Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book review: Finding Home by Aine Kelley

As part of the blog tour (in my previous blog) I was given a copy of the book in exchange for a review. 

Finding home is the story of Ben and Sam, both broken-hearted, although for different reasons, and it’s a quest to learn to love again.

Since Sam’s boyfriend cheated on her, she’s created a life plan to safeguard her heart: no more men, no more relationships, no more heartbreaks. What she didn’t expect was to fall for her roommate’s brother, by simply talking to him on the phone.

Ben lost his fiancée in a tragic car accident, which he feels responsible of, and guilt has been crushing him for over two years. Heartbroken, he can’t seem to be able to get over Beth and what they shared, and he’s living life as if he didn’t deserve to love and be loved anymore. Speaking on the phone with his sister’s roommate, Sam, is the only thing that helps bring a smile on his face.

When Ben and Sam finally meet, the attraction between them is instant, although neither of them can understand how this happened.

I loved the chemistry between the two of them and the way they connected straight away; although they’d never met before, I believe it is possible to fall for a person you’ve only talked over the phone to, probably because it’s easier to open your heart to a stranger you’ve never met before.

I liked Ben from the very beginning and I liked reading the story from his point of view too, because it gave me a deeper understanding of his feelings and thoughts. My heart broke for him; the guilt for the accident and for losing Beth is still haunting him, and so is his love for her. At the same time, though, he’s starting to feel something strong for Sam and he doesn’t know whether he can open his heart to her and love again. The struggle lasts throughout the book and it’s what kept me wanting to read on, especially since the prologue starts with Sam waiting for Ben at the airport, hoping he’ll stop her from leaving, and we don’t get to know what happens until almost the end of the book.

I liked most of the story, even though at some point the way they kept changing their minds about whether or not they wanted to be together (especially Ben) drove me crazy. The night of the ball I really wished someone would slap Ben’s handsome face, because he was really acting like a child.

The story was an enjoyable quick read, and there were some emotional parts that touched my heart. However, I could not feel a connection with Sam and I guess this didn’t help me enjoy the story as much as I was hoping to. The story started out strong and hooked me, but then it lost me halfway through it. I kept reading because I really wanted to know if Ben would finally open his heart and let Sam in; I felt he deserved a happy ending after all he’d been through. Ben is what kept me glued to the pages, because he’s a sweetheart and I really liked him.

I’m sorry I cannot rate this book higher, but somehow it didn’t have a “wow factor” for me. It’s a good story and a nice, emotional romance, but I guess not being able to feel a connection with Sam made me lose some of the interest I had when I started reading it.

Nevertheless, even though some parts didn’t work too well for me, I can’t say I didn’t like the story, because it’s nice. I think you should give this book a chance because they writing is good, the plot is strong and quite emotional in some parts, and Ben is a sweetheart. :)

Have you read Finding Home already? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Book review: Unexpected Gifts by Elena Aitken

If you haven't already guessed, I suffer from O.C.D. Obsessive Christmas Disorder, which is very unfortunate given the fact that the Christmas spirit in the country where I live is next to nil, especially this year. This is one of the main reasons why I want to leave this place and move somewhere else, where people truly love and feel Christmas in their hearts.

So what do I do to get into the Christmas spirit while I'm still living here? I read Christmas related books, obviously (and sometimes I write them, too - LOL)! I've started reading a few stories and this one I'm writing the review for is one I really wanted to share with you, followers, because it's really the perfect Christmas story to get ready for Christmas. As a bonus, it's free so I really think you should give it a chance.
Unexpected Gifts is the first book in the Castle Mountain Lodge series, but it's a standalone and from the short excerpt of book two, it's clear that each book has its own characters and the only connection is the setting - the Castle Mountain Lodge resort - and some of the characters, basically the people who work in the resort.

The first chapter pulled me in immediately. We meet Andi, a party planner, and Eva, her funny business partner and friend, while they're at work. Andi is having a hard time surviving the festivities, since she's trying to recover from her ex dumping her after she lost their baby. She's broken and not exactly in the mood for Christmas celebration and, as the last straw, her father calls her to inform her last minute that they will not be celebrating Christmas with her, as his new wife has organized a trip to Disneyworld for their 3-year-old twins. In order to avoid spending Christmas alone, brooding over her life and all that she's lost, Andi accepts an invitation that the Castle Mountain Lodge resort sent to their office. After all, spending a few days in a mountain resort, reading a book and enjoying the snow can be quite inviting.

Enters Colin. He's Canadian too, just like Andi, but has been living in the Caribbeans for the last five years, expanding his business and putting it before anything else. Scarred by a serious relationship that didn't end too well, the last thing he wants is to get involved with someone else. Back in Canada, he's determined to enjoy the true Christmas spirit, in the Canadian way: snow, ice-skating, mountains, Christmas trees and all that he's missed over the last five years. So he gets a room in the Castle Mountain Lodge and he gets there just in time to find a desperate Andi talking to the resort manager. Apparently, her reservation hasn't been confirmed and they're completely booked for the holidays so Andi can either go back to the city (in the middle of a snow blizzard) or sleep on a couch until the morning, when roads will be clear.

When Andi turns back to check the weather conditions outside, she meets Colin's stare and something clicks: They know each other. Colin was an old school friend of Andi's ex, Blaine, and they met some time ago, when Blaine took her to the Caribbeans and they had dinner with Colin. Ever the gentleman, Colin offers her to stay in his villa, which has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, so plenty of space without the awkwardness of having to spend time in the same room as a stranger.

