Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Reading Recommendation: On the Island (On the Island, #1) by Tracey Garvis-Graves + Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

With summer in full swing there's still plenty of time to kick back and settle in with a good book. On the Island is a blog favorite and one we think you will enjoy too! It's quite the adventure, and a beautiful love story that touched us all. You can see what our reviewers have to say, and if you haven't read this amazing book we highly recommend that you do. To help with that we are giving away $10 Amazon gift cards to 2 lucky winners, so you can experience On the Island, or any book of that's on your summer reading list!

To enter to win you must fill out the Rafflecopter and leave a comment, to earn extra entries tweet about the giveaway, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook . Happy Summer Reading!!

What it’s about
When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments -- instead of his friends. 

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter.

Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

What our Reviewers have to say about On the Island...

Karla says: 5 Stars!! Absolutely loved it! 

Wow...the writing, the characters, the story line, the romance...everything. Once I started I could not stop! T.J. was awesome and so was Anna. My goodness, how they survived, and the love that developed between them was a bond that would prove to stand the test of time. 

Maturity is not determined by an age, but the way you handle yourself when life throws you a curve, how you treat others and what you do to improve life for yourself and those you love! When you love someone unconditionally and with conviction, and they love you, if you let them go, even if it hurts and it’s just to allow them to explore other possibilities, if their love is true, they will find their way back to you. That’s how I would describe T.J. and Anna's story. The epilogue will bring you to tears. 

Beautiful read and one I highly recommend.

Crista says: 5 Stars!

What an inspiring story of survival and beating seemingly insurmountable odds. This book joins very few others on my "up-all-night-to-finish" shelf. This speaks for itself, as I highly value my sleep!

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this book. I cared for these characters and this book held my complete interest and has occupied my thoughts long after the last page was turned. Anna and T.J's love and devotion for one another was all consuming, and I feel blessed to have "experienced" this book. 

Splage says: 5 SUPER BRIGHT Stars! 

WOW, this was a very powerful story of two extraordinary people who survive the most amazing journey together. I devoured it and just could tear myself away.I can't even describe how much I loved everything about this book. I had such anxiety through out every chapter, the obstacles were so unbelievable.

On the Island moved me deeply. It had me in tears quite a few times, and melted my heart.

Kristen says: 4.5 Stars!

On the Island turned out to be a wonderful surprise. Amazing actually! It's engaging, thought provoking, realistic, and heartwarming. Not to mention, I fell in love with the two main characters. I highly recommend this book.

Connect with Tracey Garvis-Graves
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**Fill out the Rafflecopter for your chance to win!!**
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Redemption Bay (Haven Point #2) by RaeAnne Thayne

What it’s about
New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne brings you back to Haven Point—a place made for second chances… 

McKenzie Shaw would do anything for her beloved hometown of Haven Point. It may be small and struggling, but it's never let her down…unlike gorgeous, infuriating Ben Kilpatrick. He was her childhood hero until he closed his family's factory, leaving the town's economy in shambles. Now he's back—his tech firm is considering opening a local facility. For Haven Point's sake, McKenzie has to grit her teeth and play nice. 

What could a town filled with painful memories ever offer Ben? He left Haven Point behind years ago, for good reason. Yet seeing the town through the eyes of McKenzie—its fiery young mayor—he suddenly has his answer. If only he can resolve the animosity crackling between them, Ben may have found the place where he can build ties and find healing…a place where love arrives when it's least expected.

Karla’s Review

2 Stars! Such a disappointment. 

As much as it pains me to say this, Redemption Bay was not an enjoyable book. One of the things I love about RaeAnne Thayne's writing is her ability to engage a reader and allow them to feel, see the good in people, and journey with them as they overcome the obstacles that life has thrown at them. Well...I felt alright...I felt a lot of animosity towards the heroine, Mac, and found Redemption Bay to be an exhausting and aggravating read. 

I don't know what it is about this series and the judgmental female protagonists and townspeople. I've never gotten that vibe in any of this author's other books and series, and I have read quite a few of them. In her Hope's Crossing series, which precedes Haven Point, I found every book a delight to read. While the main characters might have struggled in the beginning with their relationships, I never felt the hostile attitude from the featured couple, or I should say heroines, that I'm finding here. In Snow Angel Cove, the first book in the Haven Point series, I had issue with this same aspect, but fortunately the heroine redeemed herself, almost to late, but I did end up enjoying the book. Here however, even after Mac finds out the truth about the boat factory, Ben's reasons for closing shop, and what he did for the employees, which I thought was above and beyond his responsibility, Mac still ragged on him. She just couldn't see past her own bitterness and preconceived notions about Ben and allow herself to see what a good man he was. Her expectations of him were ridiculous! I wanted to reach inside the book, grab hold of her and shake some sense into her thick skull. She annoyed the heck out of me as well as a lot of the townspeople. I honestly didn't care if their town fell down around them, that's how much they grated on me, and Mac was their ringleader. 

