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The Crimson Bed

By Loretta Proctor

Matador 2010  (Imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd.)

Author site: http://www.lorettaproctor.co.uk/

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crimson-Bed-Loretta-Proctor/dp/1848762887

Henry Winstone and his best friend, Frederick Ashton Thorpe, are artists during the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the Victorian era. Although Henry has pretty much forsaken the snobbish materialism of polite society, Fred isn’t quite so ready to give up his fastidious lifestyle. But even Henry must eat and has taken a commission to paint Eleanor Farnham’s portrait. Seeing the half finished portrait of Ellie at Henry’s studio, Fred is smitten and returns the next day to meet her. Deciding she’s everything he’s ever dreamed of in a woman, Fred pursues her and he and Ellie wed.

But Fred can’t let go of disgraceful events from his past and this leads him down a dark path of more shameful acts. Ellie too hides a painful past that affects her relationship with Fred. Their marriage deteriorates even more when Fred allows his mother to fire his jealousy with her vicious gossip of impropriety between Ellie and her godfather, Lord Percy Dillinger. When more appalling secrets come to light, not only is Ellie’s marriage in jeopardy, but her mental and physical health as well.

When I first began reading The Crimson Bed, I was hooked within the first few pages. Ms. Proctor is a highly gifted writer and knows exactly how to draw the reader in. At first I didn’t like any of the characters with the exception of Henry. But I couldn’t stop reading and I came to realize these characters were genuine, complicated and deeply flawed, which leant them a certain charm that was mesmerizing.

With such extraordinary characterizations, a gripping plot and well-researched historical backdrop, The Crimson Bed is an excellent work of fiction. This isn’t a gene romance, but there is a love story. The historical details of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and the artists are exceptional. This is a character driven novel with elements of romance, suspense and mystery. I was so emotionally invested in the lives of these characters, I laughed, I sobbed, and I bit my nails to the quick during the tenser moments. I dare anyone to read The Crimson Bed and not be so affected.

–Willow

 

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Forever in Her Dreams

by Tika Newman

Thistlewood Publishing 2009

Website: http://www.thistlewoodpublishing.com

Buy Link: http://shop.thistlewoodpublishing.com/Forever-in-Her-Dreams-102.htm

ISBN 978-0-9821507-1-9

 Forever in Her Dreams by Tika Newman picks right up where The Eyes of Innocence left off. Book one in the series ended with readers wondering where Toniya came from. Who would give a stranger a horse? How did the horse from Lina’s dreams appear in her yard? Readers quickly get reacquainted with the characters they enjoyed in the first book and soon get some answers. As the story continues, readers journey along with Kalina as she makes a place for her new horse in her life. She doesn’t know it at first, but the horse will lead her down a path to her past. She will gain information about her heritage and her unique abilities. Readers pick up on her special way with animals as they read of her gentle nature and various healings. She is not limited to helping animals. When needed she also uses her healing powers to help people. Although Lina’s power is not typical and the events surrounding the healings are out of the ordinary, the author’s vivid descriptions and interesting presentations make them believable. Many authors focus on the negative stereotypes when presenting a minor culture. Whether true or fictional this author presents traditions and healing power in a way that doesn’t degrade the Gypsy culture. While the characters are described as very poor and old fashioned, it is refreshing to see this people group portrayed as peaceful, helpful and out to do good.

Kalina is a special girl trying to live a typical teenage life. She longs to fill her life with animals, friends, school and family activities. At times the pull to help is too strong to resist. She and her family know what it’s like to uproot and move just when they are settling into a new community. They are often forced to relocate when the secret is in danger of being revealed. Lina tries to think and act like other teens, but her love for animals leads her to make some interesting decisions. She tries to be cautious when it comes to strangers but her strong desire to help others leads her to risk it all in times of greatest need.

