Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stone Field by Christy Lenzi | Review & Notes on this book as a historical fiction

Stone Field by Christy Lenzi
Published by Roaring Brook Press

Publish Date: March 29, 2016

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 


In a small town on the brink of the Civil War, Catrina finds a man making strange patterns in her family’s sorghum crop. He’s mad with fever, naked, and strikingly beautiful. He has no memory of who he is or what he’s done before Catrina found him in Stone Field. But that doesn’t bother Catrina because she doesn’t like thinking about the things she’s done before either.

Catrina and Stonefield fall passionately, dangerously, in love. All they want is to live with each other, in harmony with the land and away from Cat’s protective brother, the new fanatical preacher, and the neighbors who are scandalized by their relationship. But Stonefield can’t escape the truth about who he is, and the conflict tearing apart the country demands that everyone take a side before the bloodbath reaches their doorstep.

Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
 
 (from Goodreads) 



My Thoughts:  I became enamored with the cover of Stone Field by Christy Lenzi as soon as I received it in the mail for review because it truly is one of the more stunning covers I've seen in a while. But it wasn't only the outside of this book that had my heart all aflutter. The description of a book...inspired by Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights...set on a farm during the Civil War? Just the sound of it made me feel gleeful. I absolutely love historical fiction, especially when it is set during the Civil War Era. And I adore Wuthering Heights

Did it meet my expectations? Yes. Stone Field is a worthy retelling of Ms. Bronte's classic - one of the better retellings of any book that I've ever read, actually. Ms. Lenzi's characters touch on those of Wuthering Heights so well and yet they all are strong enough to stand firmly on their own without the famous classic story. They are odd and eccentric and in some cases, unlikable. I could talk for a long time about these two books and how they are similar/different and the very cool ways that Ms. Lenzi retold this story. 

But I really want to talk about the historical fiction aspect of this book because I'm obsessed with historical fiction and in Stone Field, you cannot have the retelling without the historical fiction. The two cannot be separated. 

The story is set during and around actual events that took place in history: the Civil War, the Missouri Compromise, etc. Good historical fiction, I think, does this - it settles itself around something real so that the reader has some basis for comparison or a starting off point, if you will. Many of us know about these events that led up to the Civil War and in this story, having this time and place was the perfect setting for a tense and almost-angry part of the country that had a volatile political climate. Using the state of Missouri probably couldn't have been a better choice because of the mixture of opinions and beliefs at that exact time.

Along with the romance and the characterization, both of which are very large parts of the retelling aspect, lies this undercurrent of tension and the feeling that a change is about to happen. Roubidoux Hollow is a fictional town that is based on a very real place, so having a community in this story that is divided and split and disagreeable about slaves and about which side to fight for is huge. AND! It is historically accurate. Stone Field, our love interest, is a person of color and because of this, he is a target for soldiers and soldier wannabes all over the area. 

There are also people in the story that just want to be left out of the conflict, that do not want to choose a side. There are these huge themes of social/race inequality, gender inequality, religion that are present in here, and to me they seem to make more sense to the story when I think of them in terms of the historical time period and setting versus the retelling aspect. 

I think that making Ms. Lenzi's story a historical fiction rather than, say, a contemporary or science fiction, gave it emotional depth and I loved seeing how it all fit together. 

Of course, historical fiction doesn't always have characters like Catrina and Stone Field. What I mean is that historical fiction doesn't always have characters that can talk to one another with their minds, without moving their mouths. Characters that fall into a passionate, all-consuming love on first glance, without even having to have a conversation to know they're the one for each other. These little details fall back into the realm of this particular retelling, but they do make this historical fiction more interesting, particularly for readers that also enjoy Wuthering Heights

Ultimately, I loved this story. I read this and immediately wanted to pick up the classic once again. It was thrilling in some parts and some parts were tragic. It required suspension of disbelief (just like the original classic does) and is not perfect. But it has lovely language and a compelling plot. It also has historical significance in the YA market. This book is possibly (probably?) not for everyone. Some readers will not make it past the love that Catrina has for Stone Field when she sees him for the first time. But I can imagine that many or hopefully most fans of the original classic will appreciate this retelling as a pretty doggone good one. I mean, I want the people that read this one to see the things in it that I do. 

