Review: The hour I first believed

A friend of mine loaned me the book, The hour I first believed by Wally Lamb. I had to have it read quickly because she needed it back. At over 700 pages, it’s not a tiny book, still I gave it a go…and I got hooked.

It’s odd because this, again, is not my type of book. I’ve never read Wally Lamb and the characters suffer so much that I wanted to stop reading; I’m a big wimp when it comes to characters not being happy. But the story and the writing refused to let me go. This book haunted me for the two days it took me to read it.

The story is about Caelum Quirk who starts out as an unhappy man in his third marriage, stumbling around life and not being very successful at living it. Then, while things around him unravel, Caelum slowly starts to confront the knots that are keeping him prisoner in his own life.

A lot of books are great stories, but few are an amazing experience. This one is. I can see why Oprah would have chosen this author as one of her favourites and picked his books a couple of times. I can see why he made the Bestseller list.

Wally Lamb manages to write the ordinary, haphazard occurrences of Caelum’s life into a masterpiece of miracles. Along the way, Caelum is transformed. His beliefs and doubts have completely changed. And, as the reader, I got to see it all.

His wife, Maureen is a nurse at Columbine when tragedy struck. This book is based on that fact but the story is only born around it. Maureen suffers from severe PTSD and becomes one of Caelum’s challenges. Along the way, Caelum meets other characters who teach him and push him further along his journey.

There are many things that I absolutely loved about this book. Though I had to read it quickly, I can see how sitting with it and savouring it would be divine. It’s got details and little nuances that need to be noticed along the way. Nothing is really left to chance, this book is written carefully and with clear attention to detail. It took the author 9 years to write and, in my humble opinion, it was worth every moment of those years. From the tone of the narrator, to the pace, to the twists and turns, this is a book to cherish.

(credit: goodreads.com)

 

Review: Victoria

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin is not my usual genre of books. It’s the story of Queen Victoria from the time she became Queen to when she married Prince Albert. It’s written by Daisy Goodwin who has a degree in history from Cambridge and has written other New York Times bestselling novels all about historical figures. I have never read a book by Daisy Goodwin and I rarely read nonfiction. I picked this one up for a moment, read a paragraph and was hooked. I tried to put it down, I actually did slide it back on the shelf, then I walked away and I knew that paragraph would be haunting me for the rest of the weekend and I’d have to return to find out what happened.

I bought the book instead.

I’m glad I did because Victoria was just delicious. I’ve gone and done a bit of searching since just to see if it was accurate and the truth is Daisy Goodwin got all the facts straight. On top of that, she wove them into a wonderful story. That certainly takes talent.

One of my favourite parts about this story is the transition of Victoria from the shy, protected girl we meet at the beginning of the book to the Queen we have in the end. It was quite the transformation. Her mother kept Victoria ‘protected’ while she was a child by not allowing her to see or meet anyone. She was carefully schooled by people she chose and saw only those she approved, which meant that, by the time she was eighteen, Victoria was so sheltered she was very ill equipped to reign.

Her mother’s plan had been to make her daughter dependent on her and so reign through her, but Victoria refused to become her mother’s shadow and to bow to her wishes. Instead, she tries to do things on her own. How she manages to not only succeed but to do so well is the meat of the story.

Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch in England until Queen Elizabeth II just surpassed her only a few years ago. She also married Prince Albert not out of necessity but out of love, something unheard of in that time period and had 9 children with him though she hated being pregnant. She was an incredible queen, something that was due to her determination, perseverance and talent because she started off with odds severely against her.

This isn’t a romance story, it’s historical fiction. But I was looking for something different. I like women’s lit and, in spite of the time period change, this is certainly the story of a woman coming of age and finding her purpose and role from a very challenging set of circumstances. It’s incredible how fast those pages turned when I read this book. It seemed to end too quickly.

I would absolutely recommend it. It’s got a fantastic story of triumph over adversity, historical facts, a love story and historical kings and queens all in one great book. Plus, it has a ton of intrigue but not a lot of fighting, which I adore. If you’re a fan of fiction or history, this one is a great one to try. If you do, let me know what you think of it.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Review: The Perfect Hope

I was actually really looking forward to this one, mostly, because of the two main characters. Ryder and Hope have a ton of chemistry. He’s grumpy and won’t even call her by name and she’s feisty and gives him back as good as she gets. I couldn’t wait to see the sparks fly.

