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review 2017-11-18 06:02
Romancing the Scot by May McGoldrick
Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family) - May McGoldrick
Authors holding $100 Visa gift card giveaway to celebrate new series! Click Giveaway for chance. Ends Nov. 26

3.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Napoleonic Wars are over but the political maneuverings are far from, Grace and her father are traveling with messages from Joseph Bonaparte to his wife Julie. They are attacked and Grace ends up hiding in a crate that gets shipped off to Scotland. As the daughter of a French cavalry officer with Jacobite ancestors, Grace finds herself in a perilous position when she awakens in the home of a former English cavalry officer and current judge. 
Hugh still blames himself for not being able to rescue his wife and son during the war; he therefore likes dangerous hobbies such as ballooning. When an unconscious woman is found in the new basket he had delivered, he can't help but be drawn to her. 
Grace and Hugh may have been on opposite sides of the war but their serendipitous meeting will have them joining together.
 
"I shouldn't have kissed you," she finally managed to whisper.
"No, it was I," he said, his gaze still setting her body aflame even from two steps away. "But I don't regret it, and I don't think you do, either."
 

 
First in the new Pennington Family series, Romancing the Scotis a rich and intriguing tale. Hugh is our viscount, former cavalry officer, and current judge hero, whose parents you might remember from the authors' Scottish Dream Trilogy. I greatly appreciated the authors' attention to Hugh as a judge. We don't get a courtroom scene but instead an engaging look at how he approaches his cases, specifically through a case involving a deaf and mute woman accused of murdering her child (in the author's note, the case is said to be based on a real one). This approach not only allowed Hugh and Grace to bond through solving how to work the case, showing how Hugh appreciated Grace's mind and abilities, it also added unique details to an often written about time period. 
 
While Hugh provided the calm and commanding demeanor, Grace gave us the action and compelling components. She at first claims amnesia because she fears that her father fighting for Napoleon and her Jacobite ancestors might land her in trouble but can't keep lying as she grows closer with Hugh. Grace was a wonderful heroine who didn't need to be dramatically overwritten to show her brilliance in strength living the everyday life she was placed in. She traveled with her French cavalry father, fighting sicknesses, helping wounded, and marching in the muck like many of the women in her time did; she's utterly capable but also so human in her vulnerability. The story's drama comes from Grace running from men who killed her father and her thinking they're after a huge diamond she didn't know until later she was transporting. There are English and French spies and some machinations. 
 
The story started off right away at a bit of run and it did jolt me a bit as I had to attempt to place the characters and what exactly was going on but it does level off fairly quickly. The middle slowed a bit as I thought more of a focus on the romance between Grace and Hugh could have sparked vivacity but I also greatly enjoyed the feel of history in this historical romance. There's a mention of the Spa Fields riots, the workings of the law I mentioned, and a focus on the Scottish Clearances. If you read a fair amount of Scottish historicals from the 1800s, you've probably run across this historical event, what made this feel different was instead of just reciting what the Clearances were or did, the authors' focused on the actual people and effects, it felt more intimate. The historical components in this story felt true and woven in a way that immensely added to the feel and created a richer story tapestry. 
 
I thought the middle could have used more romance between our couple but I also believed in them when they made love, the writing sometimes veered toward flowery/purple, the plot was weaving and intriguing, and the historical components highly enriched the story. Hugh's sister Jo was a touching character in her own right and with the set-up (adopted, broken engagement) the authors' have alluded to, I can't wait to read her book. Romancing the Scot was just an all around interesting read and a strong beginning to the Pennington Family series. 
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review 2017-11-17 16:58
Fathers and sons in America: A Matt Phelan Masterpost
Bluffton - Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

I had said in last week's post that today I'd be writing a Matt Phelan 'masterpost'. Typically this means that I cover 3+ books by a single author (or multiple authors writing together in a series). However, today I'm just going to talk about 2 books because honestly that's all I could get my hands on and so that's all I managed to read. :-) I picked up Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton and The Storm in the Barn with fairly high expectations based on the work I had seen by Phelan in the Comics Squad compilation I read and reviewed not too long ago. On the one hand, I was not at all disappointed. The illustration style is most definitely up my street. He is excellent at drawing evocative expressions on people's faces. I think where I was let down was on the overall reading experience. Let me take each of the books separately so that I can (hopefully) explain what I mean.

