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Monday, December 11, 2017

Julie Klassen: The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

By Kelly Bridgewater

Return to Ivy Hill in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold.

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for?

Rachel's friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls' school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what--or who--has captured each man's attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return--but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

When I think of Regency romance, I think Julie Klassen and Sarah E. Ladd. Both authors capture the essence of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters when they compose a novel. I was introduced to Klassen's writing with The Secret of Pembroke Hall, which I enjoyed. I loved the mystery surrounding the house. As for her newest addition to her first series, The Ladies of Ivy Hall, the story lagged in the beginning, but then picked up pace as the novel moved along.

The top aspect of Klassen's writing is her ability to create the world for her characters. She does a great job at describing and staying true to her settings. I have no problem visualizing the settings with her characters and traveling with them as they move around. I can see the houses and the inn. The story becomes alive with her setting.

The characters shine in their different settings. I really liked seeing more of Rachel in this edition. She became front and center as one of the main characters, and it was nice seeing develop a library that would give her a way to provide for herself. Mercy was a character that shined in this story too. We learned more about her family and her situation that Klassen made hard for her to survive. Again, we return to the story of Jane, but Klassen draws her closer to a happy ending, but rips the rug right out from under her. I really don't see any transformation of the three main women. A couple of the men change, but the women don't really.

The plot lagged in the beginning. I thought that I would be giving a bad review because I couldn't stay focused on the plot. The story is just the characters moving around and doing things, but no real conflict. Then the story picks up around sixty percent where the conflict comes one after another. Once majority of the conflict is solved, than Klassen throws in hopeful resolutions for each woman. I wanted more with the plot.

The spiritual element isn't really there either. I didn't know what the novel's theme was. The characters attended church, but nothing really spiritual about any of them.

Overall, The Ladies of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen features a wonderful world brought to life with vibrant characters who begged me to stay and learn more about them, but the plot of their story didn't really capture my attention until almost the end.

I received a complimentary copy of The Ladies of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lunch in a Literary World

By Kelly Bridgewater

In August, I shared what deceased author I would love to have lunch with.

Then I shared what living author I would love to have lunch with.

Then I shared two literary characters  I would love to have lunch with.

As a conclusion to this tiny series, I would love to talk briefly about a literary world that I wish was real and would love to have lunch in.

I would love to have lunch at Hogwarts.

Yes, Hogwarts. I love London (even though I haven't been there yet!) and it would be cool to see a secret world hidden out of view of the Muggles.

I would love to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts. I would love to see the London countryside pass by as we traveled by train. I would love to catch a glimpse of Hogwarts as we approached. I would love to pass through these ancient walls, touching the cold brick and stand in awe in the great hall and lunchroom. I would love to see my magical lunch appear in front of me. It would be cool to see all the professors at the head table. It would be cool to be surrounded by all the fellow students who are training to use their magic properly.

I want to be totally immersed in the Hogwarts world. It feels my imagination. It would be awesome to hang out for a while. I would love to celebrate Christmas in London. Since they celebrate differently than us Americans do, it would be nice to learn something different. I would love to see how their food is different than ours.

What about you? What literary world or scene would you love to walk in and explore for a week or more?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Bell Renshaw: One Christmas in Winter

By Kelly Bridgewater

Reba Farwell is finally getting a chance to live out her dreams. Sent to Winter, Montana to direct filming for a crucial, on-location shoot, she knows the next two weeks will make or break her career. And she could definitely use a break. As if that isn’t enough, she’s got a secret that none of her crew knows. All she’s asking for is two weeks of small town, Christmas beauty and a little bit of on-camera sizzle.

Five years ago, Hoyt Bradley’s heart and future shattered in one fell swoop that landed him back in Winter. Thankfully, making lemonade—or his father’s famous lemon meringue pie— out of lemons is what he does best. Running Bentley’s Diner has filled the gaps left in the wake of his heartbreak, even if it hasn’t healed him completely. Not wanting to relive memories of his rocky start in the film industry, Hoyt does his best to steer clear of the dreaded film crew, but Winter has a way of bringing people together.

After one fateful delivery and a score of icy bad luck, Reba finds herself in a bind and at the mercy of what Winter can offer. Will she pull the film together in time to salvage her name as a director? Or will the sparks flying off-camera create more of a distraction than she knows how to handle?

Come visit Winter, Montana in this Christmas Novella where the Christmas lights are always on and the snow falls most frequently when loved ones share a kiss.

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

One Christmas in Winter is a short novella by debut author, Bell Renshaw. The novel takes place in a made-up town called Winter, Montana. It is a magical Christmas town where a movie is being made by Reba Farwell, the heroine. Reba struggles with doubts that she can actually create a realistic movie. A movie that will make a difference in the movie world. While struggling with a heroine who keeps her on her toes, Reba meets another struggle when her hero gets in an accident and can't act anymore. Luck for her, she runs into Hoyt Bradley and sparks fly. Amid the conflict and the movie making, Reba and Hoyt have sparks fly across the page. The writing is clear and crisp. I had no problem imagining the scenery. I also enjoy how Renshaw gets realistic internal dialogue for Reba and Hoyt as they struggle if they like each other or not. If you are a fan of Christmas Hallmark movies, then this story is right up your alley. Romance starts in the opening chapter, and chemistry happens between Reba and Hoyt through the whole novella. There are moments of sigh worthy magical moments that make it easy for Reba and Hoyt to fall in love even among all the conflict with movie. Since it is a novella, the story moves pretty quickly. I enjoy the novel and can't wait to read the next novella coming out in December 2018. Fans of Melissa Tagg and Becky Wade should pick up this novella and read it with the Christmas lights on and something warm in their hands.

