Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

Title: Broken Branches

Author: M. Jonathan Lee

Genre: horror/paranormal

Setting: English countryside

Publisher: Hideaway Falls

Source: from the publisher

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

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A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

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June 2017 Mini Reviews

Today I’m going to be reviewing six lovely books. Most of them are historical romances. Okay, all but one are historical romances. *hides* Sorry, guys … I tend to stick to one genre most of the time. And then get behind reviewing them because I read them for pleasure, not for review. *shrugs*

On other news, I’ve moved my schedule to Monday and Thursday instead of Tuesday and Thursday. I think this will be better because it spreads the posts out somewhat (and give us a bit of variety, as reviews are going to be only on Monday except when I can’t help it for whatever reason).

I’m going to try to post more fun stuff over the summer. Sorry for all the dull reviews! I have about twenty-five books that need to be reviewed at this point – some of which I’ve read, some of which I haven’t.

Continue reading “June 2017 Mini Reviews”

The Lucky Hat Mine by J.v.L. Bell

Title: The Lucky Hat Mine

Author: J.v.L. Bell

Genre: Historical Mystery/Romance/Comedy

Era: 1860s

Setting: Idaho Springs, Colorado

Publisher: Hansen Publishing Group

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 stars (one star was removed for content issues)

The Lucky Hat Mine by J.v.L. Bell

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A recipe for true love or murder? Ingredients: one Southern belle, one Colorado gold miner, a wife wanted classified, and a fainting goat. Let simmer.

What’s a Southern belle to do in 1863? Wife-wanted ads are always risky business, but Millie Virginia never imagined she’d survive the perilous trip across the Great Plains to find her intended husband in a pine box. Was he killed in an accident? Or murdered for his gold mine? Stuck in the mining town of Idaho Springs, Colorado territory, without friends or means, Millie is beleaguered by undesirable suitors and threatened by an unknown assailant. Her troubles escalate when the brother of her dead fiancé, Dominic Drouillard, unexpectedly turns up.

Dom is an ill-mannered mountain man who invades Millie’s log cabin, insists that his brother was murdered, and refuses to leave until he finds the killer. Compelled to join forces with her erstwhile brother-in-law, Millie discovers the search for Colorado gold is perilous, especially with a murderer on their trail.

The Lucky Hat Mine interlaces the tale of a feisty heroine with frontier legend and lore making for an arousing historical murder mystery.

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This was a great book that kept me entertained and wanting more. It was funny, adventurous, and intriguing, truly a wild and whacky ride. However, I did find the content (mostly the constant stream of innuendo) to be a little more than I was comfortable with.

Plot {4/5}:

The plot was (mostly) amazing. I enjoyed it from beginning to end. In the middle it did drag just a little bit, but after Dominic arrived, it picked up again and was as entertaining and captivating as before.

I did solve the mystery involving the treasure Millie’s father hid rather early. It seemed pretty obvious to me as soon as I heard of the treasure existing. However, I didn’t guess the murderer until he was revealed. I was absolutely surprised, not having considered him as a potential suspect.

I was a little bit confused about the Christian content. This is by no means Christian fiction, and I wasn’t expecting it to be. So … why did Millie think about God so much in the first half of the novel … and then suddenly drop it? I wanted to pull her aside and answer all her questions, poor girl. She sounds so confused.

Characters {5/5}:

The characters were all well-developed and original. I was able to keep them all separated in my mind (and there were quite a few).  I really liked Buttercup. She was hilarious. And Dominic. I want to meet someone like Dominic; he was really great. Millie amused me, and I found myself empathizing with her on several points. Then there was Mary. She was sweet. I also liked Charlotte … Charlotte was funny.

I think my favorite character was Dom. He was so straightforward, and he wasn’t perturbed by anything.

Setting {5/5}:

Loved the descriptions of Colorado terrain. I want to go there someday! It sounds so gorgeous. Reminds me of the Cascades, only more rugged.

Writing {3/5}:

It could be partially due to the weird formatting I got when I downloaded it, but I occasionally found the writing hard to get through. It wasn’t bad … it just wasn’t amazing. As this was an ARC copy, I’m not going to judge it too harshly, however.