For all that Mac annoyed me, I loved, loved Ben...he was a gem, and so swoonworthy!! For the life of me I can't understand why the author couldn't give him someone who was worthy of this love, because I think he should have run screaming from Mac! I adored him, appreciated his thoughtfulness, and hated that so many people treated him like a leper. He had such a difficult childhood, and the reasons behind it is disclosed, and I found it to be incredibly sad. It's a wonder he had the ability to care so much about others the way he did. 

Another plus was watching Ben's growing attachment to Hondo, and revisiting with Aidan, Eliza and Maddie, from Snow Angel Cove

Unfortunately, I won't remember Redemption Bay as a book that filled me with warmth and hope, as so many of this author's books do, but for the judgmental heroine that I wanted to slap. I understand that not every couple is going to find an immediate attraction to one another, I actually prefer that they don't, it's part of the journey to love and acceptance. But, when it takes nearly 95% of the book for one of the characters to recognize that she's being ridiculous with her unfounded opinion of the person she's supposedly in love with, well that's just a bit too much drama and angst for me. 

I'm hoping that the trend I'm seeing in this series takes a turn and the author goes back to writing characters that embrace their differences and help each other to overcome the difficulties that they've faced in the past. 

Will I continue to read RaeAnne Thayne's books and the Haven Point series...you bet I will!  Not every book is going to please every reader and this author has a proven track record with me. Evergreen Springs (Haven Point, #3) will be out September 2015, and it's definitely on my list of books I'm looking forward to read!

* A copy of the book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley*

Connect with RaeAnne Thayne
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Flashback Friday: Kiss of the Highlander (Highlander, #4) by Karen Marie Moning

What it’s about
A laird trapped between centuries...

Enchanted by a powerful spell, Highland laird Drustan MacKeltar slumbered for nearly five centuries hidden deep in a cave, until an unlikely savior awakened him. The enticing lass who dressed and spoke like no woman he’d ever known was from his distant future, where crumbled ruins were all that remained of his vanished world. Drustan knew he had to return to his own century if he was to save his people from a terrible fate. And he needed the bewitching woman by his side....

A woman changed forever in his arms...

Gwen Cassidy had come to Scotland to shake up her humdrum life and, just maybe, meet a man. How could she have known that a tumble down a Highland ravine would send her plunging into an underground cavern — to land atop the most devastatingly seductive man she’d ever seen? Or that once he’d kissed her, he wouldn’t let her go? 

Bound to Drustan by a passion stronger than time, Gwen is swept back to sixteenth-century Scotland, where a treacherous enemy plots against them ... and where a warrior with the power to change history will defy time itself for the woman he loves....

Karla’s  Review

5 Gigantic Stars!!! FANTASTICAL!! A timeless romance! 
“If aught must be lost, ‘twill be my honor for yours. If one must be forsaken, ‘twill be my soul for yours. Should death come anon, ‘twill be my life for yours. I am Given.”
This book had everything that I look for in a romance and more. A larger than life hero, who is cocky, funny, protective, loving, worships his woman and is SCRUMPTIOUS! Drustan MacKeltar...RAWRRRRRR!!! A heroine who stands on her own will, she's mouthy, pushy, smart, challenges her man and loves him beyond reason! Gwen Cassidy...AMAZING!! A story that captivates, charms, tugs at the heart! Passion, desire and love that is breathtaking and heart-pounding...YES!!! Secondary characters that play a huge role in the plot and are so intriguing and endearing that you hope you get more of them in future books, or even in books of their own. 

I was overwhelmed with emotion while reading this book, but the last few pages made my eyes so wet, I could barely read to the end. I damn near passed out with my Kindle clutched in my hands! When I could finally breathe, I began to smile and I still can't get that shit-ass grin off my face. *dreamy sigh*!! 

Dark Highlander here I come!!

