Sunday, March 29, 2015

Book Review: Little Beach Street Bakery

Little Beach Street BakeryAuthor: Jenny Colgan
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Series: Little Beach Street Bakery # 1

In the bestselling tradition of Jojo Moyes and Jennifer Weiner, Jenny Colgan's moving, funny, and unforgettable novel tells the story of a heartbroken young woman who turns a new page in her life . . . by becoming a baker in the town of Cornwall

A quiet seaside resort. An abandoned shop. A small flat. This is what awaits Polly Waterford when she arrives at the Cornish coast, fleeing a ruined relationship.

To keep her mind off her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, chocolate and sugar, and the local honey--courtesy of a handsome beekeeper. Packed with laughter and emotion, Little Beach Street Bakery is the story of how one woman discovered bright new life where she least expected--a heartwarming, mouthwatering modern-day Chocolat that has already become a massive international bestseller.

Polly winced at the word “bankruptcy.” It sounded so final, so serious. Something that happened to silly pop stars and celebrities. Not to hard-working people like them.

She was on her way, completely alone to an utterly strange destination, against the advice of everyone she knew, leaving the only life she’d known for seven years. The enormity of it all weighed her down.

Polly was very specific about bread. She loved it. She had loved it in fashion and out of fashion; as a child, as an adult. It was her favorite part of going to a restaurant. She love it toasted or as it was; she loved bagels, and cheese on toast, and twisted Italian plaits. She loved artisan sourdough that cost six pounds for a tiny loaf, and she loved sliced white that molded and soaked up the juices of a bacon sandwich.

I cannot say enough good things about Jenny Colgan and her cozy, sweet books filled with cozy, sweet recipes and mouth watering dishes! I absolutely loved the setting and the main character, Polly. The small town setting and the atmosphere of the cozy little bakery was enough to allow me to kick back and forget the time and day for awhile. This is, of course, not my first Jenny Colgan, so I knew what to expect from the writing, dialogue, descriptive detail, character development, and charming dishes that always leave my stomach growling. The story focuses around Polly, as I mentioned previously, who has recently learned she is bankrupt, without a job, and dealing with her long-term boyfriend whose business just went under. Polly is left feeling along and desperate; she turns to a favorite past-time of hers: baking. Her baking soon becomes the talk of the small fishing town and she wins the approval of many of the fisherman, but also wins the disapproval of the local bakery shop owner. Polly must discover a way to win her heart over once and for all so that she too can pursue her dreams.

I loved the feeling of this little beachy town. Spring has definitely sprung where I live and reading this book allowed me to connect to the book more and just left me with a “feel good” mentality. The descriptions of teas, warm honeys and jams had me turning the pages faster than the time was ticking; this was one of those books that you hated to see end. Polly encounters a lot of interesting people who are enchanted by her marvelous baking and her interactions with them make for interesting twists to the story. I loved watching Polly bond with others over her baking and their love of the small seaside town. I would recommend not only this book, but any of Jenny Colgan’s books to readers looking for a new author to follow and adore!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at William Morrow in exchange for my honest review*** 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: Rivals In The City

Rivals in the City (The Agency #4)Author: Y.S. Lee
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Series: The Agency # 4

In a tale steeped in action, romance, and the gaslit intrigue of Victorian London, Mary Quinn’s detective skills are pitted against a cunning and desperate opponent.

Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?

She was her own woman. She was free.

This was her London: brutal, coarse, dangerous. It was a part of her history. It had molded her character. But she would not allow it to shape her destiny.

Above all, though, she had a sudden, powerful desire to be on assignments for the Agency one last time. 

I have enjoyed following Mary Quinn through four different mysteries now, and I really wish that it did not have to end here, although I am fairly certain the series is finished. I loved this book so much because the mystery allowed Mary Quinn to reconnect with a few of the characters from the first book and the mystery involves the same crook that Mary first pinned. Mary has grown and blossomed from the young, timid girl that we were first introduced to; she now has the means to support herself and come and go as she pleases. She has also finally won the heart of Mr. James Easton, who cannot wait to marry her. However, Mary is not quite finished enjoying life on her own when she is paid a visit by Ms. Anne Treleaven with a special assignment from the agency. Mary cannot seem to resist just one more case to solve!