Content {4/5}:

This is where the novel really failed in my eyes. Of course, none of this matters to someone who isn’t as careful with content as I am (and there weren’t any really explicit scenes), but there was a little too much to make me comfortable.

Language: “d*mn” several times, “oh my g*d” and variations of this a couple times,  and Millie’s favorite expression is “Oh, Lor.'”

Violence: murders, wars, gunshot wounds, etc. Nothing graphic.

Sexual: many men want Millie to marry them, some as a “bedwarmer” or something like that. Millie wonders repeatedly as to what married couples … do. (Sorry. This is awkward. XD ) Mentions of married bliss, sleeping with a man, etc. Millie repeatedly reiterates how inappropriate it is for her and Dom to share a cabin. Dom touches Millie inappropriately. Several mentions of prostitutes. Lots of innuendo. Millie has to remove Dom’s pants (he has long underwear on under them) while he’s unconscious to tend a bullet wound at one point, which wouldn’t be so bad if she weren’t overthinking everything. Just … that kind of stuff.

One star removed. Not recommended for younger teens. 15+ only.

Overall {3.5/5}:

Besides the content, this was an entertaining story that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys hilarious historical mysteries with a touch of romance.

~Kellyn Roth

Diamond by Paul Willis

Title: Diamond

Author: Paul Willis

Series: The Greywood Files, #1

Genre: mystery (detective stories)

Era: contemporary

Publisher: Paul Willis

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Overall Rating: 5/5

Diamond by Paul Willis

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When Detective Greywood gets a midnight case from a forgetful friend, he thinks it’s just another robbery. But when he learns his client stored the world’s eighth largest diamond in a highly secure bank vault, he knows there must be much more to the case. Only the owner himself could retrieve the diamond.

A short story containing odd friends, two eventful dinner parties, and a coffee fueled detective.

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A clever detective short story which I really enjoyed. I’m really looking forward to reading more about Rory Greyhood (and his crazy friends). I had the pleasure of beta-reading Diamond, and then I got to read it again in its completed form, and I enjoyed it both times!

Plot {4/5}:

Well-paced, clever, and exciting. I admit I had some trouble understanding certain things, but I figure you don’t need to know everything all at once (especially in a mystery), and I eventually caught on, which is what counts. 😛

Characters {5/5}:

For a short story, the characters were really well-developed, especially Rory and Henry. I really liked Henry (needless to say) and Rory’s “cop friend” was really cool. I hope we get to see Henry again. 😀

Setting {4/5}:

There wasn’t really a lot of talk about where the story was taking place or anything (some big city in the United States is my guess), but it wasn’t really necessary, partially because of the shortness of the story and partially because it just wouldn’t have added anything.

Writing {5/5}:

Mr. Willis has got to be one of the most amusing writers out there! His writing style is just so witty and bouncy and fresh. I was quietly chuckling at a lot of his similes and descriptions.

Content {1/5}:

I honestly can’t think of a single thing. I suppose there was a (non-descriptive) fist-fight of sorts towards the end.

Okay for all ages.

Overall {5/5}:

A simple amazing detective story, comparable with Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown mysteries. I’d recommend Diamond to almost anyone, but especially to lovers of old-fashioned detective stories, amusing characters, and witty writing.

~Kellyn Roth

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

After thinking it over for a while, I decided to review A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter in a slightly different way. In honor of the Miranda/Marsh letters, this review will be in epistolary style.

First, a brief introduction the subject material:

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Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother’s new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.

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Dear Lady Miranda,

Well, your story was quite amusing, wasn’t it? It’s a bit of a comedy (mostly because the very situation with the letters is ridiculous), which I totally wasn’t expecting. Of course, there’s also some mystery and some romance, but the comedy parts were something that stood out to me.

Is it just me, or was “Marlow” a little obvious? The first time he appeared, I was like, “Well, the mystery’s solved; time to close the book …” Of course, I read on though and found a different mystery to solve, but it threw me off for a minute because I was thinking, “Okay … that can’t be it … it’s waaay too obvious!”

Now, I admit that, once I get on a roll, I’ll add thousands of books to my to-read list based on the cover (or, as in your book’s case, genre/publisher). I also order books from the library based on the fact that they’re in my to-read list on Goodreads.

