Thursday, June 19, 2014

Acadian Waltz by Alexandrea Weis

Book: Acadian Waltz
Author: Alexandrea Weis
Narrator (if applicable):n/a

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Nora Kehoe is a woman who has everything, except a husband. Something her mother lets her know about on a regular basis. On a date that goes wrong, she ends up in a ER and meets the debonaire, Dr. John Blessing.

John is the answer to her prayers. Successful, handsome, charming, he is her mother's dream! Things happen way too fast when she goes from dating the good doctor to fiancee. When John starts making other demands, such as Nora giving up a job that she loves to be a stay at home mommy, Nora finds herself questioning her decision to marry him. Something her much beloved Uncle Jack, a raging alcoholic, is happy that she is thinking about.

Lucky for her, she is distracted by the mysterious, childhood friend, Jean Marc Gaspard, who runs his family's fishing business, but may be doing some smuggling to boost business. Nora can't deny her attraction to him though. When a Gaspard family emergency occurs and she heads out to the Gaspard compound to care for Jean Marc's brother, Henri, her choices force a decision, but are they the right ones?
My rating: 4 Stars
My opinion: I will let you in on a secret. I loved this book more than I thought I would. When I finally dedicated the time to read it, I finished it in 2 hours and didn't put it down until it was done.

Normally, I am not a huge fan of romance and will turn down authors who ask me to review their books in this genre.  I tend to find that a chunk of the books I have read focus on the romance dance and very little into character development. Under my rating system, in order for books in this genre to rate higher than their counterparts must focus on the storyline and to receive the Naomi Blackburn Seal of Approval, the books have to be well developed. A focus on the characters and storyline development vs. damsels in distress jumping into bed with the strapping male character is an absolute must. Acadian Waltz accomplished this!

What I loved about Acadian Waltz was that Ms. Weis took the time and care to develop the lead character, Nora Kehoe. While Nora wasn't totally imperfect, she wasn't perfect either. I did feel that some of the supporting characters needed further development, particularly Uncle Jack. Other than that, the book was dang near perfect.

The story had a feeling of excitement to it and as a result flowed quickly.  Jean Marc, had an aura of secrecy to him and what he was all about. Was he really a bad boy? The setting in NOLA was good, but I really loved when it switched to Manchac. I noticed that Ms. Weis' descriptions of the setting became stronger and, as a result, the mystery increased ten fold!

I must state that I agree with another reviewer who stated that the romance "plot" was predictable, but it was this author's writing style and capabilities that made this book stand out. 

Source: Author for review
Would I recommend? : I already have. 
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman

Book: Ruin Falls
Author: Jenny Milchman
Narrator (if applicable):n/a

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Liz Daniels thought her life was perfect. That was until the day her husband took off and took her children with her. As Liz unravels secrets, she realizes that everything wasn't as she thought.
My rating: 3 Stars
My opinion: I couldn't figure out what I disliked about this book. There were aspects of it that I felt wandered. I ended up looking at a Goodreads friend's review and she nailed it. While the premise of the story is excellent, the author weaves in too many variables or "layers" to be uncovered that really distracted from the storyline. It was almost as though the twists were too contrived.  As a result, I simply found myself bored at times when the book jumped around.

I would still read more by this author; however, her books will not be a top priority as some of my other authors.
Source:  Publisher for review
Would I recommend? : Yes, but not strongly.
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone


Lincoln's Boys: John Hay; John Nicolay and the War for Lincoln's Image

Book: Lincoln's Boys: John Hay; John Nicolay and the War for Lincoln's Image

Author: Joshua Zeitz
Narrator (if applicable):n/a

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Secretaries Hay and Nicolay were with Lincoln from his entrance to the White House to his assassination. It was their mission to present a picture of a man who rose from humble beginnings to one of our greatest leaders. 
My rating: 4 Stars
My opinion: Generally, this was an inviting read that kept me engaged. I could see how some could state that it was dry, but, I was given another POV/perspectives to incidents I have studied. To boot, the author clearly researched this book so it was loaded down with critical information to the study of Abraham Lincoln.

A chief complaint that I have to this book is that I that I thought the book would be more in a "letter" format. I would have loved to have seen letters that Nicolay and Hay sent rather than them being referred to by the author. I must admit that I did feel that there were moments of the writing that kind of dragged on, but this is common in every historical book I have read (and some fiction, as well). 

As someone who has read over 200 books on Lincoln and the Civil War, this was one of my favorites.

Source: Review for Penguin Group

Would I recommend? : Yes, to Lincoln enthusiasts, such as myself. I couldn't put it down.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone 

The Ghost in the Coal Cellar: True Stories from a Lone Investigator by Andrea Mesich

Book: The Ghost in the Coal Cellar: True Stories from a Lone Investigator
Author: Andrea Mesich
Narrator (if applicable):n/a

Release date (if applicable): August 8, 2014 

Synopsis: Ms. Mesich chronicles her paranormal investigations to such places as Mission Point Resort and the First Ward School House. 

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I must admit that I appreciated the fact that she came in from a scientific perspective and studied optional causes for "haunted" occurrences. The research appeared thorough. I tend to roll my eyes frequently at the books that are more "psychic" based and do tend to make fun of them. That simply was not present in this book. It was clear that this was a well developed book.

This was probably one of the more intelligent reads that I have read on this subject. The stories are broken down into episodes: History, Investigation and Findings. Think of reading the television show Ghosthunters. Furthermore, I though it was well thought out and concise in presentation.  

One of the things that I enjoyed most was that the author gives follow-up readings for "further learning". I have done this frequently and really appreciate when authors take that extra step. In most non-fiction, I will take the next step in the learning process, I will often look to these. The author did an excellent job of complying her list. 

I enjoyed this book so much that I have recommended it to numerous people and libraries. Overall, this was just a fun, but informative read that in my opinion is appropriate for audiences middle school and above. 

I read on my Kindle touch. I would either recommend a Kindle Fire or print copy. I found the pictures difficult to interpret as they were in black/white and smaller than what would have been in a larger screen and/or print offering a clearer picture. 

Some of these books are really weak, but this is definitely one I could see becoming a series and doing well.

Source:  Llewellyn Worldwide for review
Would I recommend? : See above
Stand Alone or Part of a Series: From what I can tell, stand alone.