Cory, the older and charming neighbor boy, Marnie, her best friend, Aunt Jessie, Uncle Jeff, a host of pets and many schoolmates return in book two. New characters also appear in this sequel. The most interesting are Kalina’s grandparents, Stela and Todor,. As Lina learns who they are and how they have helped her at various times in her life, she also learns more truth about Aunt Jessie and how she came to be with her adoptive family. She learns how Toniya came to her. The more she learns of her past, the more she wonders how it will fit with her present. Will Aunt Jessie and Uncle Jeff accept her heritage? Will they believe her grandparents are who they say they are? Will they stick by Kalina even when she goes against their advice? Will her best friend Marnie think she is crazy if she reveals her heritage? Will her neighbor Cory get scared away as he starts to piece together what she can do with her powers? So many questions and once again they will not all be answered by the time readers turn the last page of book two.

Pearl believes the author is developing as a writer as she works on this series. This book is just as innocent and wholesome as book one, but it contains deeper insight into the characters, clearer scene descriptions and more realistic dialogue. This novel is a great follow-up to The Eyes of Innocence. The day-to-day life of an animal loving teenager is woven among the threads of mystery and magic that surround the main character. Kalina will continue to intrigue readers with her secret powers. This book is unusual in nature, but easy to follow. It answers many of the questions left when The Eyes of Innocence ended. Reader’s still don’t know the whole story though. The saga will continue when the third book Window to Her Soul is released later this year.

–Pearl

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One To Grow On: The Orange Collection

Kid’s Audio Stories

By Trenna Daniells

Website: www.kids-audio-stories.com

2 CD’s – Four full-length stories

 

Courage and Confidence:

Living in the dark, damp swampland of Twoid, Egar risks journeying to a strange new land with the hopes of saving his best friend, Arrow. His encounters with the Twill people opens his mind to a brand new world.

You Can Make a Difference:

Elon and Nefre live in a domed city with an artificial indoor environment. Elon’s curiosity leads them far away from their home planet Phatos and into a risky adventure.

Honesty and Positive Thinking:

Lily’s jealousies over a friend’s pony lead her into a stolen midnight ride. After her dishonesty, she wonders if she will ever be able to make things right again and have a pony of her own.

Turning Problems Into Opportunities:

With the help of Wish the dog, Aaron tackles a bunch of problems. Whether he finds himself over his head in lemons or up to his knees in turtles, the two take on everything.

There isn’t anything I cherish more than the memories of bedtime stories from my own childhood and the times I’d snuggle up with my own children at bedtime to read their favorite books, make up stories, or tell the old fairytales. These are precious moments for both children and parents.

The problem arises when kids believe story time should encompass at least twelve hours of the day like mine did. They were story fanatics. It didn’t matter if it was some silly thing I made up or a book. They just loved stories. And for busy working parents this can be impossible. I remember the first time I found a storybook/tape combo for my oldest child and he wore the thing out, listening to it and reading along over and over. He still wanted Mommy’s bedtime stories, but this was a true blessing for the daytime/evening hours when I was just too busy to sit down and read. After I realized how much my kids loved these audio stories—I looked for and purchased everyone I thought they’d enjoy.

When I received this audio collection by Trenna Daniells, I was a little worried because there were no accompanying books. Without the books, I wasn’t sure how younger kids would take to them. They’re recommended for kids 4-12. I needn’t have worried; with or without books these stories are highly entertaining. To my surprise, I enjoyed listening to them myself and for the most part, the kids took great pleasure in listening to them. One child who’d just turned four seemed a little restless while listening and I think a book with pictures would have helped him enjoy them more. While all children are individuals with their own likes and dislikes, I feel most will love this collection.

The stories are well written and encourages a child’s imagination, self esteem, taking responsibility, acceptance, and other life lessons while being entertained. They’re beautifully read with music and sound effects, which greatly enhances the listening experience.

If you love reading to your child, but find yourself too exhausted at times to face reading a story, these audio stories will be great. Curl up with you kids, listen with them and then have a short discussion about the story before that final kiss and lights out. And since these are audio, the kids can enjoy them on their own when you’re busy.

There are many children’s audio collections out there, but I highly recommend the One To Grow On series by Trenna Daniells for great listening satisfaction and the timeless values they teach.

