Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Until I Knew Myself by Tammy L. Gray


Book One in the Bentwood series

Heidi Reads... Until I Knew Myself by Tammy L. Gray

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

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Synopsis

RITA Award-winning author Tammy L. Gray delivers an unforgettable new series following five struggling friends in search of the true meaning of family through secrets, betrayal and the unexpected influence of an outsider…

Tyler Mitchell grew up an orphan, taken in by his best friend’s family when he was only sixteen. Even though ten years have passed, and he’s been given everything he should ever want—a loving home, an adoring girlfriend, a successful career, and lifelong friendships—Tyler has always felt a foreigner in his own life.

When a surprising phone call reveals the death of his biological grandfather, Tyler’s seemingly perfect life starts to unravel. The people he loves most in world have kept from him the greatest secret of all—knowledge of his father’s family.

Now hunting for more information about his past, Tyler discovers nothing is quite as it seems. And the definition of family is far more complicated than choosing between blood and loyalty.


My Review

When I started this book I felt like I just jumped in the deep end of the angst-filled drama of fractured relationships. The author did a great job of making it easy to quickly get to know the various personalities in the once tight-knit group of friends, but it took me longer to feel connected to them and invested in their high-strung emotions. It did come, surprisingly with the inclusion of Caroline, a newcomer to the town and family business. She was my favorite character by far, probably because of the peace and rest her presence and friendship gives Tyler from the chaos of his thoughts. It also changed the dynamic of the tone of the book which was becoming a bit dark for me, and the upswing re-energized my interest and her new perspective was refreshing.

The connection between Tyler and Journey is palpable and even though they spend the majority of the book on rocky ground, I loved the concern they continually felt for each other and interest in each other's welfare. They each had growing to do that happened independently, and painful as it was, they come together stronger than ever because of it. There is a strong message of the importance of friendship and family loyalty, especially for the families we build ourselves. By the end I couldn't put the book down and I can't wait to see where the stories of the friends will lead in the rest of the series.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Check out the next book in the Bentwood series . . .

Book Two
https://amzn.to/2vOqXQD

(coming July 2018)

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Synopsis

Nine years to win her. Three years to love her. And one decision that destroyed it all.

April Duncan was raised with three clear truths: the family name is absolute, ambition and success rule over every emotion, and love always comes with strings attached. Image was everything in her carefully crafted world... until the mirror cracked.

Sean Taylor was April's best friend, the one man who taught her it was okay to let her guard down and to rely on someone. She trusted him. She loved him. Which made his deception the darkest kind of cruelty.

Now, nearly a year later, she’s ready to leave her failed engagement in the past and get back her life and her estranged family, even if it means dating a man solely for his connections. She’ll never again choose love over loyalty.

Sean has spent his entire life breaking barriers, facing challenges, and never giving up. Until one impossible choice destroyed his future and left him no option but to flee from the woman who annihilated his heart.

Now he’s back in Bentwood and determined to make her hear the truth and rebuild the trust he shattered. But April has become a mere shell of the woman who claimed his heart long ago.

Winning her back is more than just seizing a victory, because if he fails… the girl he’s loved for a lifetime will disappear forever.

The Truth Between Us is the second book in the Bentwood series. Each book can be read as a standalone, but it is recommended that you begin with book one to get the full experience among this tight group of family and friends.


Review: Little Heroes: Courageous People Who Changed the World by Heidi Poelman, illustrated by Kyle Kershner


Heidi Reads... Little Heroes: Courageous People Who Changed the World by Heidi Poelman, illustrated by Kyle Kershner

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.familius.com/little-heros-courageous-people-who-changed-the-worldhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

Synopsis

From the intrepid efforts of Susan B. Anthony to the quiet courage of Rosa Parks, Little Heroes: Courageous People Who Changed the World is a young child's first introduction to the brave people who fought to make the world a better place. Simple text and adorable illustrations tell the contributions of eight champions of freedom: Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Malala Yousafzai, Harriet Tubman, William Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. A quote from each individual is included on each spread along with colorful, delightful artwork.

My Review

This high-quality board book is adorable! I'm a sucker for illustrations, and this one is right up my alley. It spotlights four men and four women who have become historical icons. Because the focus of the book is on fighting for freedom, slavery and civil rights have the majority of emphasis with five out of the eight. Women's suffrage, peaceful protest, and female education are the other topics. William Wilberforce was the only lesser-known figure, and the others are all highly recognizable. I loved that each layout has a blurb about what the young person saw that needed to be changed, and then another short paragraph that tells what the person accomplished in order to make that change. I also appreciated that there is an inspirational quote from each person, and I felt that it brought the heroes to life with their real words. The content is very age-appropriate and while kept to simple terms, can be a starting point for important conversations between parent and child. The dynamic illustrations use pleasing color palettes, eye-catching compositions, and friendly faces for an overall positive vibe.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)






Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Frontier Matchmaker Bride by Regina Scott


Book 8 in the Frontier Bachelors series

Heidi Reads... Frontier Matchmaker Bride by Regina Scott

My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

Synopsis

The Lawman Meets His Match 

Successful Seattle matchmaker Beth Wallin has her most challenging assignment yet--find Deputy Hart McCormick a bride. Beth's still smarting after the handsome lawman spurned her affections a year ago. But if she finds Hart a wife, Beth will gain favor with the city's most influential women...and perhaps free her own heart, as well.

Marriage is the last thing on the deputy's mind. After tragically losing his sweetheart, he vowed never to love again. But as sweet, spunky Beth introduces him to potential fiancees, Hart finally feels a spark...for her! The stubborn bachelor will be Beth's first matchmaking miss, unless they can both admit that she just might be his perfect match.

