Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Meg's Melody by Kaylee Baldwin

She paced the small confines of her bathroom as she waited the obligatory two minutes for the result. Yet, part of her sensed the truth. Not only did Austin take her self-esteem and plans for happiness, but he also took her get-out-of-this-marriage-free card.

The plus sign glared at Meg from the white plastic frame of the pregnancy test. The test fell from her hands and clattered into the bathtub as Meg’s back slid against the wall until she reached the floor.

“I’m pregnant,” she said into the quiet.

Meg never imagined she'd end up like this. With nowhere else to turn, she's forced to rely on the family she pushed away, the church she abandoned, and an unexpected friendship to help her find her forgotten melody. Meanwhile Matt is still mourning the loss of his wife. But determined to keep things together for his daughter's sake, he decides starting over in a new place might be just what his family needs.

This touching story combines romance with redemption and real conflict to remind you it's never too late to find joy. Kaylee Baldwin's capable hand renders a sincere, heartfelt story of rediscovery and hope. Perfect for romantics of all ages, this book will captivate your heart and rekindle your belief in the magic of music.

I received this book to review it and I'm glad I got it. Meg's Melody is a good, clean, LDS book with many themes woven throughout. Grief, repentance, forgiveness, finding yourself, love and family are a few themes I found.
Meg's marriage was a sham and she was divorced in less than a year. In the meantime, she has pushed her family and church away from her life. She feels she has to find her path alone, that her family couldn't forgive her. Then she finds out she's pregnant and her lonely, bumpy path just took a sharp turn. She has to learn to trust again, in herself mostly, as new people come into her life. Meg's family loves her and they close ranks around her, giving the support she needs.
The characters and relationships develop through the story. I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't preachy either. It was funny at times, sad, moving and fulfilling.
Good job Ms. Baldwin!

Rating: PG
L: No
S: No
V: No

Page 69 test:
"Mrs. Pierce, this food is excellent," Johnny said Her mom responded by offering him some sweet potatoes.
Johnny looked over at Meg's plate as she took the serving plate from her mom's hands. "You're not on a diet are you? If anything, you look like you could stand to gain a few pounds. I could feel every rib when I tickled you."
Meg stopped chewing her roll, all thoughts of Dr. Wilke's absentee wife gone from her mine. Johnny had to know that she was pregnant. Everyone in this town seemed to know, even though the only people that had heard ht hnews from her own mouth were Tom and Stan.
"I haven't felt well lately," she finally said.
"Do you have that flu that's been going around? You probably get sick more being at the school."
"I don't have the flu. I'll be fine soon."
"Maybe you just need to eat more. Do you wnt some of my turkey?" Johnny angled his fork toward her, and Meg held her breath and pulled away.
"That little one she's carrying must be a real picky eater," Tom offered.
"Little one?" Johnny asked.
The conversation around the table fell silent.
Everyone looked at Meg like she needed to say something, but she took another bite out of her roll. It seemed that the only good use for food these days was to get her out of contributing to uncomfortable conversations.
"You know  Meg is pregnant, right?" Tom asked.
Johnny whipped her head back toward Meg. "You're pregnant?" He looked at her flat stomach.
"I'm only about three months along, and i haven;t been feeling very well, so I'm not showing yet," she explained reluctantly,
"You always seemed so--I don't want to say prude, but--innocent in high school. How did this happen?"
"Do you really need her to explain how it happened?" Tom asked.
"No, thanks," he shot back. "I've got the logistics down."

Friday, January 21, 2011

NEED by Carrie Jones

Zara White suspects there's a freaky guy semi-stalking her. She's also obsessed with phobias. And it's true, she hasn't exactly been herself since her stepfather died. But exiling her to shivery Maine to live with her grandmother? That seems a bit extreme. The move is supposed to help her stay sane...but Zara's pretty sure her mom just can't deal with her right now.

She couldn't be more wrong. Turns out the semi-stalker is not a figment of Zara's overactive imagination. In fact, he's still following her, leaving behind an eerie trail of gold dust. There's something not right - not human - in this sleepy Maine town, and all signs point to Zara.

In this creepy, compelling breakout novel, Carrie Jones delivers romance, suspense, and a creature you never thought you'd have to fear.