Ryder is the last of the Montgomery men, the guy who works things out and doesn’t say much. He’s quick to temper and faster to find a way to do something with his hands rather than talk it out. Hope, on the other hand, is elegant and polished and the innkeeper at the Boonsboro Inn. She doesn’t like his attitude and from using words to hosing him down with a hose, she lets him know it. Reading about these two exchanging grumblings had me laughing and eagerly turning the pages.

There’s something to be said for chemistry but eventually, it has to change to care and love or there isn’t any hope for the couple. The transition for Ryder and Hope went smoothly as only someone like Nora Roberts can write it. Along the way, we get to hear how the other characters from the other two books are doing and I, for one, was delighted to see old faces reappear.

The three women are fast friends, supporting each other and helping out when needed just like the three brothers are fast friends and joke and tease each other in a very realistic way. There’s also construction that was also deftly and realistically portrayed and work that ruled the lives of these characters like it does mine. It didn’t disappear, like it does in some of the sadder books of romance I’ve read. Here, lives are realistic with flaws and triumphs just like in reality. It creates a world that is believable yet appealing.

The Perfect Hope is a really good ending to a great trilogy. I’ll be honest and fess up that I read it in one sitting. It took me only three hours to gobble it up and I ended with a soft sigh of disappointment that it was done. I highly recommend it to any fan of romance and certainly those of contemporary. Nora Roberts is a phenomenon.

(credit:goodreads.com)

(credit:goodreads.com)

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Review: The Last Boyfriend

Though this book is the second in the series, it can certainly be read as a stand alone. I had to read it in order, though to give the books the full effect and read them as they were intended but don’t let that stop you if you have this one in hand. It’s excellent.

The Last Boyfriend is the story of Owen and Avery, two of my favourites. Owen is the meticulously organized man who runs the business side of the construction build with his brothers. Avery is inspirational, spur of the moment and, like all of Nora’s heroines, hard working and determined. She runs her own restaurant at the same town.

Owen is realistic and respectful. He’s known and been friends with Avery for a long time. He’s the guy she can lean on when the restaurant is swamped to put on an apron and lend a helping hand.

The move from friend to boyfriend is always tricky. There has to be chemistry along with care and dependability and sometimes, with old friends, things become just boring. Not so with Owen and Avery. They are wonderfully written, realistic and still create a beautiful love story that kept me glued to the book.

I love that the book lingered and showed all the parts of their lives, from friends to the relationships with their mom to get togethers with brothers. It made me feel as though I was enjoying a slice of their lives, not just getting a short, abbreviated route to a romantic end. Nora Roberts knows when to linger and when to move on. Her timing is exquisite.

There’s always a dangerous part in a book and that’s the saggy middle. The same can be said of middle books but this one shines brightly among the three. If you’re a fan of contemporary romance, don’t miss this one. It’s a gem.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Review: The Next Always

I always love reading a book by Nora Roberts and certainly this one wasn’t an exception. She’s got a gift with the written word, for certain but it’s the timing in her writing that impresses me the most. Her stories always feel slow and lazy and not rushed. It’s a beautiful, slow, elegant introduction into the characters and scene. Yet, she can do it somehow with a few words. And this one was particularly beautiful.

The Next Always is the first in a trilogy that I somehow missed reading when they came out. It tells the story of Beckett and Clare. Beckett is the eldest of the three Montgomery men and the architect. He’s helping his family of brothers and mother, restore an old inn and transform it into a beautiful Bed and Breakfast.

Beckett is easy going on the eyes, gentle yet determined in the best of ways. He had already fallen for Clare back when they were teens so it doesn’t take much for him to rekindle the romance. Clare is a widow now, with three delightful little boys and runs a bookstore. She’s kind, motherly and just sweet.

Clare and Beckett are both busy, one with the inn and the other with work and her little boys and, unlike other romances, these two don’t magically lose their business to give way to romance. The romance happens around their busy lives. Clare continues to kiss scraped knees, stop wars and tend to sick boys and Beckett has to answer his phone, curse at delays and run to fix issues on the build. They do find each other, but it’s a realistic, organic build that creates the same realistic, organic feelings of wonder–at least it did in this reader.

I have to add some other things that I absolutely adored about this book. The three little boys weren’t just minor secondary characters, they were delightfully real and absolutely adorable. I loved each and all of them. The same can be said of the dogs in the story and the other secondary characters. Nora Roberts nails it with them.

The other thing I adored was the cheerful banter between the brothers. Nora Roberts does dialogue like a pro and she nailed it in this book. The three brothers are realistically male, joking around much like guys do without becoming bullies or ignorant, which takes a lot of finesse as a writer.