It’s kind of nice, like opening a surprise package, so I don’t correct my troublesome ways. Now, your book was like that. A surprise. I started reading it without even glancing at the blurb, and I was kind of bugged by the cover (which seemed a bit off to me … I just feel like the pink, faded, wallpapery trim doesn’t match with the bright dress and hat you’re wearing). So … I was pleasantly surprised.

Now, let’s discuss Marsh. Because I know you want to. 😉 He is absolutely adorable! I mean, you’re adorable together, but even by himself, he’s adorable! I mean, he’s not surpassing Gil (just so you know, Miranda darling, Gil is a friend of mine from a book I beta-read a while back), but Marsh is still pretty awesome!

Moving on to Georgina. Does she drive you crazy? What am I saying; I spent several hundred pages in your head. Of course she drives you crazy! She drives me crazy, too.

Then there are your brothers. Trent was my personal favorite. I love how he slugs Marsh! I mean, I kinda wanted you to hit him … but this was second best. Griffith was also cool, though not in the same way. He’s like a steady rock while Trent is more of a wild ride.

Then there’s your mother. Honestly, she drives me up the wall. I don’t know how you can even bear her. She’s even worse than Georgina. I wouldn’t stand it! You’re a grown woman; who needs her ‘lady lessons’? Eesh. I just wanted to shoot her sometimes.

However, we’ll move on because I bet you don’t want me talking about shooting your mother.

The whole thing with the spies … so thrilling! I mean, in a book. I imagine it wasn’t so fun for you when you were, you know, traipsing about the countryside with the, er, valet.

Anyway, this is an amazing novel, and your author is quite talented. I’m looking forward to reading more by Hunter in the future.

Sincerely,

~Kellyn Roth

The Innocent by Willowy Whisper

Title: The Innocent

Author: Willowy Whisper

Series: Hills of Innocence, #1

Genre: Historical Mystery/Romance

Era: probably late 1800s (Old West)

Setting: the Old West

Publisher: Willowy Whisper

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Overall Rating: 4/5

The Innocent by Willowy Whisper

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“I wonder who would shoot a girl so young…?” The question haunted him as he left the river and her grave behind.

Harvey West is given a month. One month to prove his innocence. As the evidence points him to the gallows, he fights to find the enemy of the beautiful Elsie Roselind. Someone wanted her gone.

Someone destroyed the evidence. Someone had to kill to keep her from coming back…

And the someone isn’t afraid to kill again—no matter what the cost.

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The Innocent by Willowy Whisper is a great mystery/suspense novel set in the Old West. I really enjoyed it, and read most of it in two days (though I technically took longer because I read the first chapter then put it aside for a while due to busyness and a reading slump).

Plot {4/5}:

This novel had an exciting, intriguing plot. I admit I figured out the ‘mystery’ pretty early on, mostly because I wasn’t willing to suspect [SPOILERS] Brock, because I could see how he loved her [END OF SPOILERS]. I also felt from the beginning that [SPOILERS] Clyde wasn’t sincere [END OF SPOILERS]. At times it did seem to go on, especially at the end when we’d discovered who the murderer was. However, after I read on a little, I understood why the author was taking her time (HARVEY AND ABIGAIL OH MY GOSH!!! They’re so great for each other …) and forgave a temporary drag. 🙂

Characters {5/5}:

The characters were well-developed and interesting. I especially liked Harvey (such a good guy!), Brock (adorably sweet), and Jimmy (also adorably sweet … in a different way). Joe was interesting, as well, and Clyde was [SPOILERS] evil, of course. But still well-developed. I admit she fooled me about him at first! [END OF SPOILERS] I was a little irritated at Abigail once or twice. I was like, “Do you have handsome, sweet, understanding cowboys walk into your life and spend weeks trying to discover who killed your sister every day? No? THEN BE NICE TO HIM FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!” But I understand why she acted the way she acted, and I forgave her. Besides, I am even more stubborn than she is, so … what am I complaining about? It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

Setting {4/5}:

There wasn’t really a lot of room for improvement here. I wish there could have been a little more description, however. I’d like to know about how every character looked like, what the houses look like, etc. Description can be sneaked in almost anywhere without massive blocks of it, and I think it would have added to my mental imagery. I’d also like to know what Rascal looks like. I’ve been imagining him as black or bay. Am I close, Willowy?