I think it is just as safe and accurate to see this book as a historical fiction than as a retelling, and I would like for historical fiction readers to know this. Loving Wuthering Heights probably makes loving this one a unique experience, but you do not have to know or have read the original classic to read and love this book. 

I recommend Stone Field for readers that enjoy retellings, historical fiction, unreliable narrators, and an interesting, diverse cast of characters. 

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Stone Field will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Historical Fiction
Retellings: Inspired by Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Setting: Missouri, Civil War Era
Colorful, diverse cast

Stone Field by Christy Lenzi
is currently available for purchase.

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Christy lives with her family in California’s Central Valley, not far from the mountains, the big trees, and the Pacific Ocean. When she's not working, writing, or reading, she is fond of stuffing messages into bottles, making art, and zooming around on her motor scooter, Roxanne. If you find one of her bottle messages, write her back!

Find Christy Lenzi:  Website | Facebook | Goodreads





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Out today! 
Grab your copy here: 



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review | Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado
Published by Thomas Nelson

Publish Date: February 1, 2015

Source: Book - Library, Audiobook - Purchased
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 


What if you could ask God anything? What would you ask? And how would He answer?

Chelsea Chambers is on her own. After a public split from her NFL superstar husband, Chelsea takes a bold step out of the limelight and behind the counter of the Higher Grounds Cafe, an old-fashioned coffee shop in dire need of reinvention. But when her courage, expert planning, and out-of-this-world cupcakes fail to pay the bills, this newly single mom finds herself desperate for help. Better yet, a miracle.

Then a curious stranger lands at Chelsea s door, and with him, an even more curious string of events. Soon, customers are flocking to the Higher Grounds Cafe, and not just for the cupcakes and cappuccino. They ve come for the internet connection to the divine. Now the cafe has become the go-to place for people in search of answers to life s biggest questions.

When a catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling, Chelsea begins to wonder if the whole universe is conspiring against her quest to make it on her own. After a shocking discovery opens her eyes to the unseen world around her, Chelsea finds the courage to ask God a question of her own. Heaven answers in a most unexpected way."
 (from Goodreads) 


Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado

My Thoughts:  Chelsea has taken over her family's Higher Grounds Cafe after separation from her famous athlete husband who has had an affair and lost her trust. Not long after taking over the business, Chelsea is informed that it comes with an $86,000 debt - if she isn't able to pay it, the IRS will seize the cafe. Chelsea has brought her two young children to live with her in the apartment over the coffee shop; they are having some adjustment issues while missing their father tremendously. 

Unbeknownst to Chelsea, her guardian angel is watching from the Heaven and is sent down to help her. He comes in disguise as Manny, her new barista. Around the time of Manny's arrival, there is also an internet incident at the cafe. It seems that "The God Blog" can only be accessed by people when they are at the Higher Grounds Cafe. God himself supposedly runs The God Blog. People are allowed to ask only one question and they will receive an answer...from God. Of course people are skeptical, but they are also desperate for answers, so come in large numbers to ask their one question. While they're at the cafe, they buy coffee and cake. 

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe is a very sweet book. It is a simple and quick read. In truth, it is a little on the cheesy side at times but it is also super-heartwarming, and that is the thing that I liked most about it. (I think there are some very complex issues in here that are simplified so that this book is easy to read.) I bought this book because I've had my eye on it since its release - I have been drawn to the cover and I've never read a book by Mr. Lucado. I grabbed this one and added the audio. I listened while I worked around my house, in my yard, and also while I cooked. This is an easy story to listen to and to get lost in. 

I wanted good things for Chelsea. She's a mother that is struggling to make the best decisions for her children and she is a new businesswoman trying to make the best decisions for her struggling business. Along with all of that, she isn't completely sure how to handle being newly single and all that goes along with it - her children miss their father, her husband says that he wants to come home, and she is in way over her head financially. 