–Willow

 

https://workinggirlreviews.wordpress.com

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Childproofed

By Reese Reed

Author Website: www.reesewrites.blogspot.com

BuyLink: https://www.createspace.com/Customer/EStore.do?id=3399630

Things have been so crazy around my house lately that having time to read was impossible. I finally carved out a few minutes, determined to at least start CHILDPROOFED by Reese Reed. If I’d known what a treat this story would be, I’d have put off bedtime a couple of hours to read it before now. At 194 pages, it’s a one sitting read and well worth the time.

Virginia is a thirty-year-old wife and mother who after the birth of her second child isn’t so sure motherhood is all it’s cracked up to be. Somewhere between changing diapers, middle of the night feedings, baths, bedtime stories, and the million other chores of motherhood, she’s lost herself—that young girl who was so carefree.

When Virginia learns that a hot young student at her husband’s school is after him, all her insecurities come crashing forward. Anxiety surfaces over the changes brought to her body by pregnancy, the fact that she barely has time to shower much less take time for a beauty routine, and uninterrupted lovemaking with Mark is a thing of the past. She wonders how he could possibly not prefer his gorgeous student aide to what waits for him at home.

Ms. Reed’s debut novel will strike a chord with mothers everywhere—an uplifting story of a young mother who temporarily loses herself, but then realizes she’s right there, exactly where she wants to be. Well written with a fast, steady pace and easy humor, it’s a great read for all busy mothers and yes, even those who haven’t yet ventured into motherhood. I also recommend it for all those fathers who’d like a little understanding of what’s going on with their wives.

–Willow

https://workinggirlreviews.wordpress.com

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Mud and Gold

Shayne Parkinson

Buy Link E-Book: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1187

Buy Link Print: http://stores.lulu.com/shaynep 

Picking up where Book I ended, Mud and Gold is the second in the trilogy, Promises to Keep. I purchased this book after reading the first in the series, Sentence of Marriage. The same excellent writing, characterization, and realism make Book II just as riveting.

Amy is persuaded by her stepmother to accept Charlie’s offer of marriage—believing this to be the only way to make things right and regain her respectability. Her new husband is a man old enough to be Amy’s father, both ill mannered and brutally abusive. Nothing Amy does pleases him and she’s often beaten with little or no provocation. The only time she’s spared is when Charlie knows she’s pregnant, fearing he’ll harm his unborn child.

Amy’s story is heart wrenching to say the least and although I could understand the reasons for her staying and putting up with her husband’s brutality, I kept waiting and hoping she’d finally have enough and stand up to him. After bearing Charlie two sons and suffering numerous miscarriages due his ill use of her, Amy discovers Charlie has been less than faithful, visiting the village whorehouse. She finally stands up to him and moves out of their bedroom. It’s a small step in the right direction and I almost cried with relief.

Then there’s Amy’s cousin and best friend, Lizzie. She marries Frank and their developing relationship is a true delight. I have to be honest and admit Lizzie is my favorite character. She’s full of spunk and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it—a woman ahead of her time, full of caring warmth and good cheer. You can’t help loving her. Frank is her direct opposite and the perfect match for her. Amy’s two older brothers also fall in love and marry. Their stories are just as captivating as Lizzie and Frank’s, keeping the main plot from being too maudlin.

Mud and Gold is the perfect blend of darkness and light. Ms. Parkinson has created quite a masterpiece with the Promises to Keep series, full of so many interesting characters and intriguing stories. If you love historical fiction, don’t miss these books.

 –Willow

https://workinggirlreviews.wordpress.com 

    

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Accordin- to-JaneAccording to Jane

By Marilyn Brant

Kensington, September 29, 2009

Genre: Light Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Author Website: http://www.marilynbrant.com

Pre-order buy link: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/

Bookworm Ellie Barnett is sitting in Sophomore English class with her newly assigned copy of Pride and Prejudice when sexy Sam Blain makes his move. Sam had been tormenting Ellie since kindergarten, but this was the first time he’d actually touched her skin and spouted blatant sexual innuendo. Although Ellie feels a strong physical attraction for Sam, he can annoy her more than anyone she knows. She feels she’s much too smart to allow a little thing like lust to override her good sense, especially with a boy as dangerous as Sam.