Mary Quinn is a fascinating character with a fascinating past. As an avid reader of this series, I was pleased to find out that in this book Mary is able to learn a little more about her past and her family. As I mentioned before, Mary is on a case following the same characters that she did in the first book in this series. I was on edge while reading and finished this book so quickly because of the suspense and so many questions that I wanted answered as fast as possible. I was hesitant at first because I did not want this story to be so closely related to the first, but Mary’s character and the development she has made throughout the series absolutely made this last book for me! Pick up this series and allow Mary Quinn to inspire you now!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Candlewick Press in exchange for my honest review*** 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book Review: The Storyspinner

The Storyspinner (The Keepers' Chronicles, #1)Author: Becky Wallace
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Series: The Keepers’ Chronicles # 1

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

No child should ever have to watch their father die.

Johanna smiled at the familiarity of it all. These people, seemingly crazy and loud, were her family. Not all of them were blood relatives, though she had a handful of cousins and an uncle in the troupe, but they cared for each other like kin.

Performers were secretive people by nature, keeping the tricks of their trade private, sharing only with family members and apprentices. They didn’t appreciate crowd members wandering through their camp and stealing the secrets that made their entertainment so valuable.

Becky Wallace’s debut novel was definitely one for the books! I don’t always get to read as much fantasy as I would like, and when I find a good one it is always such a treat. This story is told in multiple point of views and while some readers are skeptical of this in books, I find that I always look forward to it because of the versatility it adds to the novel and the plot. The multiple point of views really worked well in this novel and it made the characters feel so much more endearing. Johanna and Rafi were of course my favorites, and thankfully so seeing as they are the main characters. They felt so real and so much more personable than all the rest. I am already so excited to see where this story will go next.

With any fantasy story there will most likely have to be an incredible amount of world building early on; this one was no different. While world building can sometimes be overwhelming for characters, I felt that Becky writes this otherwise complicated world that Johanna and Rafi live in in a most uncomplicated way. I was enthralled and never bored when learning the background to the story, and I have no qualms in recommending this beautiful debut to other readers as well. Johanna’s position as a storyteller/performer is very intriguing and really added all the magic that made up this captivating tale! I am so excited to see what else Becky Wallace has up her sleeves!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: How To Catch A Prince

How to Catch a Prince (Royal Wedding, #3)Author: Rachel Hauck
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Zondervan
Series: Royal Wedding # 3

Prince Stephen came to America to escape responsibility. But what he found complicates his life more than ever.

Corina Del Rey is happy with her life in Melbourne, Florida. She spends her days engrossed in her career as a journalist and has her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder if for no other reason, to distract herself from her dissolving family. But when she is confronted with the past she fought so hard to put behind her, she struggles to make sense of her future.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom has moved on since the tragic death of his buddies in Afghanistan. A star professional rugby player, he has no intention of looking over his shoulder at what could ve been.

But when a notice arrives in the mail requiring his and his wife s appearance before the courts to dissolve their marriage, he must deal with the questions rumbling around in his heart. He thought his marriage had been annulled long ago, but his memories of Corina Del Rey remain close. Does he still love her? Can he even find her? Above all, can he tell her the truth about that fateful night in Afghanistan seven years ago? If he does, he might really lose her forever."

Why did she keep their secret? One small thought ricocheted in reply. Because in some small way, maybe she still loved him.

Story of her life? Corina had a story all right. Of her own life. An amazing story, one she’d never told anyone. It was her secret.

After all, she was a Del Rey, a daughter of great fortune, a steel magnolia, a former Miss Georgia, a summa cum laude college graduate, a writer…and twin sister. 

This book was one of my most anticipated reads for this year. I absolutely adore Rachel Hauck’s other books and I knew this one would be no different. I have read the other two books in this series and they both received five cupcake reviews as well! Prince Stephen of Brighton and Corina Del Rey are the two main characters in this book and it is their love story that we get to follow and fall in love with. Corina is a wealthy American heiress who had a wonderfully cheerful and ever promising future, until her twin brother, Carlos, was killed in Afghanistan. Corina holds onto this grief and since she does not know very much at all about her brother’s death, she wants to find some answers and hopefully find some closure along with that. We find out very early on that Corina and Prince Stephen have a past and their love story isn’t over just yet! I do not want to spoil anything more on this topic!