**Note: Even though Kiss of the Highlander is part of the Highlander series, books 4, 5 & 6 are a series within this series. The characters are very closely connected, and the books should be read in order. A must read for fans of time travel and historical romance, or anyone for that matter. This is romance at its finest!**

Look for Flashback Friday reviews for The Dark Highlander (#5) and The Immortal Highlander (#6) in the coming weeks.

Connect with Karen Marie Moning
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Turn up the Heat (Second Chances #1) by Serena Bell

What it’s about
Aspiring chef Lily McKee noticed Kincaid Graves the first time he walked into the dingy diner where she waits tables. With his ice-blue eyes and primal tattoos, his presence puts Lily on edge—and reminds her of all the unfulfilled longings she isn’t pursuing while she’s stuck in this dead-end job. Without a doubt, the man is dangerous to her long-term plans of leaving town and hiring on at a real kitchen—and yet, she hungers for him, if even for just a taste.

Kincaid didn’t come back to his coastal Oregon hometown looking for a good time or a good meal. The ex-con has a score to settle, old wrongs to set right. But Lily, equal parts innocence and insight, brings out an impulsive side of him he thought he’d left behind in the past. And it only takes one intense moment of weakness between them to make him consider the possibility of an entirely new future—and the promise of passion beyond either of their wildest dreams.

Dorsey’s  Review
2.5 Stars! 

Lily is lost soul trying to start over after losing her job, apartment and boyfriend all at once. She decides to stay away from men so she won't get hurt or lose anything else, but the minute she sees Kincaid all that goes out the window. Kinked is just out of jail and looking for revenge, women were not in the mix, but something about Lily makes him want more. 

Their chemistry is off the charts good, and the emotions are real. They're both overcoming hurt and loss, it's a bumpy road, but one that does lead to an HEA.

I liked, but didn't love Turn Up the Heat. I found the story a little slow, and the characters had a tendency to reflect far too often, and that's where the book would lose my attention . This wasn't a bad book, and the story line was good, but it just felt like it was lacking something. 

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley*

Connect with Serena Bell
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Quickie Review: Kulti by Mariana Zapata

What it’s about

“Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”
When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to.
It didn’t take a week for twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon—why she’d ever had his posters on her wall, or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.
Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man that hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive, shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.
Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know.
Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.
“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”
This was going to be the longest season of her life.


 Steffi’s Review

4.5 stars!
Mariana Zapata has been a favourite of mine since reading Under Locke. This author remains my top recommendation to friends and family as her sense of humour and wonderfully capturing storytelling draws me in with every book. From the three books she has published so far, Under Locke and Lingus being the other two, Kulti has a special place in my heart. Sal and Reiner are a hilarious but incredibly sweet couple but what I loved most about them was their deep friendship. Being German myself, Reiner’s nicknames for Sal and his sometimes maddening personality seemed even more hilarious to me and I was very happy that Mariana’s special sense of humour was reflected in this romance as well. If you love sports romances, this book is even more of a treat to you. I whole heartedly recommend Kulti to every romance lover but also to everyone who loves stories with a great friendship, many funny moments, a lovely family dynamic and a talented woman that finally realizes her full potential! I can’t wait to find out what else this author has in store for her readers.

Want to know more about Mariana Zapata?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Song of David by Amy Harmon

What it’s about

This is David 'Tag' Taggert's book, a supporting character introduced in The Law of Moses. This is a stand-alone story, but it is highly recommended that The Law of Moses be read first to avoid spoilers. 

She said I was like a song. Her favorite song. A song isn’t something you can see. It’s something you feel, something you move to, something that disappears after the last note is played.

I won my first fight when I was eleven years old, and I’ve been throwing punches ever since. Fighting is the purest, truest, most elemental thing there is. Some people describe heaven as a sea of unending white. Where choirs sing and loved ones await. But for me, heaven was something else. It sounded like the bell at the beginning of a round, it tasted like adrenaline, it burned like sweat in my eyes and fire in my belly. It looked like the blur of screaming crowds and an opponent who wanted my blood. 

For me, heaven was the octagon.

Until I met Millie, and heaven became something different. I became something different. I knew I loved her when I watched her stand perfectly still in the middle of a crowded room, people swarming, buzzing, slipping around her, her straight dancer’s posture unyielding, her chin high, her hands loose at her sides. No one seemed to see her at all, except for the few who squeezed past her, tossing exasperated looks at her unsmiling face. When they realized she wasn’t normal, they hurried away. Why was it that no one saw her, yet she was the first thing I saw?