Manny's character not only provides great comedic relief but also guides Chelsea and her family. Watches over them. There are some supernatural things happening around the coffee shop and the greater San Antonio area, and Manny is in tune with what's happening. (He's also a huge fan of Star Wars.)

Manny is part of a great supporting cast. The rest of the supporting cast - including Chelsea's family and some of the locals - are a great support to Chelsea and her family. They make the story full and robust. 

While Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe is a quick read, and fun...it's also thought-provoking. There are some spiritual themes present: spiritual warfare, forgiveness, and faith are some of the big ones. This isn't a heavy-handed book by any means at all - I think anyone would enjoy it - but I appreciated the messages that I was able to take away when I was finished. Since I have never read anything by this author before, I cannot provide a basis for comparison. 

I would recommend Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado to fans of inspirational fiction and fans of Max Lucado's other books. 

Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado is published by Thomas Nelson Publishers and is 5 hours and 39 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Ben Holland, who is completely new to me (I can only find where he has voiced Max Lucado's work, but I may be incorrect about this). He has a voice that is pleasing to listen to and he made the book enjoyable except for the accents given to Manny and Sawyer, which were a little exaggerated and odd. I had a hard time taking them seriously at various times because of the way that they sounded. I realize that this is subjective and that other listeners may not feel the same way or even notice this. I would still recommend this audiobook for first-time listeners or rereads.




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Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe will appeal to fans of:

Inspirational Fiction

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado
is currently available for purchase.

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Grab the book! 







Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski: How rereading via audiobook changed my entire story experience

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publish Date: March 4, 2014

Source: Purchased
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 


Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.


As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. 

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
 
(from Goodreads) 


The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Here is my original review for The Winner's Curse

In anticipation of the release of The Winner's Kiss (!!!), which will end The Winner's Trilogy, I started rereading the first two books again via audiobook and oh. my. goodness. I'm so happy to be back in this world again.


Gosh, I love rereading favorites. I especially love adding the audiobook to the experience. In this case, Justine Eyre narrates (8 hours, 24 minutes, Unabridged) and gave the book an entirely new spin for me. Not only did she pronounce several character names differently than I did, but her inflection was different and the emphasis she used at different parts was not like what I adopted when I read this book the first time. (My Southern drawl gets in the way?) This really created a new story experience for me. More than anything, I loved the accent she gave Kestrel and how it differed from Arin's. This is a big deal in the story and I'm happy to see that the narrator carried this detail well into the audiobook. Bravo!

As far as the story goes, I love the forbidden romance between Arin and Kestrel. I love the fantasy setting. I love these characters, both good guys and bad guys. The betrayal and secrets. The little details that make this story so great. I love the language that this author used, her verbage. It is delectable. 

But mainly I loved this romance. So painful and wonderful and ahhhh that ending! LOVE. 

Love love love.



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The Winner's Curse will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Fantasy with Romance
Slowly-Developing Romance with No Love Triangle
Great Characterization
Plot Twists & Betrayals

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
is currently available for purchase.

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The Winner's Trilogy is: 









Review | Linny's Sweet Dream List by Susan Schild

Linny's Sweet Dream List by Susan Schild
Series: The Willow Hill Series #1
Published by Lyrical Press/PenguinRandomHouse
Publish Date: January 5, 2016

Source: Author/Publisher
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 


Set in the off-beat Southern town of Willow Hill, North Carolina, Susan Schild’s moving and witty novel tells of one woman who loses everything—and finds more than she ever expected.

At thirty-eight, Linny Taylor is suddenly living a life she thought only happened to other, more careless people. Widowed for the second time, and broke, thanks to her cheating late husband, Linny has no house, no job, and no options except to go back home. There, in a trailer as run down as her self-esteem, Linny makes a list of things that might bring happiness. A porch swing. A job that nourishes her heart as well as her bank balance. Maybe even a date or two.

