British literature in books, movies, and television. 

This is the second book I've read with this problem recently. 

The story simply didn't make up for these things. It was an alright story, when it moved, but it didn't move quickly, and once the author reached the climax (another one who hit the timing right, so he gets kudos there!), the book actually slowed down again. Action around the climax was slow moving and, for me, boring. It didn't entertain and I wasn't impressed with it at all. 

I have to admit that the ending was something of a redeeming quality, as it was the best-written part of the book (maybe the author wrote this part first!) and it startled me more than most horror novels manage to startle me. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to save this book, and though it might have brought it from a 1 to a 2 star rating, I don't plan on reading something from this author again.

Not recommended!

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is my honest opinion of the novel.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Review #4: The Beast of Barcroft, by Bill Schweigart

The Beast of Barcroft, by Bill Schweigart

Title: The Beast of Barcroft
Published: November 17th, 2015
Page Count: 202
Price (eBook): ~ $2.99
Format Read: NetGalley PDF
Genre: Horror
Date Read: October 29th - November 6th, 2015
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Recommendation: Recommended

Summary: Ben McKelvie moves into a nice neighborhood in the suburbs with his fiance, but he doesn't realize that he's moving next door to an animal hoarder. Madeline feeds the wild animals, and her yard is unruly. Birds poop on Ben's car, rats infest the neighborhood whenever the lawn is mowed, and the yard is a pit. The neighbors complain about her property, but once she dies, animals begin to pick them off one by one. What is it that's stalking Barcroft, with its glowing eyes? Is it really the mountain lion, the rats, or a wolf? Ben and his little team of believers will find out!

My Thoughts: Another book that I enjoyed, I still must note that this book could still do with some editing and that I don't feel it's ready for publication on the 17th. The author is fond of the word "suddenly" and several actions appear to be very rushed, like Mr. Schweigart doesn't know quite how to make certain transitions (like a particularly awkward kiss in the middle of the novel).

In particular I was happy to see a lesbian couple in a novel, and to see their relationship treated as no more "outstanding" than a heterosexual relationship. I'd like to see more of this.

Both females in the book were strong, stand-up women with good heads on their shoulders (in completely different ways). Schweigart writes women the way that I like to read them, and these two didn't sit back for any man, no matter how chauvinistic both Ben and Richard behaved throughout the book.

The novel actually scared me (which is hard to do with the amount of horror reading I've done) and I jumped several times when interrupted during reading this book. While I'd hardly say that it's at the level of Stephen King (as the description suggests), it definitely frightened me, and that's what I'm looking for in a good horror book!


I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is my honest opinion of the novel.