As with all of Rachel Hauck’s books, this one is fun and light-hearted but can pull on a few of your heartstrings. Rachel writes romance that is incredibly easy to get through and makes you wish you could be a part of the royal world. I cannot recommend this book, or should I say series, enough. We were first introduced to Prince Stephen in the first book of the series, but we soon find out that Corina and Stephen’s love story started long before all of the others. This book was a great way to end the series and made me desperately hope that she will write more, even though I think she is finished. Do not hesitate any longer; go pick up this series! It will make for a perfect spring read.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Zondervan in exchange for my honest review*** 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: After A Fashion

After a Fashion (A Class of Their Own #1)Author: Jen Turano
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Series: A Class Of Their Own # 1

Miss Harriet Peabody dreams of the day she can open up a shop selling refashioned gowns to independent working women like herself. Unfortunately, when an errand for her millinery shop job goes sadly awry due to a difficult customer, she finds herself out of an income.

Mr. Oliver Addleshaw is on the verge of his biggest business deal yet when he learns his potential partner prefers to deal with men who are settled down and wed. When Oliver witnesses his ex not-quite-fiance cause the hapless Harriet to lose her job, he tries to make it up to her by enlisting her help in making a good impression on his business partner.

Harriet quickly finds her love of fashion can't make her fashionable. She'll never truly fit into Oliver's world, but just as she's ready to call off the fake relationship, fancy dinners, and elegant balls, a threat from her past forces both Oliver and Harriet to discover that love can come in the most surprising packages.

Oliver Addleshaw preferred to manage his life exactly as he managed his many businesses. Calmly, organized, and with a sense of purpose.

Miss Peabody was exactly what he needed. She was lovely, intelligent, and didn’t appear to be possessed of a hysterical nature, even if she did seem to have a bit of a temper.

“My dear child, prayers should certainly commence immediately, especially since it’s clear you might have gotten yourself embroiled in something…disturbing.”

I have been following Jen Turano for quite some time now, and I have no qualms about recommending her books to any of my readers. Her new series, the one to which this book belongs, is no exception. I swept away from the very first page and I am desperately counting down the days to July when the next book in this series releases. Jen Turano is one of the wittiest authors I have ever read; she has the ability to draw you into her books so easily with engaging, realistic conversations and characters that you can truly support and relate to. Miss Harriet Peabody is not one to back down from what she feels is right, fair, or just. I loved her spunk and attitude. It was truly a pleasure to follow her around and be privy to her thoughts for a while!

Harriet has dreams to own her own dress shop one day and she meets the man who just might have the means to help her achieve those dreams; his name is Oliver Addleshaw. Oliver and Harriet are a wonderful mix. This book is just a “feel good” read. It will take you no time at all to get through the story. Of course there are several obstacles that the characters must face and quite a big twist that I honestly did not see coming at all, but Jen Turano is just doing what she does best. I guarantee you will not be disappointed with this new series, and if you are a new reader you might even be inspired to pick up her other books as well.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Bethany House and author, Jen Turano, in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review: An Uncertain Choice

An Uncertain Choice (An Uncertain Choice #1)Author: Jody Hedlund
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Zondervan
Series: An Uncertain Choice # 1

Due to her parents' promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father's enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents' will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow. 

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart.

“If you find true love and are married before midnight on your eighteenth birthday, you will be released from the vow.”

What if my life didn’t have to be so silent and secluded after all?

Never had I looked so deeply into someone’s eyes. I was helplessly lost.

This is Jody Hedlund’s first dab into the young adult world, to my understanding. And if that is true, I must say that she did fabulously! I devoured this book in less than three days, and would have finished sooner did I not have a J-O-B! I had to talk myself into going to sleep at night just to put the book down. Rosemarie’s character was beautifully written and the premise behind her story is truly unforgettable. Rosemarie’s life has been entirely planned out since the time she was a child, or so she thinks. When her parents passed away they made it clear that at the age of eighteen Rosemarie was to join the convent, but Rosemarie’s entire life changes when an old friend of her parents comes into town and says there is an “escape clause” to her parents well drawn out plan. If Rosemarie finds true love and marries before the age of eighteen, then she will not be forced to join the sisterhood. Rosemarie weighs her options significantly but finally decides to give love a chance!

