20 February 2017

The Fill-in Boyfriend


From Goodreads:

"When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship."

***

Kasie West’s books were recommended to me a while ago by a good friend, and I am SO GLAD she was! The Fill-in Boyfriend was charming and funny and heartfelt. I loved the sly geek references and the way that Gia ended up taking a good look at herself and her priorities. She wasn’t necessarily a bad girl or a mean girl, but I love how she moved from being a shallow high school princess to someone with substance by the end of the story. And Mr. Fill-in Boyfriend grew too. Life is about growth and change and improving ourselves, and stories whose characters remain static are so much less fulfilling than ones where the characters strive to be better versions of themselves. That’s why I comment on it so much--it’s THAT important.

So, take the time to dig into The Fill-in Boyfriend. I think you’ll love it.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found no items of concern.

19 January 2017

Plucking One String


From Goodreads:

"Vera Henley has pulled the strings of the Lutheran Ladies Circle for years; now everything has unraveled. A new, young pastor is altering traditions, and the independent Circle women are cheering the changes—all except for Vera. When her high-maintenance, crazy aunt introduces even more rebellion and chaos, Vera must choose which thread of change to pluck—and which to let go."

***



I don’t often go in for contemporary stories, much less Christian contemporary stories--they want to beat you over the head repeatedly with the morality stick and I am quite comfortable in my convictions, thank you very much. But Plucking One String sounded charming, so I gave it a shot.

I am so glad I did. The characters in the Lutheran Ladies Circle feel realistic. There are no stereotypical “wandering single mom” or “overbearing matron” or “mousy single lady” tropes. There are characters who fit that description, but they change. They grow. Their stories move in unexpected ways that delighted me and kept me reading. And the conversations on faith that these lovely ladies had resonated with truth and experience. I found myself nodding along with their sentiments more than once, then later chuckling at the antics of the congregation as they tried to work together. They were so HUMAN. Very much worth the reading time, Plucking One String was reaffirming to my beliefs and made me think more charitably about the people around me. I recommend it.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

17 November 2016

No Peace with the Dawn





From Goodreads:
"In 1917, the Great War seems far from Logan, Utah. But soon it will change the lives of suffragette and mechanic Clara, Swiss-German immigrant and LDS convert Trudi, Marine Corps volunteer Reed, and Shoshone seeking U.S. citizenship Joseph. This novel weaves real events with compelling fictional characters into a sweeping tale of war, romance, self-discovery, and sacrifice."


No Peace with the Dawn straddles the line between a really entertaining textbook and an information-heavy fiction novel. As a discourse on the struggles of the average citizen during World War I and how the major events of the time--racism, influenza and pneumonia, PTSD--tied together, it is brilliantly enlightening, giving glorious detail on life in the trenches and life in Logan, Utah, during those years. It is historically accurate and clearly written--obviously, a great deal of care went into the crafting of this novel.

Given that World War I is a war that is rapidly fading from public consciousness, I can understand the authors' desire to make sure that the background of the book's events are clear. If there had been a pop quiz at the back of the book, I would have been more than adequately prepared. However, the overwhelming proliferation of facts often distracted me from the story itself. Also unfortunate is the lack of character growth within the story. Despite the intimidating and violent circumstances they found themselves in, the characters faced very little in the way of personal challenges, and those challenges they did face either disappeared from the story or were resolved by outside forces. There was very little internal struggle, which is the soil needed for personal growth.

On the other hand, I still adored spunky Clara, dashing Reed, gentle Trudi, and stalwart Joseph as they carried the story nobly to its foregone conclusion. I felt I knew more about a time that I had paid little attention to before. For my education, it was worth the read.

15 November 2016

The Stranger She Married


From Goodreads:

"When her parents and twin brother die within weeks of each other, Alicia and her younger sister are left in the hands of an uncle who has brought them all to financial and social ruin. Desperate to save her family from debtor's prison, Alicia vows to marry the first wealthy man to propose. She meets the dashing Lord Amesbury, and her heart whispers that this is the man she is destined to love, but his tainted past may forever stand in their way. Her choices in potential husbands narrow to either a scarred cripple with the heart of a poet, or a handsome rake with a deadly secret.

Cole Amesbury is tormented by his own ghosts, and believes he is beyond redemption, yet he cannot deny his attraction for the girl whose genuine goodness touches the heart he'd thought long dead. He fears the scars in his soul cut so deeply that he may never be able to offer Alicia a love that is true. When yet another bizarre mishap threatens her life, Alicia suspects the seemingly unrelated accidents that have plagued her loved ones are actually a killer's attempt to exterminate every member of her family. Despite the threat looming over her, learning to love the stranger she married may pose the greatest danger to her heart. And Cole must protect Alicia from the killer who has been exterminating her family before she is the next target."

