Review: Dancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter

Jade always felt out of place growing up in Chapel Springs, and when she left nursing a broken heart, she didn’t plan on giving the place a backward glance.  Now, pregnant, broke and alone, she has no choice but to return.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the Mayor, Daniel Dawson, who she’d always viewed more as a big brother.  Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

Dancing with FirefliesI reviewed Denise Hunter’s  A December Bride (A Year of Weddings Novella) and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I jumped at the chance to get my paws on an ARC of Dancing with Fireflies (A Chapel Springs Romance), her latest novel which is published today.  A prologue has the story diving straight into the action, recounting a particularly traumatic event in Jade’s past.  The event is somewhat glossed over, which felt a little strange.  It is such a major event, that it didn’t seem right for it to be skated over quite so quickly.  That being said, as it is a distressing event, I didn’t particularly want it drawn out in full detail either, so, odd though it felt, perhaps it was the correct decision.  This same event is touched upon at a few later points in the novel, but almost in passing, with more focus given to a different tragedy in Jade’s past.  Given that both events changed her life quite dramatically, this just didn’t seem natural.

After the tumultuous beginning in the prologue, the story felt quite slow-paced, and I was a good 1/3 of the way through before I felt drawn into the story.  Dancing with Fireflies is the second in the Chapel Springs romance series, and whilst I have not read the first, some of the same characters were present in A December Bride, and it was pleasant to be amongst familiar characters.  I had one or two niggly problems with the formatting: when text messages were related, it was not very clear who had sent which, although this may be due to having an advance copy.

I didn’t quite warm to the characters as much as I have previously with this author, but this is made up for by the strong morals behind the story: dealing with pressure within the family, strength in the face of trauma, being true to oneself, faith, and reaping the consequences of other’s sins.  On the whole, I liked the novel and it is a good choice for a reading group, and includes a list of questions for a group to consider at the end of the novel.

Disclaimer: I was provided with an eARC by NetGalley, but all opinions given are, as always, entirely my own.
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Review: A March Bride by Rachel Hauck

Susanna has found her very literal Prince Charming, and in just three weeks she will join royalty as she marries King Nathaniel II of Brighton Kingdom.  Having been jilted in the past, she’s wary of Nathaniel changing his mind when suddenly he drops a different kind of bombshell: the government have insisted that she renounce her American citizenship before they can marry.  When Susanna flees home to America for some soul-searching, neither she nor Nathaniel is sure whether the wedding will even take place.

March BrideA March Bride (A Year of Weddings Novella)is the third instalment in a year’s worth of novellas from twelve different romance authors, and I’m sorry to say it is also the first that I didn’t enjoy.  At the outset it was somewhat confusing as to where and when the story was set.  It explains later in the story that Brighton is an island in Europe, but mentions of the British Royal family and the fact that Brighton is actually a town in the UK made the initial chapters confusing.

Faith is at the heart of the novella, but so much so that it not only overpowered the romance, but left me feeling like I was being preached at from a pulpit.  Nathaniel is an incorrigible romantic, but lacked a certain je ne sais quoi that made him wholly winning as the male lead.  When Nathaniel drops the bombshell there is lengthy dialogue, and perhaps a more indepth insight into how the two characters were feeling during that scene would help the reader warm to them more.  The story itself is incredibly romantic, but not for you unless you’re comfortable with heavy Christian overtones.

 Disclaimer: I was provided with an ecopy of A March Bride by NetGalley for the purposes of this review, but all opinions given are, as always, entirely my own.
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Review: The ABCs of Yoga for Kids by Teresa Power

I have a confession: I actually wanted to read ABCs of Yoga for Kids for myself!  I have always fancied trying yoga, but had fought shy of it on account of chronic knee problems in the past.  I thought this book would be simply explained for those who’ve not experienced yoga before, quite fun, and fairly gentle on my poor joints.  I was right on all counts!

ABCs

This book is delightful.  There are 56 different poses in total, at least one for each letter of the alphabet, and the description of each is in a rhyming poetry form which is really quite charming for children.  Additionally there is a lovely pastel coloured illustration to accompany nearly every pose which made it extremely easy to understand and perform each one.  I worked my way through the entire book, which took a little while, so parents would want to break this down into smaller sessions, which would also have the advantage of giving more variety and interest.  I found the process quite calming, and felt it would be excellent for slightly over-excited children, for increasing a child’s awareness of their own body, and particularly for sporty children or young dancers.

ABCs2Illustration of the Butterfly Pose

If I had one criticism it would be that the formatting could have been improved slightly as the illustration of a pose was frequently not on the same page as the description, necessitating some flicking back and forth.  This may be better in a hard copy rather than an eBook read on an ipad however.  I did also wish that a little more advice/detail were given on how to control one’s breathing during a pose, as it does mention that this should be done, but does not give anymore detail than that.  A delightful introduction to yoga, and perhaps a nice teaching aid in the classroom.

Disclaimer: I was provided with an eARC of the ABCs of Yoga for Kids by NetGalley, but all opinions given are, as always, entirely my own.
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Review: What the Bride Didn’t Know by Kelly Hunter

Special ops expert Trig Sinclair knows the rules of the bro code: no matter how dynamite Lena West is, as his best friend’s younger sister, she’s strictly off-limits.  That’s been made perfectly clear.  When a secret trip to Istanbul sees Lena and Trig pretending to be married and sharing a bed, Trig finds himself in a whole new world of sweet torture.  If Trig thinks playing the honour-bound hero is tough, it’s got nothing on how Lena feels when she discovers the secret her “groom” is hiding…

What the Bride didn't know

I was very excited by the synopsis of What the Bride Didn’t Know, as it promised key ingredients that I thoroughly enjoy: romance, intrigue, and secret agents…what’s not to like?  In actual fact the secret agent angle is pretty much relegated to the background which, surprisingly, didn’t disappoint me in the least because the plot and characters were so engrossing even without it.