I'm impressed. A good, clean YA book. 
This is Zara's story. Her step dad has just died. Her mom sends her to her gram because Zara is almost dead inside. But meeting new friends and a possible boyfriend helps Zara come alive again. And the possibility of dying by pixie kiss helps perk her up also.
Magical creatures, both good and bad, surround Zara, helping or hurting her. And she is in for a the biggest surprise of all when she figures out who she really is and what she means to a certain king.
Some of the realizations in the book are almost too easy with the foreshadowing but the story is still good. 
Zara is one of those main characters that walk or run into danger when they shouldn't and just because they are told not to. I like her thing with phobias. It was an interesting way to start each chapter.
Each character is unique and believable. I really liked Nick. He was strong and smart. Issie is funny and bouncy. I wished that she had her own magic.
The plot was basic and has been used before but that doesn't mean readers won't enjoy it.
One thing that took me out of the story? Iron railroad ties are heavy and cannot be easily carried or shoved into the ground by one human let alone two human girls.

Rating: PG 13
 S: No
V: Fights, broken arm 
L: A few Lord's name in vain and mild swear words

Page 69 test:
"My dad. It is so hard to just think of him.
I turn away from the door and sit on the couch where he used it sit, I put my face in my hands and rock back and forth a little, but I do not cry.
No more.
Betty crashes out of the kitchen, bringing the smell of burned meat with her.
"I murdered the pork chops, just fried them to death," she says.
"That's okay."
"I have Campbell's soup...chicken noodle."
She eyes me. "Okay. What's going on?"
"Tell me about the boy who went missing last week. What happened?"
Betty turns to glance out the windows. "It's almost dark. you should be back before dark. You don't know these roads. They're dangerous."
"I was at Issie's."
"Oh, that's good. She's a sweet girl. Jumpy. Her parents work a the bank."
"Uh-huh. Yeah...I kind of sort of went off the road a little bit. I didn't hurt the car! I swear. Nick pushed me out."
"Nick?" She wipes at her face with the moose dish towel and motions for me to follow her into the kitchen. "Nick Colt?"
I nod.
"You didn't get hurt? Were you speeding?"
"It was ice."
She takes it all in. "He's a good boy. Cute. Don't sigh at me. He is."
"Tell me about the boy. Please?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Poor Calla! She's a strong, alpha female who is promised to a hot alpha male. Then she breaks the rules and saves a cute human boy. Who to choose? Calla can't seem to make up her mind in this love triangle. And why should she choose? Both guys like her, maybe even love, and whenever Calla is with one, high sexual tension, fingers trailing on skin and kissing are involved. I have to admit I skimmed a lot of these scenes. They started to read all the same to me. I got a little tired of it...
The storyline is interesting with the Guardians, Keepers and Searchers. I was quite a ways into the book before I was able to understand those titles and who they belonged to. 
The characters were well written. The best ones were Calla, Ren, and Lumine. Ren was my favorite in his development. I enjoyed watching him change from playboy to softy who wanted to give his heart to only one girl.
I thought the cover was very cool.

Rating: PG 17
S:Innuendos, tension, kissing
L: Yes, a few swear words
V: Yes, some killing, fighting

Page 69 rating:
"Ren's gaze followed mine. "Cosette, why don't you go join the others?" Sh bolted from the couch.
I frowned, suddenly aware of the cloak of darkness that covered REe and me in the solitary corner of the nightclub. "You didn't have to send her away."
"Are you afraid to be alone with me, Lily?" His voice looped over me like a rope pulling me toward him.
I tried to sound strong. "I'm not afraid of anything."
"Anything" he asked. "That's an impressive claim. Even for an alpha."
"Are you suggesting there is something you're afraid of?"
My chest tightened when Ren flinched.
"Yes, one thing." I could barely hear his murmured response.
His retreat drew me forward. "One thing?"
When he looked at me, his troubled expression faded.
"That would be my secret. I won't give it up without getting something in return."
His hand slipped over my shoulder beneath the cascade of my hair, his fingers pausing to cup the nape of my neck. He pulled me close; the strength of his arms set my blood on fire.
I twisted out of his grasp. There were Keepers everywhere. "You can keep your secrets." As much as I wanted his touch, I didn't trust him yet. I'd heard too much about his other conquests. Besides, he knew better. The alpha female was supposed to e pure at the union. And that meant no romance before the ceremony.
As if he'd read my mind, Ren's mouth slid in a wicked grin, eyes fixing on my curves. "Be honest. Can you breathe int eh thing?"
My nails dug into the sofa cushion. Watch yourself, Ren. Two can play hardball.
"So you and Sabine?"