Ellie isn’t the only one who thinks Sam is the kind to stay far away from. Somewhere inside her mind Ellie hears another voice declaring Sam to be Ellie’s Mr. Wickham. Hearing the ghost of Jane Austen inside her head, Ellie decides she’s either crazy or suffering some terrible head injury. Jane convinces her she’s neither and that her ghost is there to guide her in the ways of life and romance, and that they both have lessons to learn from each other. Over the next twenty years Jane advises Ellie on all aspects of life, love, and romance, supporting her through many disastrous relationships. Ellie ignores most of Jane’s sage wisdom, preferring to tread her own path while searching for her Mr. Darcy.

When I first got this book for review, I knew it would be great fun and I was right.  According to Jane is an intriguing, appealing story full of warmth and wit. Although I consider myself more of a Bronte’ girl than Austen, I adore both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. So the plot for Ms. Brant’s novel greatly peaked my interest.

The author’s inspiration of having Jane Austen’s ghost living inside the heroine’s head was almost too delightful for words. But our heroine didn’t always find it so very delightful. Although she credits Jane with helping her get through high school and felt she was her best friend—the one person who was always there for her, she learned early on to block Jane’s presence when she needed to. And she especially needed to during the more intimately, sensual moments of her life.

Ms. Brant cleverly entangles the two women’s emotions and opinions, as Ellie seeks true love and Jane offers her, sometimes not appreciated, judgment of the men Ellie chooses to date. According to Jane is a fast read, perfect for the busy woman and the author has a definite gift for keeping you turning those pages. This is a book you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of Austen, romance, coming of age, women’s fiction, or if you’re just looking for a highly entertaining story from an author with superb style and fresh voice.

–Willow

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gone-by-lisa-gardnerGONE

By Lisa Gardner

Bantam Hardcover, December 2006

Suspense

Buy Link for mass-market paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Lisa-Gardner/dp/0553588079

 

An abandoned car—motor running, door open, purse still on the seat. Sergeant Kincaid of The Oregon State Police has seen it before and it’s never good. It usually means a suicide. But in this case he’s wrong, as the kidnapper contacts the local news with his ransom demands. When ex FBI profiler, Pierce Quincy is called in, it’s not to profile the case, but because the missing person is his wife, Lorraine (Rainie), an ex-cop who now works freelance cases with her husband.

While dealing with an especially heartbreaking case of the rape and murder of a mother and her young daughter, Rainie becomes obsessed with the case, as well as similar ones. This leads to severe depression and a resumption of her drinking problem after fifteen years of sobriety. Quincy loves his wife, but sometimes love just isn’t enough and he moves out in an effort to shock Rainie into coming to her senses. Now she’s gone and he’ll do anything to get her back.

Neither Quincy nor Rainie have led charmed lives. Both have ghosts and enemies from the past. With the kidnapper continually making impossible demands, Quincy comes to believe it’s not about money, but is personal. Has one of the ghosts from Rainie’s past finally caught up with her and is now seeking revenge?

GONE starts with an interesting premise and the plot moves along pretty well for the most part. I read the book straight through, so it definitely held my interest. This was my first Quincy/Rainie story by Lisa Gardner, but I know there are others featuring this same hero/heroine. Perhaps if I’d read those first, I might have been more sympathetic to their plight. Unfortunately I just couldn’t seem to generate a lot of interest in these two. Rainie seemed more pathetic than courageous and Quincy, although great hero material, was just boring. I guessed the kidnapper’s identity very early on, but that wouldn’t have mattered if I’d cared more about the protagonists. 

The story is well written and the suspense fairly high, but I found the characters more boring than interesting and some of the scenes totally unbelievable. When a woman is bound—hands and feet, blindfolded and gagged, it’s just not realistic to believe she could come anywhere near close to besting her attacker. Even for a tough ex-cop, this would be ludicrous, especially after being so apathetic in the beginning. In another scene Rainie moves around and fights like someone in peak fit condition—this after a severe beating, messed up knee, no nourishment for several days and half freezing. Sorry, but I didn’t buy it.

If you love Lisa Gardner and her Quincy/Rainie characters, you’ll probably love this one as well. If you’ve never read any other stories featuring these same people, I suggest you read the other books featuring them before reading this one.

–Willow

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