At first, every goal seems beyond reach. But it’s hard for Linny to stay in the doldrums when a stray puppy is coercing her out of her shell—right into the path of the town’s kind, compassionate vet. The quirky town is filled with friends and family, including Linny’s mother, Dottie, who knows more about heartache than her daughters ever guessed. And as Linny contemplates each item on her list, she begins to realize that the dreams most worth holding on to can only be measured in the sweetness of a life lived to the fullest…
 
 (Goodreads)

Linny's Sweet Dream List by Susan Schild

My Thoughts Once I opened Linny's Sweet Dream List a couple of nights ago, I couldn't put it down. I read way into the night and finished early the next morning with my coffee. At the time, I was looking for a comfort read and this book was the absolute perfect choice. 

Linny has had a tough time in her life with regard to love: not even forty years old yet and already married twice, Linny has watched both of her husbands die young. Adding to this tragedy, Linny lost her job soon after the death of her second husband plus she found out that he left her in a mountain of debt. Linny was forced to move out of her lovely luxury home, to sell her new Volvo and purchase an older model, and rent a mobile home near her mother's farm. 

The mobile home was in poor condition; Linny began extensive renovation, which she enjoyed. She found and adopted a puppy. She made a "Sweet Dream List" of things that she wanted to do now that she had time and a chance for a new start. Slowly, slowly things begin to look up for Linny as she crossed items off of her list. 

A few things that I love about this book

>the setting is probably about an hour from where I live, which made this book so much fun for me. I LOVE reading books that are local to me because I can easily visualize the places that are mentioned and it seems like I can create better pictures of the people in my head - the way they talk, the localized mannerisms, etc. I'm incredibly attracted to charming Southern settings and people in any story, any day. But THIS setting is perfectly written and just popped off of the pages. 

>the characters are great - the secondary cast is vibrant and filled with interesting people. They are representative of what I know of small-town folks and they're representative of the best of the people in this part of North Carolina. Linny's family is loving and caring, and I was invested in their own little side stories. 

>Linny is a great character study on what life sometimes looks like when it just...falls apart. 
She gives one good example of the life-rebuilding process. 

Linny actually fascinated me because she had such a broad range of emotions - I feel like this is so understandable for a woman in her shoes. At times she was very "I am woman, hear me roar" and at times she was disheartened at the things she was experiencing. At other times, she seemed like she could hardly believe that good things could possibly happy to her. She was a quiet person, and by this I mean that she simply lived her life without any drama and I love that. I felt a connection to her hesitancy to jump back into things after her entire changed, and I felt a connection to the quiet elation that she felt when she accomplished things that were hard for her. I also loved that she was so cautious with Jack, who ends up being her love interest. Their romance is a nice, slow-build. 


I love Jack - respectful, friendly, good-mannered. A good father. A good worker. I like him in the community and also as a love interest for Linny, and I'm curious about what things are ahead for these two


While I love reading the build-up of the romance, Linny's Sweet Dream List is focused more on Linny and how she rebuilds her life - surrounded by the people that love her - than on the romance. A romance is present once the story gets to a certain point, but I feel like it is a part of Linny reinventing herself. I think the central focus on happiness and wellness is really lovely.  

Really, I loved being immersed in this story. I honestly can't wait to get my hands on Sweet Carolina Morning, which is the follow-up to this book (out August 2016) and looks like it will continue to follow Linny's story instead of being a companion novel. 

I recommend Linny's Sweet Dream List for fans of great family relationships, great friendships, Southern settings, and comfort reads.

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Linny's Sweet Dream List will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary with Romance
Romance: No triangles. Slow-build. 
Setting: Central North Carolina
Strong Family Relationships & Friendships

Linny's Sweet Dream List by Susan Schild
is currently available for purchase.

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The Willow Hill Series (so far): 


I cant wait for the second book!




Friday, March 25, 2016

Looking for your next read? I just might have some YA titles for you!

Hi guys! Happy Spring! 