If heaven was the octagon, then she was my angel at the center of it all, the girl with the power to take me down and lift me up again. The girl I wanted to fight for, the girl I wanted to claim. The girl who taught me that sometimes the biggest heroes go unsung and the most important battles are the ones we don’t think we can win.

Crista’s Review
4 stars!

As a huge fan of Amy Harmon, I know when I read anything written by her, I am guaranteed to have an emotional, uplifting, and fulfilling reading experience. She has penned some of my very favorite books, with The Law of Moses ranking at the very top.

The Song of David is a companion novel to The Law of Moses. It is not necessary to read The Law of Moses before reading this book, but I would recommend it. The impact of this book will be stronger if you have the background that The Law of Moses provides.

This is David “Tag” Taggert’s story. We met him in The Law of Moses and I fell in love with his character and the friendship he shared with Moses was a critical part of the story. In this book, Tag has gone missing and no one knows where he is. Moses and Millie (his girlfriend) find tape recordings where Tag has left them a detailed retelling of his falling in love with Mille. These tapes reveal his journey to self-discovery (and ultimately his whereabouts). I felt this story-telling technique was brilliant, and we are able to discover what has happened to Tag right along side Millie and Moses.

Moses also narrates this story with chapters that are dedicated solely to his perspective. The love that exists between Tag and Moses gets me every time and there is something about the bond between male friends that really speaks to my heart. At one point, the stoic Moses cries in this book, and I cried right along with him.

The secondary characters in this novel are simply beautiful characters. Strangely enough, this book is really about Tag and his personal journey towards happiness and wholeness. His love interest, Millie, almost functions as a secondary character. She was absolutely a breath of fresh air. Although blind, her clarity of “sight” and her ability to really “see” through things was remarkable. Millie’s brother Henry, a boy with autism, was a wonderful representation of the beauty that can be found within this disability. His devotion to Millie and Tag was tangible and so touching.

The epilogue is getting a lot of buzz, and you have to read it to fully understand why. I had to read it several times to fully appreciate the complexity of it and the ultimate beauty of it. I have said it before, Amy Harmon is a poet and her creative ways of bringing everything together at the end of her books is astounding.

As I look back on The Law of Moses and The Song of David, I will always remember these two broken and lost men that found one another under in their lowest moment and forged a bond that carried them throughout their lives. I will also remember the lovely women who both ultimately became their wives and the families and bonds that were created despite the hardships they endured. These books are a testimony to the power of second chances, faith, and ultimately love.

Connect with Amy Harmon
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Monday, July 6, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

What it’s about
In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

Crista’s Review

5 Stars!

The Nightingale is one of those books that defy rating. However, as a reviewer, I feel compelled to give it a rating knowing that my perspective matters very little when I think about the content in this book. Although this book is historical fiction, it is entrenched in very dark and somber truth: The truth of the atrocities and casualties of World War 2.

This is a book that needs to be read, so that we will never forget.

The Nightingale is the story of two sisters trying to survive in occupied France. Vianne is the older sister: a rule follower, wife and mother. Isabelle is the younger sister: a rebel, defiant, and loner. As the book begins an elderly woman is preparing to die as she receives news of her terminal cancer. We are not told which of the sisters this woman is as she reminisces back to August 1939 (the year that changed everything).

What makes this book unforgettable is that it’s a rare look at what the war did to the women and children who were left behind when the men went to war. Through the lives and hardships faced by both Vianne and Isabelle, we are given a chance to mourn the suffering, stand in awe of the sacrifice, marvel at the courage, and celebrate the strength of these women.

As this book moves through the devastating six years of World War 2, the reader also goes along on the journey. Fear, pain, uncertainty, poverty, hunger, rationing, oppression, as well as the will to survive are all explored in graphic detail. Fictional characters are expertly used to show in vivid detail the high cost of war and the true evil that defined the Third Reich. The horrific atrocities that were inflicted upon the Jewish nation and the cost to those who opposed that treatment were also highlighted. There were many times while reading this book that I had to put the book down and walk away just to compose myself.

For those wondering if this is a love story, my answer is this: This is one of the most profound love stories that I’ve read, but it is a love story that transcends romance. It’s a love story between sisters, friends, parent and child, and yes, the love between lovers.

As I turned the final page of this book, the tears were streaming down my face as I felt an unbelievable peace settle over my tormented soul. In a book filled with so many crimes of humanity, the ending is remarkably filled with love, hope, and a sense of peace. 

This author has written many books, but this one is her finest. 

Connect with Kristin Hannah
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