Add in a beautiful love story, and I was a goner. I had to get the second and third book to gobble them up. If you’re a fan of contemporary fiction, don’t do what I did and wait. Pick this one up. It’s fantastic.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Review: Blood Kiss

Blood Kiss is the first book in a spin off series from the Black Dagger Brotherhood and, after reading it, I can’t wait for the second. What a fantastic way to start off a series.

Paradise is a high-class, well-protected vampire. She actually wants to try out for the training centre program of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. She, unlike the other women of high society, wants to think for herself, act on her own and be her own person. Shockingly, she even wants to fight. Like the men.

Her father is a wonderful supportive man and though he has more than one quibble at his daughter’s request, he finally agrees to let her try. So, there was Paradise, from carefully preserved, protected, high class lady to warrior.

It’s not an easy change and we’re there for the ride. The training in the program is tough as nails and the other recruits are all characters with determined personalities that don’t trust each other or her. Becoming a team and working together takes more than a few moments. These guys bond through the program though and come through it together pretty well. Personally, I thought J.R. Ward did a really good job of presenting a physically challenging program that wasn’t ridiculously unrealistic yet presented vampires with challenges designed to help them grow. I not only bought it, I loved it.

One of the other recruits is Craeg. A tough, quiet guy who’s come from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s there to find his own path and get a little vengeance. Along the way, he discovers Paradise and the two become inseparable.

There are plenty of challenges for the two. Paradise comes from a background that determines who she can and cannot marry (oops, mate) and Craeg has his own issues on the subject, not to mention there’s a war going on. Still, they make it and its both beautiful and credible.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you haven’t tried J.R. Ward, give her a chance. You won’t regret it. She’s a master of the genre and a fantastic writer. I know I can’t seem to get enough of her books.

(credit:goodreads.com)

(credit:goodreads.com)

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Review: The Shadows

The Shadows by J.R. Ward is number 14 in the BDB series. Certainly not the book to start your way into this world. Still, if you do end up with this one and find that you have nothing else to read, you might not find it that hard to navigate. Most things are explained and the premise, vampires, are certainly not unknown.

The Shadows is the story of iAm and Trez, brothers who are members of the s’Hive, a subsection of the vampire world. Don’t panic at this category. It’s not an entire new world, rather a small group of a larger one who follow most of the regular vampire-rules.

So, no panic and here we go. Trey is destined to become something among his people that he absolutely dreads and hates. So he’s hiding and trying to avoid his fate. On the other hand, iAm is at his side, faithfully trying to keep his brother alive and avoiding that dreaded destiny.

I don’t like to reveal too much because it destroys the book, so I have to be vague. The Shadows is the story of both brothers, how they find love and the twists and turns that happen for them along the way. We also get to revisit old characters but, in fantastic fashion, JR Ward doesn’t let them take over the series. They were awesome smaller characters and I was delighted to see them.

I loved the many stories threaded together. J. R. Ward weaves them in to each other like a master. I can’t explain how she does it, I can only vouch that they kept my interest and I couldn’t wait to turn the pages and read on. There were many cliffhangers, twists and turns but not the unbelievable, fake kind, rather the awesome, I-never-saw-it coming type. And the romance is so tender and amazing, I cried…and cried. And there was company over.

Though not everything is resolved, this book did many amazing things. It gave me a heads up as to where everyone is, without becoming boring. It continued the saga with class. It gave me not one but two great love stories. And it set up the series to continue (I have tons of curiosity about it still–and after 14 books that says a lot).

Among 14 books, there are favourites and not so favourites. This one is a definite keeper and one that I’ll go back to again and again to relive those highs and lows. I definitely couldn’t recommend J.R. Ward more highly and, though you might want to start the series at the start, this is one you don’t want to miss.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Walk Through Fire

Walk Through Fire is the latest Chaos novel by Kristen Ashley. It was one I saw while buying groceries and I thought: ‘I’ll just take a quick read…’. Well, one chapter and I was done. Kristen Ashley is like that. I just can’t read one part. I’m hooked.

Please understand, I was shopping with my hubby at the end of a very long day. We were both tired, hungry and crabby. I didn’t have time to stop and read. I had things to do at home–namely his lovely mother was coming–and not a lot of time to do everything in.

I managed to read one tiny chapter while he put the groceries on the conveyor belt. That was all it took. I bought the book and took it home.

Millie Cross made a mistake a long time ago. A huge one and Logan ‘High’ paid for it. Now, she’s run-in with the old Chaos gang and she’s the most hated woman in the planet for them. They treat her like dirt–Logan included–and she takes it, knowing she hurt him. She hurts and tries to get by. It’s absolutely delicious angst.