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Time To Die by Jeffrey S. Savage

 When reporter Shandra Covington finds her best friend, Bobby Richter, close to death on Shandra’s apartment floor, she knows the bullet was meant for her. Making matters worse, Bobby’s fiancĂ©e is making sure Shandra gets nowhere near the hospital room where Bobby lies in a coma. With her apartment in shambles and possibly still dangerous, Shandra is forced to stay with her tough-as-nails Harley-riding private investigator friend. 
In an attempt to clear her mind, Shandra agrees to do a newspaper story on the death of a prominent politician’s daughter. But what she thought was a simple overdose story soon grows into something much more sinister when she finds a common thread with the recent deaths of several young women—all thought to be overdose victims. What do the clues mean? 
The only person who knows for sure is the Time Keeper—a self-proclaimed true romantic who devotedly tapes a picture of each new love to the bedside wall of his ailing sister. However, the pictures are obituaries spreading across the wall like macabre wallpaper. Time to unravel the mystery is quickly ticking away as Bobby’s life hangs by a thread—and the next “girlfriend” on the Time Keeper’s list is Shandra.

Mr. Savage's first chapter in A Time To Die was spooky and drew me right into the story. It was fun to try and figure out who the man in the first chapter was and what he was doing. 
The author has a great way of developing his characters and bringing them alive for the reader. Each character has their own way of speaking, dressing, moving and showing flaws. Even the villain is well drawn.
He places clues stealthily along the story's path and the reader has to be alert to them. I figured out the sister from the beginning but not all of her story. I didn't put all the clues together either.
The suspense and pace were fantastic too.
I must admit, I haven't any of the other books in this series. I was a little lost a few times but not enough to stop me from reading and having a hard time putting the book down.

Rating: PG 13
V: kidnapper/killer
L: None
S: None

Page 69 test:
"Lieutenant Wells blinked in surprise, his mouth dropping into a grimace. He glanced toward where the two EMTs were getting ready to life the body up onto a gurney. "I don't think that's such a good idea. The id took a pretty good breathing coming down the side of the mountain. It's not pretty."
"Just for a minute," I said, swallowing hard. I really didn't want to see Ben's body, but there was something I had to do.
Wells seemed to consider telling me no again but finally relented and sent me forward with a tilt of his chin. "We didn't let the TV cameras get inside the perimeter. So make it quick before they see you and start to complain about unfair treatment."
Ducking under the blowing police tape, I quickly crossed the icy surface and knelt by Ben's side. He was lying face down in the snow, his face turned away from me. One arm was bent above his head at an unnatural angle, and I could see where the crystal of his watch had shattered sometime during the fall.
The hood of his sweat jacket had fallen back, and his hair flapped to and fro in the stiff wind. The coppery smell of blood hung in the air and stuck in the back of my throat, but I put my hand against the side of his cool neck and leaned close.
"I'll tell them you were sorry. And for what it's worth, I think they'll forgive you."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Silence of God by Gale Sears

From socialism to forced atheism, almost overnight -- Based on the inspiring true story of the only LDS family in 1917 revolutionary Russia.

The Silence of God follows Johan and Alma Lindlof and their eight children as they witness the glitz and glamour of Imperial Russia quickly dissolve into mass rebellion. The chaos ultimately divided their family and tested their faith, as some of the Lindlof children were sent to Siberian work camps.

As they face an uncertain future of danger and despair under the Bolshevik regime, life for the wealthy Lindlof family is changed forever by an idealogy that forces equality and demands the silence of God.

This well-researched novel by author Gale Sears – a powerful new voice in LDS historical fiction – offers a rare glimpse into a fascinating period of history, including the rise of socialism and the origins of the LDS Church in Russia.

As the only LDS family living in Russia at the time, the Lindlofs witnessed Elder Francis M. Lyman of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicate the land for the preaching of the gospel on Aug. 6, 1903. His scribe was the only other person there. Now, on Aug. 29, 2010, the Kyiv Ukraine Temple will be dedicated, the first temple in a former Soviet bloc country – just a few miles from the very spot where LDS was first introduced in Russia.

If you like LDS Historical Fiction, you'll like this book from Gale Sears. I'm glad I read this book. I haven't heard much LDS history come out of Russia especially during WWI. Gale Sears writes a moving story about a horrible and suppressive time in Russian history. LDS gospel and Russian history mingle to bring a rich story of love, sacrifice and the Savior.
The story loosely follows the Lindlof family, who were the first LDS Russians. The author does a good job of drawing the reader into loving and siding with certain characters. Their triumphs and tragedies weigh with the readers also. And I always wonder when I read a story with human sufferings, how can we treat each other so poorly? It hurts my heart. I was grateful that Ms. Sears put many good people to help soften the ugliness of war and the pain that comes from it.