Novellas sometimes struggle to develop character sufficiently and that is definitely not the case here.  Lena is a fantastic female lead.  She has some deep-rooted insecurities, yet is feisty and independent with incredible spirit, and is written with great credibility.  It’s almost impossible not to fall for Trig:  strong, loving, romantic, with a resolute moral code, he is the perfect hero without detracting from Lena’s strength of character.  The depiction of Trig’s tortured emotions throughout had me turning pages until I’d finished the novella in one sitting.  I was engrossed from start to finish, and I will definitely be looking out for more of this author’s work.

 Disclaimer: I was supplied with an ecopy of What the Bride didn’t know by NetGalley, but all opinions given are, as always, entirely my own.
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Review: A February Bride by Betsy St Amant

With her wedding mere minutes away, Allie should be thinking about the future.  Instead she’s stuck in the past, rueing the inheritance of her family: the wedding dress she’s wearing has been handed down by generations of women…who’ve all jilted their grooms at the altar.  Her mother, grandmother and even great grandmother before her have all been serial brides, moving from one groom to the other, and leaving a trail of broken hearts in their wake.  Can Allie really fight against that legacy, and can she really put Marcus through all that?  In a fit of panic, Allie runs from the love of her life.  Some four months later, Allie’s best friend, who is also Marcus’ sister, still wants Allie to be maid of honour at her own wedding….which means Allie has no choice but to face up to Marcus and the consequences of her actions.

February Bride

A February Bride (A Year of Weddings Novella) is the second instalment in a year’s worth of novellas from twelve different romance authors.  Whilst Allie’s actions seem somewhat daft to me, the way in which her thoughts and feelings are described lends credibility, and the description of the emotions of the two lead characters is gripping.  We are treated to both Allie and Marcus’ point of view during the novella, and the way the two neatly dovetail is cleverly done.

I was slightly disappointed with the cheesiness of the ending, however the general plot was enjoyable, and given extra layers by over-arching themes of family and friendship, whether one is doomed to make the same mistakes as one’s predecessors, and whether it’s always possible to remodel, or whether some things are broken beyond repair.

 Disclaimer: I was provided with an ecopy of A February Bride by NetGalley for the purposes of this review, but all opinions given are, as always, entirely my own.
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Review: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

On the morning of her sixteenth birthday Rene Winters was still an ordinary teenage girl, but that all changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest in bizarre circumstances that surely mean a strange double murder.

After the funeral Rene’s wealthy grandfather sends her to a remote and mysterious boarding school, Gottfried Academy where she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome, elusive boy that she feels inexplicably drawn to.  When unexplainable things start happening and she discovers a dark secret in Gottfried’s past, Rene begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems.  Little does she know that Dante is the one holding a dangerous secret.  One that puts her life in danger.Dead Beautiful

Reading the synopsis of Dead Beautiful: 1 (A Dead Beautiful Novel) had me very excited about this novel as it had so much promise.  Unfortunately it didn’t start out too well.  The first few chapters were not particularly well written, with the action seeming very spasmodic and jerky.  The discovery of Rene’s parents is very rushed and somewhat contrived, and suddenly the next sentence jumps to after the funeral over a week later.  Thankfully this improves dramatically once Rene is sent to Gottfried Academy, and the novel became far more engrossing.  The plot is quite predictable at times, but interesting enough both to keep me reading and have me wondering what happens in the next book in the series.

 Some characters are well written, and some less so.  The grandfather didn’t seem at all credible and was very inconsistent.  Rene herself is quite selfish and rarely displays any interest or care towards her friends and I did wish she was a more likeable heroine.  Dante is both adorable and intriguing, and I found myself wishing at times that the novel were written from his point of view.  The romance however, is very sweet and tender, whilst the underlying mystery adds intrigue.

 I think for the target audience of age 12 and up this is most likely a highly enjoyable novel.  For me it was more ‘badly written Twilight’.

 Disclaimer: I was sent an ecopy of Dead Beautiful via NetGalley however the opinions given are, as always, entirely my own
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Review: A January Bride by Deborah Raney

Surrounded by the constant noise and interruptions of workmen, successful novelist Madeleine Houser is beginning to think she’ll never be able to meet her writing deadline so she gladly seizes at the offer to set up temporary office at an old fashioned B&B owned by her octogenarian neighbour Ginny’s friend Arthur.  Maddie hasn’t met Arthur, but a friendship grows as the two correspond by daily notes.  Much to her vexation, Maddie seems to be falling for the inn’s owner – a man who is probably at least 40 years her senior, and who she has never even met.

A-January-Bride-

A January Bride (A Year of Weddings Novella)is the first instalment in a year’s worth of novellas from twelve different romance authors.  It is a very Victorian romance story – the setting is an old-fashioned inn and the chivalrous behaviour of Arthur and demure replies of Maddie brought to mind a very proper old school courtship.  The narrative style was a little too much action, not enough reaction for me.  To my mind the most interesting part of romance novels is the thoughts and feelings of those involved and I would have liked less recitation of Maddie hunting for coffee filters and more emotions.

The story is faith-based, with Christian principles incorporated throughout which isn’t my personal cup of tea, but it is not done in a preaching manner and is fitting for the characters, who you do root for throughout.  On the whole a slightly predictable but very sweet read.

 Disclaimer: I was provided with an ecopy of A January Bride by NetGalley for the purposes of this review, but all opinions given are, as always, entirely my own.
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