Writing {3/5}:

So, this is really the only place where I feel like the book could use major improvement. 3/5 is my ‘it was okay’ rating. Honestly, I felt like the book could have used a little more editing. There weren’t a lot of mistakes (no typos and the punctuation and spelling were good), but a lot of sentences were awkward and some things were repeated more than they needed to be. I think Willowy Whisper is an amazing writer, but it could have been a little more polished here. On the other hand, I’ve read more recent stories by her, so it could be that she’s just improved a ton since writing this one. 🙂

Content:

No language. There was violence and thematic elements, though nothing super graphic. A murder and a lot of talk about that (they were trying to solve it, after all), gunshot wounds, talking about the pain from the gunshot wounds, fist-fights, bleeding, people were almost burnt alive once, and illnesses/recovering from wounds. Some parts were pretty intense/suspenseful/even a little scary.

As far as sexual content, there were quite a few kisses/mentions of kissing. A couple were described (mostly just talking about emotions). Some of these kisses (not the described ones, though) were between a man and woman who didn’t end up getting married.

Not recommended to children under 12 (upper PG). However, after that, I wouldn’t have an reservations (unless you’re sensitive to that kind of thing).

Overall {4/5}:

An amazing story that I couldn’t put down in places with sweet characters and a suspenseful plot. It’s really a great book (despite my criticism on certain points … sorry, I can be very harsh!) and I hope to read more by the author (and about these characters) in the future.

~Kellyn Roth

Beyond the Horizon by Jesseca Wheaton

Title: Beyond the Horizon

Author: Jesseca Wheaton

Genre: Fairytale Retelling/Christian Fiction/Romance

Age-Range: 12+ (upper middle grade/young adult)

Era: late 1930s (pre-WW2)

Setting: Austria

Publisher: Jesseca Wheaton

Source: from author (in exchange for honest review)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Content: 1/5. I can’t think of a lot. I, personally, had no content problems whatsoever. I guess the ‘evil stepmother’ of the story is mean. And then there is romance, but no kissing or anything. Mentions of the Nazis’ hatred of Jews (and peoples’ hatred of the Nazis), the oncoming war (I think), etc.

Beyond the Horizon by Jesseca Wheaton

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Eliana longs to see the world beyond the mountains that tower above Salzburg, Austria, but knows that dream will never see such adventure- and neither will she.

Surrounded by a world of cruelty, she lives for the weekly visits of Aron, a boy she met on one of her rambles through the countryside. But as the years pass and she begins to grow older, a new and unwelcome world is opened up to her. On a fateful night at a party she vowed she’d never attend, she comes face to face with a shocking truth.

As the world around her teeters on the brink of war, Eliana struggles to figure out just where her loyalty lies; a decision that will drastically change the course of her life. Will she ever be free to see what lies beyond the horizon?

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Before we go any farther, I just want to say … that cover. Wowza. It’s so gorgeous. It’s also super professional. I just adore it! I know who I’m going to go to for future covers! (Although … I know so many good cover designers!)

That was really a fantastic story! It’s a unique, interesting way of retelling the Cinderella story. I especially liked the little mystery! Absolutely fantastic. She totally had me going for a while! 😀

This is definitely one of my favorite eras! That’s partially because a lot of my favorite movies were made around this time period. Cary Grant, anyone? Anyone!? It’s just such a great era. The manners, the outfits, the sense of honor … amazing. I don’t care about the war; there were ‘good old days.’

However, this is a new setting for me to some extent. I really enjoyed it. It was hard for me to remember that the characters weren’t American sometimes … and other times I couldn’t remember this was the 1930s, not the Victorian era or some fantasy world. So there was that. It didn’t bother me a lot, though.

So … the setting could have used a little improvement, but, after all, this was a novella. How much can you fit into a novella? The answer is “not a lot.” You can only write as long as you have a plot to write about, and so it’s hard to pack in all the other stuff you need to in order to make a great story. I know I have difficulties doing it!

The characters were very well-done. I liked Eliana a lot, but Aron was my favorite. He was so sweet and kind and perfect … ack! I mean, perhaps he didn’t have faults … but I don’t care. Some characters don’t need faults to be perfect. Aron is perfect, and whoever doesn’t like can … can … eat their umbrella! 😛 Wilhelm is cool, too.