Rating: PG
V: war
L: None
S: None

Page 69 test:
"When he looked up, three pairs of eyes were staring at him. The peasant woman stood just inside the doorway, her fingers pressed against her lips-slowly she made the sign of the cross. Andre Andreyevitch's brow was furrowed, and he leaned forward as if to study Arel more closely. The priest drew his hand away from the bandage on Bruno's shoulder.
"I have never heard a prayer such as that,' he said reverently. "Are you a minister?"
Arel shook his head. "No, Father. All the worthy men of our faith hold the priesthood."
The priest looked bewildered. "All the men? I have never heard of such a church."
"I would imagine not," came Bruno's whispered reply.
Arel looked down quickly into the eyes of his brother, and smiled. "You are alive then."
"I am."
The others in the room drew close.
The peasant woman reached out to touch Arel's arm. "You have healing power, young master."
"No," Arel replied kindly. "God has healing power."
The woman bobbed her head and smiled a toothy smile. "I will bring soup." She turned quickly and waddled from the room.
The priest untied the bandage and carefully lifted the cloth from the wound. "The bleeding has slowed," he said quietly. He looked into Bruno's face. "I think you will be fine now."
Bruno smiled weakly. "Thank you, Father."
"Yes, Father, thank you. You have great skill," Arel said.
"Skill? Ah, perhaps...yes. I suppose that is something."  He looked deeply Arel's eyes. "If I could, I would ask about your faith."
Arel nodded. "If there was time, I would tell you."
The priest handed Andre Andreyevitch extra bandages and the bottle of vodka. He gave the man a stern look. "Not for drinking. Only for cleaning the wound."
"Of course," Andre said indignantly. "What do you take me for?"
"A Russian," the priest answered. "I will make sure the village keeps you safe and I will try to find other clothing for you to wear. Perhaps the..."

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Limit by Kristen Landon

An eighth grade girl was taken today . . . With this first sentence, readers are immediately thrust into a fast-paced thriller that doesn't let up for a moment. In a world not too far removed from our own, kids are being taken away to special workhouses if their families exceed the monthly debt limit imposed by the government. Thirteen-year-old Matt briefly wonders if he might be next, but quickly dismisses the thought. After all, his parents are financially responsible, unlike the parents of those other kids. As long as his parents remain within their limit, the government will be satisfied and leave them alone. But all it takes is one fatal visit to the store to push Matt’s family over their limit—and to change his reality forever.

Kristen Landon's The Limit brings the popular dystopian thriller genre to a middle grade audience.

Interesting look into what could be the future. And as usual, I was really frustrated with the abuse of power some leaders use.
In the future every family has a spending limit, some more than others. If the family goes over the limit, the government takes a child from the family to work off their debt in a workhouse. After the family goes below the limit the child can go home.
Except one place is using the kids to make money.
The story follows Matt as he goes from spoiled kid to becoming a leader and being more financially responsible. 
The characters were well-developed. The scenes were descriptive as well as the surroundings. The pacing is great.
The shudders I felt from too much government involvement came from Ms. Landon's great tensions and motivators for the characters. Having the government control our spending makes me *shudder*
Is this book propaganda? Good question. If this book falls into the hands of younger teens, maybe it will help them spend more wisely. Is that a bad thing??
This is perfect book for middle grades and up. The main character is thirteen years old but acts and thinks older.

Rating: G
S: None
V: Bad guys
L: None

Page 69 test:
"Boys on this side, girls on the other.' Honey Lady pointed briefly as she power-walked toward the other side of the top floor. She seemed to be in a big hurry all of a sudden. "Now, if I can just find some of our other Top Floors to drop you off with, we'll be all set." Pausing in front of a glass door with a metal bar across the middle, she turned to me, her all-business face morphing into the super-sweet, sugar-coated one. "I just know you're gong to love this room." She reached a long-nailed finger out to poke me in the shoulder-attempting playfulness, I guess. "It's a favorite with our Top Floors."