My Review

I was happy to finally read Beth's story! In the other books in the series there are little teasers that something happened between her and the deputy, and we finally learn what that was. As the only girl amid several brothers, Beth is the heart of the Wallin family, and has been sweet to her new sisters-in-law in the previous books. She really comes into her own in this story, and with her pursuit of a bride for Hart bringing her to town, she realizes how much she enjoys living there and having a little break from her brothers. The pace is slow but steady as she tries one tactic then another to get Hart interested in courtship, but even though he humors her attempts, his fears prevent him from moving forward. It was sweet to see them grow comfortable in each other's presence and harbor secret feelings they think are unrequited. The case Hart is trying to solve of newcomers being attacked by a gang brings some action and an element of mystery to the plot, especially when Beth insists on getting involved. There is also a subplot with Scout, the friend of one of the Wallin brothers, who returns to town wealthy from the gold fields and falling prey to the fortune-hunting of the local seamstress. I hope that one of the final books in this series will include Scout finding love. All the books in the Frontier Bachelors series can be read as stand-alones and in any order.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)



Don't miss the other books in the Frontier Bachelors series . . .

Book One
https://amzn.to/2HSK4LK

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

Synopsis

What was his brother's widow–his first love–doing on a ship full of prospective brides headed out West? Clay Howard had been tasked with escorting the Boston belle home, but he didn't anticipate Allegra being so strong-willed–or that he'd wind up traveling with her just to keep her from leaving without him!

Allegra Banks Howard isn't going to let Clay interfere with her plans for a new life with her daughter on the frontier. True, Allegra needs his wilderness savvy, but if Clay thinks he can rekindle what they once shared, he had better think again. Because risking her heart for a second chance at being his bride isn't something she'll undertake lightly...

Book Two
https://amzn.to/2K5HCC0

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

Synopsis

Drew Wallin's youngest brother is determined to see him married--so he kidnaps Drew a prospective bride. Not only is Catherine Stanway beautiful, but she's a nurse who can help their ailing mother. Drew doesn't have time for distractions--he's too busy watching over his fatherless siblings. Yet he's drawn to this woman who carries loss and pain equal to his own.

Catherine has traveled West to use her nursing skills to save lives, not to find a husband. She knows if she gives in to Drew's matchmaking family, she'll be risking her already bruised heart. But maybe it's time she takes the ultimate risk to win the groom she didn't know she wanted!

Book Three
https://amzn.to/2vBvJka


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Synopsis

James Wallin's family is depending on him to find a schoolteacher for their frontier town. Alexandrina Fosgrave seems to be exactly what he needs to help fulfill his father's dream of building a new community. If only James could convince her to accept the position.

Alexandrina has traveled west to seek a fresh start, not to find a groom. But after she's stranded in the wilderness with James, he offers her his hand in marriage to protect her reputation. Both are afraid to fall in love, but maybe an engagement of convenience could make them reconsider…  

Book Four
https://amzn.to/2qQ04WI
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Synopsis

Maddie O'Rourke's orphaned half brother and half sister have arrived safely in Seattle—with a man they hope she'll wed! Though Michael Haggerty's not the escort she planned for, Maddie allows him to work off his passage by assisting in her bakery…and helping care for her siblings. But she'll never risk her newfound independence by marrying the strapping Irishman—or anyone else.

In New York, Michael ran afoul of a notorious gang. Traveling west was a necessity, not a choice. The longshoreman grew fond of his young charges, and now he's quickly becoming partial to their beautiful sister, too. So when danger follows him, threatening Maddie and the children, he'll do anything to protect them—and the future he hopes to build.

Book Five
https://amzn.to/2HQ8IfM

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Synopsis

Proposing a marriage of convenience to a rugged logger is the boldest move of Nora Underhill's sheltered life. In return for Simon Wallin's protection from her overbearing family, the unassuming seamstress offers prime frontier farmland. But their paper marriage changes when Nora's greedy brother tries to draw her back into a life of drudgery. Her only option: move to Simon's farm, and into the center of his loving, unruly family.

Years of shouldering responsibility have left Simon cynical and reserved. But little by little, Nora's warmth opens his shuttered heart to joy. With their marriage claim under threat, can this practical arrangement blossom over the holidays…and become a love for all seasons?

Book Six

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Synopsis

Stunned that his sister ordered him a mail-order bride, John Wallin insists he's not the husband Dottie Tyrrell needs. The scholarly logger knows Dottie will make the perfect wife--for some other man. Yet he's compelled to invite the lovely widow and her infant son to stay with his family...but only until she can find her own way.

Dreams of true love are for other women. Betrayed by her baby's father, Dottie just wants a safe home for her precious child. But who could resist a man with John's quiet strength? When her secret past brings danger to their door, they may yet find this mail-order mix-up to be the perfect mistake...

Book Seven
http://amzn.to/2jV24JQ

http://www.amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.comhttp://www.bookdepository.comhttp://www.goodreads.com

Synopsis

After taking guardianship of his late friend’s siblings and baby daughter, minister Levi Wallin hopes to atone for his troubled past on the gold fields. But it won’t be easy to convince the children’s wary elder sister to trust him. The more he learns about her, though, the more he believes Callie Murphy’s prickly manner masks a vulnerable heart…one he’s starting to wish he was worthy of.

Every man in Callie’s life chose chasing gold over responsibilities. Levi—and the large, loving Wallin family—might just be different. But she can tell he’s hiding something from her, and she refuses to risk her heart with secrets between them. Even as they grow closer, will their pasts keep them from claiming this unexpected new beginning?