20 September 2013

Blog Tour: A Seaside Christmas by Sherryl Woods.

An unproofed copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for a review. 

Publication Date:  September 24, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Price: $16.95 Hardback (list price)
          $12.99 Digital edition. 
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 

As I write this blog post, it is raining outside, which where I live in the Pacific Northwest, is the equivalent to snow.  So what better activity could there be on this first "wintery" day of the year than to write a review of my first Christmas based book of the year.  I am a newcomer to the O'Brian saga that everyone else has been  familiar with for quite a while, but if this book is any indication, I can definitely see myself reading more.  

In this installment of the series, Jenny Collins returns to Chesepeake Shores for the holiday season to help a family member with her annual Christmas play.  She is also running away from Nashville, where she is a celebrated songwriter, trying to escape from the publicity caused by her very public breakup with Country superstar Caleb Green.  

 For me, a romance book has to have something other than just the romance to entice me.  In the case of this book, there were several things that fit that bill.  First of all, the characters in Sherryl Woods O'Brian series, if this book is any indication, encompass just he right mix of compassion, family loyalty, and pragmatism, yet they aren't at all one dimensional.   Also, as a Country music fan, the country music backdrop was definitely a plus.  I found myself through out the book associating both Jenny and Caleb with my favorite Country stars.  Last, I loved the whole focus on the Christmas musical.  I am a sucker for musicals AND Christmas musicals in particular.  The fact that the author referenced all my favorite Christmas movies was not lost on me.  By the time the book was finished, I not only wanted to go to Broadway and see the play, but I wanted to dig out all of my faves, White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, etc.  and watch one after the other.  

After reading this book, I have decided that I need to go back and read the other books in the series.  I really want to get to know all of the O'Brians better.   If the book can do that to me, I am sure it will do the same for other readers.  That, in my mind, makes it a huge success.  

17 September 2013

Tuesday's Review: The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold

A Copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher:  Bantam Books
Price:  $15.00 Paperback 
            $ 7.99 Digital
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Reading Elizabeth Joy Arnold's new novel, The Book of Secrets, remineded me a lot of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.  This story has the same aura of mystery, the same twisted family dynamics, and the same ability to suck the reader into the story being told.  At least it was that way for me.  It was a solid story from start to finish that intrigued me the whole way through. 

The story is told from the point of view of Choe Sinclar, who returns home one day to find that her husband, Nate, is gone.  He has returned to the town where they grew up, a place that holds bad memories for both of them, and where she never thought he would want to go again.  Ms. Arnold continues the story, alternating her chapters between the present and the past.  Through this device we are treated to the mystery of why Nate would return home, as well as the tumultuous history of Chloe, Nate, and the rest of the Sinclair family.  Alternating chapters in this way is a device that really works for this story.  I flew through each chapter in anticipation of what came next for both stories.   And speaking of devices, the way that the author integrated books into the story was one of my favorite things.   Most of the books were old favorites of mine, and as each one debuted in the story, it brought back wonderful memories of my first encounter with them. 

 Another hit for me, was the cast of characters in the book.  Through them I was able to experience  the emotional impact of the story being told.  I felt the joy and wonder of love, the anger of deciet and betrayal, the pain of loss, and the fear of the unknown.  They were wonderfully imperfect  and real.  In the end, I felt like I really knew and understood each of them.  

Although the end of this book was by no means the best ending that I have ever read, I did feel that it was appropriate to the story.  I am one of those readers for whom the end of a book can really "seal the deal".  In the case of The Book of Secrets, the ending deftly answered all of the questions that I had been pondering throughout the story, many of which I had already surmised.   I guess that would be the only negative for me.  As satisfying and appropriate as the ending was, I had figured out where the story was leading long before the author revealed the last peice of the mystery.  What speaks well to the story, though, was that knowing the big twist did not in any way lessen my enjoyment of the book overall.  

Elizabeth Joy Arnold is yet another new author for me, as most of the authors that I read these days seem to be.  If this book is any indication, I think that she has a bright future as an author.  I would certainly read another book by her, and intend to recommend this one to my friends.