As she pushed through the door-and pulled me after her-a soft wave of warm wet air wrapped around us. No way. A swimming pool? Inside a building? On the top floor? The pool had a diving board and a big slide that curved a couple of times on the way down. A raised hot tub sat in the far corner, spilling a waterfall into the pool. This was beyond amazing. The entire ceiling and the outside wall were pure windows. Even though the sun was starting to set, the room sparkled with light. There were even girls here, wearing bathing suits! Wait until I told the guys back home about this. They'd all beg their parents to go over their limits.
"Miss Smoot. Hi, Miss Smoot!" Three girls who looked close to my age climbed out of the pool and ran over to Honey Lady.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Leggend of Shannonderry by Carol Warburton

From the back:
Gwyneth Beddows, a young woman of nineteenth-century England, has often felt lonely and unloved by her father, who believes the rumors that his pretty daughter might not actually be his child. The one place the young woman can find consolation is in the saddle of her spirited stallion. The magnificent horse shows promise as a racehorse and has drawn the attention of Irish horse master Cormac D'Arcy, who is visiting England on business. The handsome young man also brings a life-changing message from Gwyneth's grandmother--a frail yet feisty Irish woman Gwyneth has never met. 
Events orchestrated by her father force Gwyneth to fell England, and with the help if D'Arcy, she arrives at Shannonderry, her maternal family's ancestral home, where Gwyneth learns of a legend that will have a profound impact on her life and the lives of those around her.
Touched by the promise of destiny, Gwyneth seeks to save the family estate from certain ruin. But with fierce rivals on the scene and her embittered father in the periphery, Gwyneth faces grave danger that may place her far beyond the reach of D'Arcy's rescuing hand--and she must call on the strength of her heart if the historic legend of Shannonderry will ever by fulfilled.

This story is a 19th century Cinderella story, except there is a father who isn't nice. Gwyneth is not treated well by her father thanks to a stupid rumor. Her stepmother also treats her poorly. When Gwyneth's grandmother, someone she hasn't met, sends for her, Gwyneth is overjoyed at the prospect of leaving home.
What she finds in Ireland shocks her. She is part of a legend. Can she live up to it? And will the Irish man who thinks English girls should stay in England love her? Or will her past rise up to ruin everything?
Carol does a fine job in making the reader feel they are in Ireland. Her characters grow and mature. I found myself wanting the two main characters to fall in love and make it work. And for the locals to like Gwyneth, even if she is part English.
I could also "see" the characters in my mind. I thought the main character had unusual coloring for being from Ireland and England. But set her apart.
Carol also did well in building tension between the two countries or between people. I enjoyed reading her tale from beginning to end.
There was a bit of convenience or unbelievability but Ireland is full of magic, right?

V: Bad guys
L: None
S: None.

Page 69 test:
"...but it was the mass platinum hair that held her gaze. "Who...who is she?"
"Her name is Gwyneth...Gwyneth O'Brien," Moira answered. A shiver of superstition ran up Moira's frail spine. Although she'd seen the resemblance between her granddaughter and the other Gwyneth as soon as the girl stepped through the sitting room door, she hadn't realized how alike they were until she saw their faces side by side.

Striving to compose herself, Moira went on. "She lived at Shannonderry during the Desmond uprising. While the men of her family were away fighting, she held off a troop of the queen's soldiers. When the officer in charge discovered that he'd been bested by a woman and a handful of servants, he was so impressed that he returned with reinforcements and set a guard around the castle to protect it from further attack. Afterward, he petitioned the queen on Gwyneth's behalf and saved Shannonderry from being planted with English."
A thrill ran along the flesh of Gwyneth's arms. "What a brave woman."
"One with brains and spirit too. After her father and brothers fled to France with the Desmonds, the queen decreed that neither he nor his male heirs cold ever inherit Shannonderry." Moira's face turned cynical. "Although Elizabeth might admire and reward another for courage, she knew our Gwyneth would someday have to marry. Since much of Munster was now planted with English, the queen assumed Gwyneth would have to marry an Englishman."
Moira paused and smiled up at the portrait. "She failed to reckon with Gwyneth's spirit. Rather than ally herself with the enemy, Gwyneth married a distant O'Brien cousin from up north to ensure that she and her children would still bear the O'Brien name."
"Gwyneth...the white and blessed one," Gwyneth whispered. The half-forgotten phrase came to her from across the years-words spoken by Kate and now reinforced by the tale told  by her grandmother.
"Yes," Moira clasped her hands together to keep them from trembling. Taking a steadying breath, she spoke. "There is a family story...a legend...that another Gwyneth with pale skin and light hair will again save Shannonderry."
Gwyneth's pulse quickened. "Me?" she wanted to ask. She pushed the thought away, too awestruck to think clearly. "Do...you believe the legend?"

Moira shrugged, but as she gazed into Gwyneth's aqua eyes, a feeling of calm settled over her. O'Brien--not English--eyes met and held hers. "I don't know," she answered. "But I begin to think someone more knowing than I...perhaps even God Himself...prompted me to send for you."