Still, how on earth was Kristen going to reconcile these two?

Well, I’m not one to spoil things, so I’ll just settle for telling you that they do reconcile, it’s romance after all, but it’s a credible reconciliation and that was what made me a believer. Millie and Logan don’t just go from hurt to love overnight. Things are worked out and along the way there are misunderstandings and mistakes that are both adorable and believable.

We also find the reason why Millie did what she did. And I won’t reveal it here except to say it was both credible and understandable. Which made that angst all the sweeter because she was an undeserving victim of their hatred.

Like all of Kristen Ashley’s books, this one is a great, long read and that wasn’t a disappointment for yours truly. I love getting into her books because she’s a reliable author, who delivers a great story with solid characters and spicy romance. But a great aspect of her books is the length. There’s nothing better than knowing I’ve got a nice, thick book to read. Heavenly.

This is one I’d recommend for any reader of contemporary romance or those who are into edgy, urban romance. It’s one in the Chaos series but can easily be read alone and it’s certainly a great intro to Kristen Ashley. I would highly recommend it.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Only a kiss

I actually took a while to pick up Only a Kiss. I had just finished another heavy round of work at my DayJob and it drained any of my free time. By the time I got home, I was usually too exhausted to do more than reconnect with my hubby, pet the dogs and crash. So the lovely book sat, untouched and unloved on my desk and I started to wonder if it was worth the read. Was Mary Balogh as good as I remembered or did I just become biased to her writing?

She’s not good. She’s unbelievable. Mary Balogh is absolute gold.

Only a Kiss is an incredible read. It’s part of the Survivors’ Club series but definitely stands alone by itself. It tells the story of Imogen, a widow who witnessed the death of her husband and still carries the scars of that war. She’s hiding, with a couple of friends at Hardford Hall and that’s where our hero finds her.

He’s Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford and they are at each other’s throats from the get go. His first words to her are, “And who the devil might you be?” since the Hall is his home and he hadn’t expected her to be there. Imogen, though gives back as good as he does and we’re off to a feisty romance.

It’s a credit to Mary Balogh that she can credibly move the characters from dislike to love within the story and do so organically, without my carefully sharpened cynical antennae twitching. But, more than that, the love story was so real that I knew these two had to be together. They were destined for each other, like mint and chocolate.

One other thing I must mention is the inimitable humour in the book. Very British and subtle, it still made me chuckle out loud and turn the pages eagerly. The two ladies that live with Imogen are completely adorable characters who are just a little…off. They collect an assortment of rescued animals that cause the Earl to raise an eyebrow more than once and make the reader laugh at their antics. It’s funny without being ridiculous or forced and, not only does it do wonders for the story, the humour makes the serious parts all that more striking.

This one is an absolute keeper, but most of Mary Balogh’s books are. If you’re a lover of historical romance, don’t miss this one. It’s one of those gems you’ll love like a child and place in a cherished place on your book shelf. I know I have. What a wonderful book.

(credit: amazon.com)

(credit: amazon.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Worth Any Price

I adored Lisa Kleypas’ contemporary books but I was doubtful about her historical ones. I’m very picky about historical romance. The dialogue has to be authentic, the characters true to the times and the plot must be captivating. I picked up Worth Any Price with a heavy dose of skepticism.

Nick Gentry is a man who’s seen the darkest part of society and lived to thrive in it. He’s a Bow Street runner, a sort of hit man who does the undoable for those who can afford it. His assignment is the capture of a Miss Charlotte Howard. Apparently, she has run away from her husband-to-be and is hiding from the man.

They meet under false pretences, but it’s soon apparent to Nick that Charlotte is not a wilful woman but a desperate one who is trying to avoid a fate worse than death at the hands of a very nasty man. In a short time, Nick goes from trying to capture her to offering her his help. The solution he proposes is marriage. To him.

I love stories about marriage of necessity. It gives the couple time to discover each other’s faults and gifts and, while they fall in love with each other, I end up falling in love with them both. Usually, they’re fantastic love stories and this one was no exception. The true journey of the characters starts when they marry and start to support and challenge each other.

Charlotte has to face her enemy and set him straight once and for all–something pretty intimidating for a woman of the time, since men held all the power back then. Nick has to accept his heredity and position in life–something he had been avoiding his entire life.

So was I impressed by Lisa Kleypas? Absolutely. Enough that I’m heading back to the used book store to find other historicals by her and enough that I’m encouraging you, my gentle reader, to give her a try. She has a way with a story that’s captivating and, if you’re a fan of historical romance, she does that beautiful period of time the justice it deserves.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.