Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck

How to Catch a Prince

It's release day for the final book in Rachel's great Royal Wedding series. Loved this series! (Once Upon a Prince, and Princess Ever After were the two earlier novels).

Let's begin with the summary for How to Catch a Prince:

An American heiress and a crown prince seem destined to be together. Will the devastation of war keep them apart forever?

American heiress Corina Del Rey caught her prince once. But the tragedy of war kept her too long in a fog of grief. Now she’s shifting her life forward, reigniting her career as a journalist. Still, nothing can relieve her of the secret and the love she carries in her soul. 

Prince Stephen of Brighton is one of the world’s most eligible bachelors and a star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life. His days in Afghanistan with the Royal Air Command will mark him forever. And he can’t shake their dark shadow.

But when his brother, King Nathaniel, confronts him with a document the prince thought long buried and forgotten, Stephen is forced to face the pain of his past and the love he left behind. 

With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome, move forward, and find love again? 
And now, my review:

This story takes us back to the kingdom of Brighton—a beloved place, at least to this reader.
The story was unpredictable in many ways. Here are two people, married to each other, will they reconcile? Will they reunite? 

As with other Rachel Hauck novels, there were great supernatural elements. I like how creative she is with these and love that she includes them. She also includes the messages of God’s love and generosity. That theme—the way He prepared a place for the heroine in this story—really spoke to me because it was both personal and supernatural. And extravagant—fit for a princess. The beautiful picture of a humble and wealthy king blessing the object of his affections.

One of the themes is “love well.” I like how Rachel makes us think about this directive and try to interpret and define it for ourselves, (at least I did), as we read. 

Rachel wasn’t afraid to include real issues, like PTSD and problems faced by survivors. I thought those issues were well-handled. 

This wasn’t a rags-to-riches story, yet folks who’ve never had millions will relate. These characters were flawed, yet respectable. I was annoyed a couple of times with the prince as he lost the heroine in the crowd. Not so noble. But he was likable otherwise, so I forgave him. (grin)

Took me a while to get into this story since they were already married (sort of a reverse romance), and their attraction didn’t quite keep me hooked as it seemed too one-sided. But I think there’s a message in that too, as God’s pursuit and unconditional love for us can be all One-sided (in His favor) as it was in the heroine’s here. And once I was hooked I read through.  

I love Rachel’s books and look forward to her next novel!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep

New Release by Barbour Publishing January 1, 2015

Let’s begin with the summary:

Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge.

And now, my review:

This well-written story hooked me from the first pages. The romance drew me in, as did the intrigue. I liked how the author mixed genres, in a sense, to give us this story. 

There were plenty of plot twists. And her writing voice? Fantastic. She employed fresh prose, and I laughed aloud a few times. 

I recently hosted this author on my co-hosted writers’ blog. Her article held such a strong writing voice, I decided to set aside other books and read this ARC for review. I’m glad I did. Sometimes I take breaks from reading novels to check out others, then come back. I didn’t with this title—I had to read straight through. I love when that happens. 

Not only is her prose very strong, but she crafted strong characters and used skillfully layered plot elements. I found deep, true emotion throughout. 

Honestly, one of my favorite reads in a long time. 

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: Song of Springhill by Cheryl McKay Price

Song of Springhill

I loved Rene Gutteridge's and Cheryl McKay Price's Never the Bride novel, so I was grateful for the chance to read this title for review.

Let's begin with the summary:

Could you fall in love despite the great risk of losing the one you cherish most?

Hoping for a fresh start, Hannah Wright moves to Springhill, the hometown of the father she never knew because he died in their volatile coal mines before she was born. She tracks down her aunt, Abigail Percy, and is immediately welcomed to move in with the whole Percy clan. This includes her Uncle Ray, a coal miner, and their four lively children. Suddenly, she's surrounded by more family than she's ever had in her life.

The day after she arrives, the mine explodes, trapping many underground, including Uncle Ray. Little did Hannah know when she set off on this new adventure how much her family was going to need her. When the Percys face a sudden lack of provision, Hannah knows she must get a job to help them. But the only industry in town that pays enough is coal mining--and the mine company doesn't hire women.

Hannah secretly masquerades as a man and gets hired as Mel, a distant cousin of her father's. Keeping up her charade is challenging in this tight-knit, 1950s town, where everybody knows one another.