I received a complimentary copy of One Christmas in Winter by Bell Renshaw, but the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, December 4, 2017

Jamie Jo Wright: The House on Foster Hill

By Kelly Bridgewater

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather's Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house's dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy's search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives--including her own--are lost?

From Amazon

My Thoughts:

I enjoy a good mystery. Especially a story that takes me for a ride with a number of twists and turn, throwing me for a loop around every corner. With The House on Foster Hill by author Jamie Jo Wright, I definitely received that. Her story kept me on my toes, which is what I like.

The story is a time-slip novel, which means the novel has a story set in the past and a story set in the present that are connected by something. In this instance, it is the house on Foster Hill. The writing is very descriptive. I had no problem picturing the house with its aging appearance and the abandoned eerie feeling. Wright draws me into the mystery surrounding the dead girl in the tree right away and leaves me mystified alongside Ivy.

The plot is definitely unique. I really enjoyed how Wright uses the house as another character in the story. Because of all the horror that happens in the house, Wright uses the outside appearance to capitalize on the turmoil raging through the characters. While the past story focuses in 1906, the present story takes place today. To be honest, when the story started, the plot moved really slow, and I had a hard time getting into the plot. There many internal dialogues and regrets from the past, but Wright wasn't really showing us any action to move the story along. About fifty-two percent into the story, it became really interesting, and the plot started to move a lot faster and more to my taste. I didn't put the book down and finished it in two hours. I enjoyed the last half of the book better than the first.

The characters were different. Kaine, a broken woman from San Diego, who is trying to move away from her past, but learns to find God in the process wasn't my favorite character of the two. I preferred Ivy, the protective and brave woman from 1906. She didn't take the murder of the woman in the tree sitting down. She was determined to find and uncover the secret of what happened to her. I really liked her.

The House on Foster Hill is an original story with an unpredictable ending. I didn't see the bad guy coming. I was glad. I liked to be surprised sometimes too. Since I didn't catch it, it makes me want to re-read the story and see if I could find the clues that somehow I missed.

Overall, The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright is a unique time slip novel that centers around a timely issue that I didn't know occurred about in the early twentieth century. Wright delivers a fascinating cast of characters and a second half to the book that had me flying through the pages. I think fans of Rachel Hauck's time slip novels might enjoy this book, but if the suspense novel is more your taste, than fans of Lynette Eason and Carrie Stuart Parks might enjoy this novel too.

I received a complimentary copy of The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright from Bethany House Publishers, but the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, December 1, 2017

NaNoWriMo Saved Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

Well, I did it.


This was my second time actually trying it. Then I actually won. The last time I did NaNoWriMo was in 2014, and I won. I wrote a suspense novel then, but since then I have fallen in love with historical stories, so I really want to write a historical suspense novel.

But on October 2015, my father died, and our family took a weeklong vacation to Disney World over Thanksgiving, so I was a just a little bit busy.

For the past two years, I have had a hard time writing anything. I lost myself in books after books, writing reviews by the weeks. The days, weeks, and months slipped by. Even the years flew by.

This year, I begged God to give me my desire of the heart back. He gave me the desire to write for a reason, right. This has been my dream since as far as I can imagine. I remember playing an imagination game in my best friend's side yard, and I went home to write what we played that day.
In July, I prayed that prayer. Then in October, I prayed if I should go do NaNoWriMo, which would hopefully bring my love of writing back.

I planned all October with a little bit of the plot planned out, but not much. I felt ready to dive in.
November first came and I wrote 2,000 words. Then the second came, again another 2,000 words. But the third came, and I couldn't write at all. I felt defeated. Even begged God to not take this desire away from me. I started this book before my father died, but I stopped and haven't touched anything since.

But I kept moving forward. The week before Thanksgiving, I felt like I was moving along at a nice clip and had written a number of words. I got depressed a number of times, but I told myself I needed to do this.

I prayed a lot during November. I begged God for the story. I walked a nice walkway in my bedroom on the carpet at the end of my bed. I spent many moments discussing my story and my characters and deciding what they needed to do next.

On Monday, November 27th at 4 p. m., I finished my NaNoWriMo goal. I reached 50,388 words in 27 days. I felt great. I felt excited. I did it! It was a joy I haven't felt in a long time.

Yes, there are many chapters that will be deleted. There are many moments I need to revise and rewrite. I need to spend more time thinking of my climactic moment and how my characters will reach them. I probably need to think more about the subplot and do my research.

So no, this novel isn't publishable by a long shot, but I have overcome the huge writer's block that has blanketed my entire existence for the past two years.

I pray I continue forward and work on finishing this book, with prayer, by June 2018.

How about you? What have you done to move past a writer's block that blocked your creativity for more than a month?