I'm still seeing snow pictures on Instagram and Twitter but where I am, there is pollen everywhere



Listen, I one-clicked a few of these YA titles and am considering a few more of them - sooo, I decided to collect them in one place in case any of you are interesting in adding some young adult to your e-collection. If you see any that I've missed, let me know and I can add them. I just threw this together in a hurry. 

Let me now if you guys grab any thing, whether it is on here or not - I'd love to hear what everyone is reading! 

Free



$.99



$1.99



$2.99





$3.99



$4.99



$5.99



Don't forget that with some of these titles, you can add the audio to the Kindle versions for a reduced price, which is something that I do ALL THE TIME. 




Also, just so we're on the up-and-up: these are affiliate links. 






Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review | Sincerely, Carter & Sincerely, Arizona by Whitney G.

Sincerely, Carter by Whitney G. 
Series: Sincerely Carter #1
Publish Date: April 30, 2015

Source: Bought
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 


Just friends.
We’re just friends.
No, really. She’s just my best friend... 


Arizona Turner has been my best friend since fourth grade, even when we “hated” each other. We’ve been there for one another through first kisses, first “times,” and we’ve been each other’s constant when good relationships turned bad. (We even went to colleges that were minutes away from each other…)

Throughout the years, and despite what anyone says, we’ve never crossed the line.

Never thought about it.
Never wanted to.

Until one night changed everything.
At least, it should’ve ...

Just friends.
We’re just friends.

I’m only saying this until I figure out if she’s still “just” my best friend… (Goodreads)

Sincerely, Carter by Whitney G.

My Thoughts: Carter and Arizona have an interesting friendship that begins in fourth grade (or fifth, depending on which one is telling the story) and is made up of lots of rudeness, snark, and acting like each one doesn't like the other one. Their friendship transforms over time into this extremely reliable thing in which the both of them as a unit is far bigger than they are individually, on their own. Above everyone else, these two turn to one another for advice, downtime, and that constant that a best friend provides. They are genuinely the very best of friends. 


Friends-to-lovers stories are one of my favorite things, and I enjoyed this one. It was funny, especially the way Carter and Arizona hated (but not really) each other when they were in elementary school, and the way they communicated so often with each other by writing snarky notes. I love the way they carried the note-writing throughout their childhood friendship and on into their adult lives. I love the way that both Carter and Arizona fostered independence in one another while in college/deciding on careers, where to live, etc. and yet they also remained close and supported each other. 

This is a fun book but it isn't a perfect book. There is a situation or two in here that made me grimace despite the intention behind the actions. But overall, just a fun story. Super solid and loyal friendship that made for a great starting-off point for these two. THAT was my favorite part of this story. 




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Sincerely, Arizona by Whitney G. 
Series: Sincerely Carter #1.5
Publish Date: September 10, 2015

Source: Bought
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 



Just friends. 
We’re just friends. 

No, wait. We’re no longer just best friends…  (excerpt from Goodreads)


Sincerely, Arizona 
by Whitney G.

My Thoughts: I love love love this epilogue to Sincerely, Carter! I think I liked it even more than the full-length novel because it has a great setting and a sweet HEA.

This novella was free when I picked it up, but it is currently 99 cents - honestly, I think this one is worth the dollar! (Check the current price by viewing the box at the bottom of this blog post.) It picks up after the end of Sincerely, Carter and gives a glimpse of what life is like for these two while they're in this particular stage of their lives. I absolutely adore that they're still writing notes and communicating in their own fun ways, and I love that Carter and Arizona chose to become more than friends in the first place. 


This epilogue novella is so, so good. 

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Sincerely, Carter & Sincerely, Arizona will appeal to fans of:

New Adult Contemporary Romance
Romance: Friends-to-lovers. 
Humor
Novellas

Sincerely Carter & Sincerely, Arizona by Whitney G.
is currently available for purchase. 

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Grab the Sincerely, Carter series here or 
Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial
to borrow with Kindle Unlimited




I'm so glad that I picked these up! 
These were my first Whitney G. reads - 
I wonder if I should pick up more? 




Don't miss my thoughts!
 
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