Hannah is placed on the team of Josh Winslow, a handsome bachelor who noticed her the moment she stepped into town. It doesn't take long for Josh to see through Hannah's disguise as Mel, but she convinces him there's no other way for her to help take care of her family. Understanding the pressure she's under, he agrees to not blow Hannah's cover--for now.

Though Hannah seems to keep Josh at arm's length, he's determined to chip away at her defenses and win her heart. She resists, afraid to love someone who could die at any moment in an accident underground.

Long-time miners start to sense that "the big one" is coming. Calling it a "Bump" does little to calm Hannah's fear of the impending underground earthquake, a disaster that could come any day.

Will Josh and Hannah be among the next miners caught in a catastrophic disaster? Does Hannah stand to lose everything she's worked so hard to rebuild?

And now, my review:

First, let me say I respect this author very much and have appreciated her work as a screenwriter. The cover of this book immediately grabbed my attention, given the subjects in the upper picture.

As an editor, I had mixed feelings as I read this novel. There were many editing issues that jarred me from the story—like collective POV, typos, use of clich├ęs, overused words, confusing passages, redundancy. As a reader, I was overwhelmed with the number of characters in the beginning of the story. This made getting into the novel difficult. About one-quarter of the way into the file (I read it as an e-book), the pace picked up and I was finally hooked. There were times when the author employed deep POV with a sympathetic character and good pacing. Those instances made the story engaging. 

One thing was clear as I moved deeper into the novel—I could see the story as a movie. The action of the mines, the activity later in the story—those scenes played out vividly in my imagination.

This story didn’t follow the norms or expectations of CBA genre fiction in several instances, though of course the content was wholesome. I felt there needed to be deeper layers and perhaps a later beginning to the story, without so many characters. The story's subject didn't seem clear as we split our time between the young girl and the woman and man’s developing relationship. Perhaps that was part of the issue for me—based on the upper cover image and the label of "love story," I expected a romance and though this story has a romantic thread, the other genre elements were missing. (Though of course the genres of "love story" and "romance" are separate.)

All that said, readers (who aren’t editors) may not mind the elements I mention above. I think they’ll find plenty to enjoy here. And I look forward to seeing this possibly developed into a movie. I wish this talented writer all the best.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Upcoming Reviews

Hey, everyone. Here are some upcoming reviews coming to Net's Book Notes in the next few weeks.

A couple of these haven't released yet and publishers like us to wait until they are released before posting reviews. Can't wait to share my thoughts with you!

How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck from Harper Collins Publishing
Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep from Barbour

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt from Howard Books

Read on!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Her Nerdy Cowboy by Annette M. Irby

Her Nerdy Cowboy

I'm having a little fun today. Normally, I put the title of the book I've reviewed as the post's title. Today, I'm making a request.

Do you review books? If so, I'd love to give you a complimentary copy of my latest release for review. If you enjoy it, I'm asking for you to post your review on Amazon. Sounds easy, right? 

I have a few copies to give away, just leave a comment here and I'll be in touch. Or you can e-mail me at annette at annetteirby dot com. 

Thanks, readers! Read on!

Her Nerdy Cowboy is a $0.99 short inspirational romance. Here's the summary:

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle?

Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children and who reads to her of pirate romance, but Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

This is no light read, though the cover seems a bit playful (or zany). Still, the author does mix in some humor. Again, as with her first book, you’ll find literary references that will delight Austen fans.

Let’s begin with the summary: 

Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you've run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She's lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvy celebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she's losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?

And now, my review:

This is a story of sisters and life-and-death struggles. A novel that will make readers think about their lives. For those who’ve undergone cancer treatment, perhaps they’ll relate with and see themselves in these characters.

I’m seeing a lot of foodie books lately, and this was one. You’ll get hungry while you read. And I love the premise that this expert may be able to use her gifts to help her sister. Still, there’s so much going on beneath the surface of this story.

The secondary characters stood out to me—especially the nurse. Well written. I liked that this story was written in first person, though I did feel a little bit blind to the other characters’ perspectives as I read.

Dear Mr. Knightley, this author’s first book, was one of my favorites.  Here again, Katherine uses great descriptions and writes strong characters. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this title and I prefer romance, but I did read to the end to see how things would turn out. I liked that our heroine needed to find her true calling, to find a fulfilling dream. And I enjoyed the banter between her and Nick (one of the secondary characters).

Abandonment is a theme, as is facing the past and reconciling with family. These are not light topics. I believe readers who are looking for a family story will find plenty to love about this novel.