How the characters interacted … gosh, it was fantastic. I especially like Wilhelm and Elly’s interactions. Of course, Elly and Aron were adorable together (and I love how they supported each other), but Wilhelm and Elly were so much fun. 🙂

I loved SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERS Eliana’s conversion. END OF SPOILERS It was realistically done and really sweet.

The description in this novella was amazing! The writing was, overall, really fantastic.

I’d recommend Beyond the Horizon to any lover of (fantastic!) fairytale retellings, WW2 in Europe, intricate characters, and plot-twisty plots.

~Kellyn Roth

The Blog Tour

Today and tomorrow, Jesseca is having a blog tour for the release of this novel!

Here’s the schedule, so you can know which blogs to visit when:

Friday, December 16th:

Saturday, December 17th:

About the Author

jesseca-wheaton

Jesseca is an 18-year old daughter, sister, and a child of God. Her days are spent reading, cooking, spending time with siblings, or playing piano.  And writing, of course! At an early age words fascinated her, and her love for the printed page has only grown. She lives with her parents and seven siblings in the sunny state of Kansas, and she’s convinced there’s no place like home.

Connect with Jesseca:

Blog: Whimsical Writings

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14241334.Jesseca_Wheaton

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pacitosenoritaj/

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: A Study in Scarlet

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle

Series: Sherlock Holmes, #1

Genre: Classic Murder Mystery

Age-Range: 14+ (young adult/adult)

Era: Victorian

Setting: London, England and Utah, America

Source: mother owns a copy

Rating: 5/5 stars

Content: 2/5. Some violence and a murder, obviously. It’s not too graphic, though there are mentions of a blood smear on a wall, etc.

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

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In the debut of literature’s most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes.

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This was a simply fantastic book! I’ve never read another one like it, and I mean it this time. It’s so clever and thrilling. I’ve never had a book get me quite so riled up as this one did.

Every character is pretty well-developed – the writing is great – the plot was fast-paced and exciting. I couldn’t take my eyes of it, and I think I finished it in just a day or two, which is miraculous, considering the tiny print of the book (although it’s a pretty short story, I must admit).

I did find the sudden move to Utah a little disturbing … but, well, murder mysteries are disturbing stories! Why not have my reading experience jiggled a bit while reading one? 😛

Overall, this was a fantastic novel – and a classic at that – who I’d recommend to any lover of thrilling mysteries, common sense, deduction, etc. etc. 😉

~Kellyn Roth

The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd

Title: The Heiress of Winterwood

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Series: Whispers on the Moors, #1

Genre: Historical Romance

Age-Range: 13+ (young adult/adult)

Era: 1814 (Regency)

Setting: Darbury, England

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Source: library

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Content: 3/5. I’d say thematic elements (fights, guns, knives, semi-detailed … nothing gory or overdone) and then some kissing (not detailed), noticing, all the average romance stuff, but none of it inappropriate. The main thing is that a baby is conceived out of wedlock by minor characters and it barely comes up and is hardly talked about at all. No cussing.

Cover: 4/5. Such mixed feelings … just like with the book! It’s really elegant and pretty, but I feel like it doesn’t portray the actual nature of the novel too well, y’know?

Continue reading “The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd”

Taste of Danger by Alexa Verde

Title: Taste of Danger

Author: Alexa Verde (http://www.alexaverde.com)

Series: Secrets of Rios Azules, #2 (can definitely be a stand-alone)

Genre: Christian adventure romance

Age-Range: young adult/adult

Setting: Rios Azules, a small town in Texas, USA

Publisher: Alexa Verde

Source: author (for honest review)

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Content: 2/5. Some violence. Nothing too graphic. Some intense action scenes. Okay for teens; some parental guidance for tweens (maybe).

Taste of Danger by Alexa Verde

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Small-town librarian Soledad Sokolova has three days to find a hidden Russian treasure — or she and her father will die. Out of options, she turns for help to a hunky stranger, private investigator James O’Hara. But she knows better than to let a ladies’ man break her heart for the second time. Bound by his word to Soledad’s father, James is ready to protect her at all costs. However, once betrayed, he’s reluctant to fall in love again. Will James and Soledad escape danger and find treasures of faith, love, and hope?

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