Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Star Rating : 4 out of 5
Content Rating : MILD

Backcover :
 “I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

My Thoughts :
I’ve seen this book on multiple book lists and forums talking about how cute and sweet and enjoyable it was. I was turned off by the title because, honestly, it’s pretty cheesy. And basic. But I think it fit the book perfectly. My interest was sparked by this book when I found out that the setting is in Florence, Italy. I am half Italian (on my mom’s side) and have always wanted to visit Italy and I love almost anything to do with Italy. And this book is no exception. I thought it was a sweet and enjoyable read, and while I did kind figure out the plot twist fairly early on, I was interested enough in the characters, and the descriptions of the scenery, to keep reading.

I gave it a MILD content rating because it is very clean and has limited swearing.

What I liked :

  • The Setting - Like I said: I love Italy. I read this book on my computer at work and it was so cool to be able to look up all of the places that the characters were visiting. The author described each place perfectly. And Florence is such a beautiful setting for this story.
  • The Characters - While all of the characters were relatively simple, I liked them. I cared about Lina and her life enough to root for her through the whole story and I felt that each character I meant was supposed to be in the story. There wasn’t one character present that I felt the author wasted time writing about.
  • The Plot - While the plot seems a little far-fetched, I could also see how it could happen. Italy is where Lina’s mother transformed, and it makes sense that she would want her daughter to see her second home, if only for the summer.
  • The Focus on Food - The author did a great job capturing some of Italian culture, specifically the importance of food. It’s not just about eating good food, it’s about the experiences you have prepping and eating the food with other people.
What I didn’t like :

  • The Length - I felt like the author could have gone more in depth with the characters and plot if she would’ve just written one more chapter, maybe two. As of now, this book is adorable and sweet and fun to read, but it would have been more profound. I know that probably wasn’t her intention but still. 
What Others Are Saying :

"Lina’s capacity for and understanding of love transform beautifullyover the course of the novel; the book is not solely about her personal romance but also other characters’ interwoven love stories. A good addition for teens with wanderlust." --School Library Journal

"Lina narrates in a breezy style, her mother's journal entries interwoven to provide revelations at carefully paced intervals.Seasoned with luscious descriptions of Renaissance architecture and Italianfood, a sure bet for fans of romance fiction and armchair travel." --Kirkus

"Readers will be caught up in this story of romance, family, and what it really means to be loved." --Booklist Online

"The reader will find it difficult to put this book down." --VOYA starred review

Reviewed by Lydia Jones

Pick up your copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) by Rick Riordan

Star Rating : 4 out of 5
Content Rating : MILD

Backcover :
“Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.”
My Thoughts :
I enjoyed this book and I look forward to the rest of the series. It has some definite similarities to Harry Potter. Three main characters, two boys and a girl. They train at a school made just for them and are divided into dorms according to their character, etc, etc. However, it is a story all its own and I loved it. Let’s not mention that I am definitely outside the age of the target audience. It’s funny and fast moving and have already read the second and the third one. So, when you are done with it, pass it on to your kid.
I gave this a rating of MILD. I would recommend this for 10+ year olds. The premise of the story is about Greek gods and their children. It includes some swordplay and monsters, all very mild. There was no strong language, or sexual references.

What I liked :
  • The Concept – Son of a Greek god, like Hercules, but in modern times. The half-bloods, half god and half human, or demigods all have character traits from their god parent. The daughters of Aphrodite, the god of love and beauty, all like to look at themselves in the mirror. The children of Ares, the god of war, all have harsh personalities and will do anything to win in the camp games.
  • Ultimate Childhood Fantasy – Percy Jackson has trouble in school with dyslexia and always ends up in getting kicked out of school for doing something odd like blowing up the school gymnasium. But, turns out he has dyslexia because his brain is wired to read ancient Greek; and, all the strange things that are happening to him are because he has superhuman powers, god powers. Isn’t that the dream? To find out everything people label you as weird for is actually caused by your secret awesome powers?
  •  The Pace – It is face-paced, exciting and funny. It’s full of friendships that are forming, Greek mythology, a little mystery, adventure, and a little magic. 

What I didn’t like :
  • The Audio Version – The reader’s portray of voices isn’t very consistent throughout the book and is a little distracting from the story with the type of voice he choose sometimes. 

What Others Are Saying :
“This mingling of the world today and the world of myth is outrageous, funny, compelling, and delightful. Who would have guessed that Mount Olympus sits 600 stories above the Empire State Building? This wild romp of a book will intrigue and amuse middle schoolers, whether they know the Greek myths or not.” –Hyperion Books for Children

“The sardonic tone of the narrator's voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty.” – Kirkus Reviews

Reviewed by Shayna Hinshaw

Pick up your copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2) by George R. R. Martin

Star Rating : 4 out of 5
Content Rating : HIGH

Backcover :
“A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel...and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.”
My Thoughts :
The Clash of Kings is book two in the epic series Game of Thrones, and these books should definitely be read in order. So this book is LONG! It took me forever to get through it. If the size of the book intimates you, try the audiobook. The only way I got all the way through it was because I was listening to the audio version (which is great by the way). Besides it being long, it’s a fantastic book. Martin has created a vibrant, detailed world that is easy to get swept up in.  