Rosemarie is courted by three valiant knights and they are all given the chance to “woo” her and win her heart and love. Rosemarie’s patience, heart, and mind are all test through this ordeal because it is far beyond anything she ever expected. She feels herself being pulled in multiple directions and she has a weighty choice to make in the end. This was such a wonderful romance and is a quaint little escape into a beautifully written medieval world. Rosemarie has such a heart for her kingdom and the people in it; her love for her kingdom is what I believe ultimately helps her decide on a mate. I could read this story over and over again and I am very excited for more installments in this series.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Zondervan in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Book Review: Death Marked

Death Marked (Death Sworn, #2)Author: Leah Cypess
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Series: Death Sworn # 2

A young sorceress’s entire life has been shaped to destroy the empire controlling her world. But if everything she knows is a lie, will she even want to fulfill her destiny? The sequel to Death Sworn is just as full of magic and surprising revelations, and will thrill fans of Leigh Bardugo and Robin LaFevers.

At seventeen, Ileni lost her magical power and was exiled to the hidden caves of the assassins. She never thought she would survive long. But she discovered she was always meant to end up, powerless, in the caves as part of an elder sorcerer’s plan to destroy the evil Empire they'd battled so long. Except that Ileni is not an assassin, and she doesn't want to be a weapon. And, after everything, she’s not even sure she knows the truth. Now, at the very heart of the Empire—its academy for sorcerers—the truth is what she seeks. What she finds challenges every belief she holds dear—and it threatens her fledgling romance with the young master of assassins.

Leah Cypess spins an intricate and beautiful conclusion to Ileni's story. In the end, it may not be the epic decisions that bring down an empire, but the small ones that pierce the heart.

The Empire was vast and powerful, but it depended on magic for everything from transportation to communication – and, most importantly, to win its wars, quash its rebellions, and defend itself against the relentless strikes of assassins.

And if he knew she has killed his master, nothing would stop him from killing her.

She had grown up more powerful than any of her people, but when her power had begun to ebb, she had been sent to the assassins to serve as their tutor for the rest of her life. From future leader to useless sacrifice over the course of a few months.

Leah Cypess was a new author to me when I read the first book in this duology, Death Sworn. I bragged about her writing to many of my friends and they quickly went to get a copy of the first book as well. I found this book to be a bit slower than the first; I gave the first book 5 lovely cupcakes, but that is not to say that I did not enjoy it because I still did, just for different reasons than I enjoyed the first book. I do not want to give away a lot of the plot for those of you that have not read the first book, but I will say that the action and adventure is still present, but this time around more of the focus just falls on Ileni’s internal struggle as our heroine. She is left trying to figure out who she is in a world that seems to be falling apart.

What I loved about this book was the surprise ending. While at first I was unsure how to feel about it, upon reflection I am pleased to say that love what the author did. I was pleased that all loose ends were tied up, as I was left with several questions from the first book going into the second. I grew to appreciate Illeni’s character even more, and I know a lot of bloggers seemed to despise her more in this book, but you have to take into account all that she has been through. I recommend this series because it is not your typical fantasy read and the only way you will understand why I feel that way is to go and pick this up for yourself!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Greenwillow Books in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review: Dauntless

Dauntless (Valiant Hearts, #1)Author: Dina L. Sleiman
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Series: Valiant Hearts # 1

Though once a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village. Dubbed "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest," her band of followers soon become enemies of the throne when they hijack ill-gotten gold meant for the king. 

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, will he choose fame or love?

Lady Merry Ellison had no need of a man. Now or ever. She had not been able to rely upon her father, nor her brother. No, she could rely upon no one but herself.

Merry would hold to one principle only: Do whatever it takes to protect these children.

And he dared not think what it might mean for his heart if Merry had been taken from them for good.