 

I read Bluffton first because it featured a circus and I am all about that circus lifestyle. Firstly, when I grabbed this book I somehow missed the subtitle and therefore was shocked to discover that one of the main characters in this book is that famous star of vaudeville, Buster Keaton. Secondly, I went into this book expecting a rollicking good time and instead got a somewhat borderline depressing narrative of what the childhood of Buster would have entailed since he was a performer from infancy. It's about the expectations that a parent has for their child and how those might be vastly different from the aspirations that the child holds for themselves. It's also about the nature of friendship and jealousy (especially when one of the friends is an itinerant performer). It's a coming of age tale that paints a rather grim picture of child stardom and how the experiences of our youth shape us into the adults that we will one day become.

 

Then there was The Storm in the Barn which I can only categorize as a Debbie Downer type of book. I'm not sure that this falls under any one genre. It's most certainly historical fiction as it depicts a little boy, his family, and his community as they struggle during the time of the Dust Bowl in Kansas circa 1937. However, it also contains fantasy elements of which I can't really go into without spoiling the plot... It's certainly rooted in reality because Phelan does not shy away from the harsh conditions that these characters face (don't even get me started on the rabbits). He covers bullying from both peers and parents. The protagonist is forced to watch a beloved sister struggle with a possibly fatal illness. The entire plot is fraught with tension and a dark cloud seems to hover over every page. What I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for a light read to send your tots to sleep at night then you should probably keep looking. BUT if you wanted to teach your kids about an era of history that's not usually dwelt upon in the classroom then this might indeed be the right selection for you.

 

I'd rate both books about the same. In terms of imagery and writing, they're both 10/10. The issue is that I held expectations about these books (as readers do from time to time) and I finished both of these feeling somewhat let down. I understand that not all books are going to be rosy, sweet, and fun. I know that not every book has a happy ending. And yet when these two books delivered hardship, sadness, and loss I was ill prepared and disgruntled. I can't honestly flaw these books and say that from a reviewer's standpoint they were faulty...but I still find it difficult to give them full marks just the same. Does this make sense? I guess my point is that a book can tick off all the boxes and still fall short based on the assumptions of the reader and/or their relative mood when they picked up the book. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

 

Now let's take a look at Buster from Bluffton followed by a page from The Storm in the Barn:

 

Source: YouTube

 

 

Source: books4school

 

What's Up Next: Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers by David Stabler

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2017-11-14 21:38
50%
Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family) - May McGoldrick

“That summer, when the tongue-wagging was at its worst— up to that point , at least— Wynne wrote to me informing me that he wished to end our engagement.”

“The blackguard,” Grace snapped angrily. “Small, weak, and unworthy of you. Did anyone challenge him? The dog should have been shot.”

 

Get yourself a friend like Grace :)

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text 2017-11-14 05:13
Reading Update: 30%
Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family) - May McGoldrick

He ran a finger down the spine of another book and Grace imagined his hand sliding along her own spine.

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review 2017-11-14 00:43
Review for: Mistletoe Me, Baby (O'Connor Family #4) by Katie Reus
Mistletoe Me, Baby (O'Connor Family Series) (Volume 4) - Katie Reus

Nolan and Miranda have been friends for a long time but now circumstances help Nolan take the first step into moving their relationship to a brand new level, a level that he’d been hoping to get to for the longest time. 
This story had the perfect mix of sweetness, spicyness, and emotions to keep me turning the pages. I specially liked to read how family dynamics change from person to person however in the end if a family is close, they will be there for each other, supporting one another in times of need. I also liked the way Nolan continued helping Miranda even when she was too distracted to ask for his help. He truly was the perfect hero with not a flaw in sight. In short, I’d call this story a comfort read perfect for this time of year and I recommend it for anyone looking for a Holiday read. 

 

** I was gifted a copy of this book and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.** 

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