I gave this a rating of HIGH. Violence includes gory details of fights, rapes, beheadings, and more. Sexual content is high and includes a relationship between brother and sister. The language is very rough. Let just say there is a lot of sex, strong language, and violence in this book!
What I liked :
  • The Reader I listened to the audiobook on this one. Roy Dotrice is a great narrator. He has a different and unique voice for each character, even those with a small part to play. How he consistently keeps track of all the voices is amazing, especially once you read it and see how many many characters there are. Since, there are so many characters it’s hard to keep with all the names; however, I found that Dotrice’s voice portals helped me with just that.
  • The Characters – Martin is a master at characters. They are all compelling, either you hate them or you love them. They are so dynamic, developing and changing. The book is told from one character’s perspective for a while and then switches to another. The only problem with this is you will definitely have a storyline or two that are you favorite and you will inevitably wish he stays with that one longer or gets back to it faster.
  • The World – What’s an epic fantasy without an elaborate world to go with it? There are dragons, witches, warlock, shape-shifters, and so much more. Martin is so descriptive, you can see, smell, and touch the seven kingdoms.   

What I didn’t like :
  • The Length – I’m good with long books; but when I got to the end of this one and looked back at what all had actually happened, it wasn’t much! No wonder it’s taking Martin so many books to finish the story.

What Others Are Saying :

“[George R. R.] Martin amply fulfills the first volume’s promise and continues what seems destined to be one of the best fantasy series ever written.”—The Denver Post 

“The novel is notable particularly for the lived-in quality of its world, created through abundant detail that dramatically increases narrative length even as it aids suspension of disbelief; for the comparatively modest role of magic, Martin may not rival Tolkien or Robert Jordan, but he ranks with such accomplished medievalists of fantasy as Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson. Here, he provides a banquet for fantasy lovers with large appetites—and this is only the second course of a repast with no end in sight.” —Publisher’s Weekly


Reviewed by Shayna Hinshaw

Pick up your copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

So Many Books So Little Time : June Book Releases

Release Date : June 1st

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood in the ancient Tarachand Empire, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.
But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.
Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.” 

Release Date : June 6th

“In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the matter where it leads.”
Release Date : June 13th

“Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora's been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.” 
Release Date: June 27th

“The Custom of the Army” begins with Lord John Grey being shocked by an electric eel and ends at the Battle of Quebec. Then comes “The Space Between,” where it is revealed that the Comte St. Germain is not dead, Master Raymond appears, and a widowed young wine dealer escorts a would-be novice to a convent in Paris. In “A Plague of Zombies,” Lord John unexpectedly becomes military governor of Jamaica when the original governor is gnawed by what probably wasn’t a giant rat. “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” is the moving story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents during World War II. In “Virgins,” Jamie Fraser, aged nineteen, and Ian Murray, aged twenty, become mercenaries in France, no matter that neither has yet bedded a lass or killed a man. But they’re trying. . . . “A Fugitive Green” is the story of Lord John’s elder brother, Hal, and a seventeen-year-old rare book dealer with a sideline in theft, forgery, and blackmail. And finally, in “Besieged,” Lord John learns that his mother is in Havana—and that the British Navy is on their way to lay siege to the city. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Murder on the Moor (A Drew Farthering Mystery, #5) by Julianna Deering

Star Rating : 3 out of 5

Content Rating : NONE

Backcover :

“At the urgent request of an old school friend, Drew and Madeline Farthering come to Bloodworth Park Lodge in the midst of the Yorkshire moors, a place as moody and mysterious as a Brontë hero. There have been several worrisome incidents out on the moor--property destroyed, fires started, sheep and cattle scattered--and worst of all, the vicar has been found dead on the steps of the church. 

Drew's friend is obviously smitten with his bride of eight months, though it's hard to imagine what she sees in the awkward man. Drew can't help wondering if her affections lie more with the man's money and estate, while her romantic interests focus on their fiery Welsh gamekeeper. As the danger grows ever closer, it's up to Drew to look past his own prejudices, determine what is really going on, and find the killer before it's too late.”
My Thoughts :

This is the fifth book in Julianna Deering Drew Farthering Mystery series; however, if you haven’t read the first four no worries. You probably would be more invested in the main characters if you have; but, it was easy enough to jump into without having read the others. This story is set in England in the 1930’s. Odd things have been happening in a quiet village in the north and Drew is called in to solve the mystery and the murders. I liked the book; but, not enough for it to get me interested in the rest of the series. I thought it was just ok. If you don’t enjoy too much intensity in your mysteries, then this is the book for you. 

I gave this a rating of NONE. There is no offensive language, violence, or sex. It is a murder mystery; however, everything is done “off-screen”.

What I liked :
  • Drew and MadelineDrew is the main detective in this series; but, in the case Madeline has the nose for the truth. I thought this couple was cute. They work together well; and, if I had known a little more about their backstory I think I would have liked them even more.
  • Sherlock References – This story is different but it obviously found its roots from The Hound of Baskerville with a possible nod to Jane Eyre. Sherlock fans will love the references; the characters reference Sherlock several times throughout the book also.
  • Ties Up All Loose Ends – I can’t stand when a mystery novel doesn’t explain a detail or drops plot thread. Thankfully, Deering is careful to tie them all up in a nice bow.  

What I didn’t like :
  • Suspense – I would have like a bit more edge of your seat suspense. This is very mild, not intense at all, which will appeal to some.  
  • Characters – There was only really one supporting character I kind of cared about/engaged with. The rest were just there. I would have liked some more character development.  

What Others Are Saying :

"A fast-paced historical murder mystery that has beloved characters who are cunning, charming, and determined to get their man or woman and bring them to justice. The storyline is believable, with roller-coaster twists and turns one does not see coming. Deering is a gifted author and she knows what fans of historical mysteries look for." --RT Book Reviews

“Deering smoothly blends suspense and humor with a touch of romance.” –Publishers Weekly 

Reviewed by Shayna Hinshaw

I received a copy of this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions in this review are my own.

Pick up your copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.