This sparkling new novel is aimed at juveniles or young adults, but to all my fabulous readers I just want to say that I know that adults will love Merry’s story as well. Merry Ellison is a fearless, courageous, and highly intelligent heroine and role model. Her journey is sure to please readers of all ages and keep them anxiously awaiting other great characters just like her. Merry has been dealt a tough lot, and now she and her followers must rely on their wits to guide them as they are on the run in a world that seems like it is about to come crashing down around them. Merry reminds me so much of a valiant Robin Hood; her actions are powerful and the message she sends as a strong female lead makes this book undoubtedly one of the best I have read this year!

Sleiman sends a strong message with the types of characters she writes; from what I can gather, this entire series will focus around strong women and the men that love them. There is something to be said for an author that can write characters who are far from perfect, makes bad choices and mistakes, but yet when we finish reading the books we feel as if we have lost our best friends. The author’s message is clear to young girls and boys alike; follow your heart, be brave, and allow God to lead and guide you. I cannot wait for what more the author has in store for this series and I am so humbled and honored that she allowed me to read and review this book. We all need a female Robin Hood to look up to; go out, pick up a copy of this book, and become enraptured in Merry Ellison’s story, just like I did!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Bethany House and by the author, Dina Sleiman, in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: Perfect Kind of Trouble

Perfect Kind of Trouble (Finding Fate, #2)Author: Chelsea Fine
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Forever
Series: Finding Fate # 2

Sometimes when perfect falls apart, a little trouble fixes everything . . . 

Twenty-one-year-old Kayla Turner has lost everything. After spending most of her life taking care of her ailing mother, she just wants to spot a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. So when her late father-a man she barely knew-leaves her an inheritance, she finally breathes a sigh of relief . . . until she learns the inheritance comes with strings. Strings in the form of handsome playboy Daren Ackwood, her father's protégé. To see any of her inheritance, she's forced to team up with him. From his expensive car to those sexy dimples, Kayla's seen his type before. But Daren isn't who he seems to be . . .

Struggling to make amends for his family's mistakes, Daren has a life more Oliver Twist than Richie Rich these days. He's beyond grateful that James Turner included him in his will, but working with Turner's princess of a daughter to fulfill his cryptic last wish is making Daren wonder if being broke is really so bad. Still, she's just as beautiful as she is stubborn, and the more time he spends with Kayla, the less it feels right being without her. Soon Daren and Kayla begin to wonder if maybe the best gift Kayla's dad could have left them . . . was each other.

It’s hard to see love when you have it, but when it’s gone you’re blind to anything else.

He’s cocky but wounded, charming but lonely, with the sureness of a wealthy man and the desperation of a pauper. I can’t figure him out, but one thing is certain. Daren is not as tough or undamaged as he lets on.

Real love isn’t something you plan or earn, it’s something that just hits you – like a bolt of lightning – and changes you forever.

I really enjoyed this book! I loved it even more than the first book and I can now say that I am truly addicted to Chelsea Fine’s writing and style. In this addition to the series, we meet Daren and Kayla, who made their debut appearance in the first book. I got to see enough of them in the first book to know that I could not wait to hear their story. Kayla returns to Cooper Springs to mourn her father and his recent death, so you can imagine she is feeling bitter, angry, and hurt. Enter Daren Ackwood, who she immediately recognizes from childhood. Daren is also feeling low and at his wit’s end, but he thought highly of Kayla’s father and wishes to honor him alongside everyone else. They develop the wrong first impressions of each other and are destined to hate each other right from the start; I love these type of love stories the best! So you can imagine the angst and tension that builds up between the two of them; I won’t spoil any details for you, don’t worry!

The chapters of this book are written in alternating point of view, which makes for excellent storytelling and attention to detail. Events in their lives are slowly revealed and as readers we get to see how they react to things together and within their own minds; that really is the best part. They are both stubborn, which only draws me to their characters more because I can be stubborn as well. Their stubbornness only adds to the tension that is between them and allows for a more satisfying climax and conclusion once we see what our two main characters make of their lives together. Such a phenomenal series and I cannot wait for the next book!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Forever in exchange for my honest review***