***

This was a fascinating read. I wasn't quite sure what to think of it at first, but I was drawn in by the characters and the plot. And I do love a good mystery.

What made this all work was that the mystery was NOT the focus of the plot from the beginning. In fact, it didn't even come to the forefront of the story until about halfway through, when the characters realize something is up. So the story is delicately and wonderfully balanced between a romance between the leads, a marriage of necessity and the conflicting emotions that accompany it, and the mystery that takes over and makes the entire story make sense. I really, REALLY enjoyed this read, even as it made me uncomfortable at parts. I would read it again, now that I know the ending, just to see how it all worked. Cole and Alicia were fantastic characters who were well worth spending time on, and the story....oh, the story. Masterfully executed, in my opinion.

Gentle Reader Alert: There wasn't really much of concern, but I wouldn't hand it off to my 11-year-old. Definitely adult situations in there.

10 November 2016

Marking Time


From Goodreads:
"Seventeen-year-old tagger Saira Elian can handle anything... a mother who mysteriously disappears, a stranger who stalks her around London, and even the noble English Grandmother who kicked Saira and her mother out of the family. But when an old graffiti tag in a tube station transports Saira to the 19th Century and she comes face-to-face with Jack the Ripper, she realizes she needs help after all.

Saira meets Archer, a charming student who helps her blend in as much as a tall, modern American teen can in Victorian England. He reveals the existence of the Immortals: Time, Nature, Fate, War and Death, and explains to Saira that it is possible to move between centuries – if you are a Descendant of Time.

Saira finds unexpected friendships at a boarding school for Immortal Descendants and a complicated love with a young man from the past. But time is running out for her mother, and Saira must embrace her new identity as she hides from Archer a devastating secret about his future that may cost him his life."

***
Marking Time is a lot of what I hope for out of a book. Saira is a whip-smart character who can take care of herself. Her adeptness at parkour or free-running is demonstrative of her ability to make smart, quick decisions that look intuitive but that are actually based on detailed observation and relevant facts--very Sherlockian. (Hmmm, Sherlock as a free-runner...that could be interesting.) The mystery is excellent, the plot is tight and brilliant and twisty and layered. The different times that Saira finds herself in are portrayed well--enough detail to give the reader a sense that Saira is in a different place, but not so much detail that the eyes begin to glaze over. The history is very well incorporated into the story. Saira's interactions with Archer remind me a lot of River Song and the Eleventh Doctor, for all you Doctor Who fans out there, which means that the story/romance in the sequels has potential for depth and growth and lots of intensity. 

Gentle Reader Alert: I forgot to take note (that's how consuming this book was), but if anything, there was a mild amount of swearing. I think. 

08 November 2016

Wicked Sense


From Goodreads:

"Witches inhabit our world, organized in covens and hiding behind a shroud of secrecy—the Veil.

Skye’s London coven sends her to Seattle’s Greenwood High to find the Singularity, an unusually gifted witch who may break the Veil and trigger a dangerous new era of witch-hunting. Things get complicated when Skye meets a charming new classmate, Drake. Skye’s job becomes even trickier when she clashes with Jane, an intimidating rival witch.

Drake falls for the mysterious Skye, but odd accidents, potion mix-ups, and the occasional brush with death kind of get in the way of romance. Once he discovers Skye is a witch, he goes to war for her, even though his only weapons are a nice set of abs and a sharp sense of humor.

Fighting off wicked Jane and the other dark forces hell-bent on seizing the Singularity's immense power, Skye and Drake will risk everything to save the covens.

Going on a date has never been harder."


***

Wicked Sense was an interesting read--the plot felt fresh, and while it wasn't super twisty, it was enjoyable intense. The gentle characters and wry humor added a charming facet to the story that kept me turning the pages. Well worth the time invested.

Gentle Reader Alert: There was some swearing and a little innuendo--nothing above a PG level.

03 November 2016

Rules of Murder



From Goodreads:

"Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.

Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game."

***

Ah, this was an excellent little mystery, perfect for a lazy afternoon. Drew and Nick and Madeline were engaging characters. The plot was tight and well-developed and the mystery almost surprised me at the end. Also, this is a *Christian* mystery,  but the Christian element was expertly woven in and felt like a believable part of the characters. I really appreciated it. Truly, this was a very enjoyable novel.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern. Well, there are murders, but they were NOT described in loving detail, so they didn't concern me.