Well, as you may have guessed, Andi accepts and everything changes, for both of them. I won't tell you more, though, because it would spoil the fun. You've got to go download it and enjoy their story.
I really liked the story. It's a beautiful romance without the graphic sex scenes, which I've come to realize it's quite hard to find nowadays. I guess this is what helped me enjoy this book so much, apart from the lovely and warm Christmas atmosphere. I know I will sound like a prude, but sometimes the graphic sex scenes that make other readers rate a book 5 stars, are a turn-off for me. They leave nothing to imagination and sometimes distract me from the story and the whole feel. I've come across books where I only wanted to skip ahead because I felt those scenes brought nothing to the story itself and were kind of annoying. I understand the need for them when the story requires them, I've got nothing against that, but reading so many books by indie authors recently I've come to realize that some authors add graphic sex scenes just because. I've even come across some books that mainly had no plot but lots of sex scenes just to keep the word count high - know what I mean? I think that's rather disappointing. Maybe it's because I myself like writing sweet romance, where feelings and emotions are the main theme, not sex. Anyway, this being stated, the chemistry in the story is really strong and the author has a very good way of creating it with clean scenes. I didn't feel the need for sex scenes to feel the connection between Andi and Colin and I really enjoyed reading their story.

I loved the setting. It was described perfectly and I could see the whole resort and the beautiful Canadian landscape right in front of my eyes. It warmed my heart and made me feel as if I was actually in the book. I could almost feel the snow crunch!

The author has a very good way of pulling the reader into the story and keeping the interest up. I couldn't wait to read more and at the same time I didn't want it to be over. This is actually the main reason why I didn't rate this book 5 shamrocks; when it ended, I felt a little disappointed because I wanted to read more about Andi and Colin and I immediately read the excerpt from the second book to understand if I'd be getting more of them. But from what I could read, I'm afraid I won't. Which in a way is good, because I hate cliffhangers, but a few more chapters about them would have been nice. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

Since we are getting closer to Christmas, I recommend you go download this book, like, right now. For one thing, it's free on Amazon and trust me, you will definitely be feeling a little more Christmassy after reading it. And, as far as I'm concerned, I'd really like to get on a plane and go find this Castle Mountain Lodge resort right now; it sounds the perfect place to be (and I wouldn't mind stumbling into Colin, while I'm there!)

Have you read Unexpected Gifts already? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book review: Fighting Redemption by Kate McCarthy

I took part in the blog tour (in my previous blog) and I was given a copy of the book in exchange for a review. I loved this book so much that I thought it right to import the review in the new blog. Enjoy.

I like calling myself a writer, so writing is something that should come easily, right? Well, finding the words to write a review for this book is turning out to be a very hard task because I know that, no matter how hard I try, I'll never in a million years be able to find words to convey the emotions I felt while reading this story. I will not summarize the story in my review because the blurb says it all perfectly, but I will try to put down in words the plethora of emotions that are still swirling around inside of me, even weeks after reading it - and I guess this should give you a clue of how much I loved this book.

Fighting Redemption is so much more than an amazingly beautiful story of true love between soul mates; it's also a story of pain, of broken souls, of war and the spiritual and emotional devastation it brings with it. I don't recall crying so much over a book ever since I read The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks, and that time it was because it reminded me a little of a personal experience so the tears were sort of understandable. I don't know anyone who's in the army and luckily I've never come face to face with war in my country, but even so, this booked touched my heart in a way no other book had in years (if ever), making me feel every raw emotion, every bit of pain, every heartache and every ounce of love as if I was living it all firsthand. I cried ugly tears; I sobbed over breakfast the morning I decided to read just one chapter before going to work and happened to read the most emotional one; I spent a whole day at work grieving over what I'd just read and couldn't wait to go home and read what happened next and, even though I kept repeating in my mind "get a grip, it's just a book!", the pain just didn't go away. At some point I thought I'd lost my mind, because never in my life had I felt so emotionally spent after reading a book. I wasn't sure what a "book hangover" was before; now I know I'm having one, a really bad one may I add. This book has earned the top spot in my Kindle and it is definitely one I will love to read again and again and again...

The writing is brilliant and very emotional. Kate's style pulls you in from the very beginning and the way she weaves sentences and plays with words creates something so powerful it keeps you glued to the pages and captures your heart and soul. I understood immediately after reading the prologue that I was going to embark on an emotional journey, a real rollercoaster ride - and it turned out I was right. I laughed and cried; I smiled and grieved; I sighed, swooned, gasped with surprise and cringed with fear. Most of all, though, I truly felt the love throughout the book, the real thread that keeps the whole story together. And this is just how good Kate's writing is. No other author, apart from my very favorite ones (Nicholas Sparks and Rosamunde Pilcher) had ever pulled me into a story so well.

Now, about the characters. Are they fictional at all? They feel so real I had to keep reminding myself they don't exist in real life. I got so attached to all of them that when I finished the book I missed them and wanted to start it all over again just to spend a little more time with them. That's just how crazy I am, folks! Fin is the kind of girl everyone would want as their best friend. I personally would. Her clumsiness made me smile and at times even laugh out loud. She's such a great character; a strong, determined heroine with a heart full of love for her brother and Ryan. Ryan. Aww, Ryan Kendall! He is the quintessential book boyfriend. If you've read any of my reviews, you'll know I don't like alpha male or bossy heroes, but I couldn't help loving Ryan from the very start. Although at times he seems a little bossy with Fin, it's just because he wants her to be happy and he selflessly denies his own happiness just so she can have the kind of life and love she deserves. He's a sweetheart, a real babe and he's SO DAMN HOT! Excuse my language. :) He's definitely earned the top spot in my "book boyfriends I wish were real" chart. I truly envied Fin, and suffered with her when Ryan left to war; I shared her pain and her happiness; I prayed for him to stay safe and come back home to her. I rooted for them to have the happy ending they deserved, and believe me, if I didn't get a heart attack while reading this book, with all the unexpected twists and heart wrenching scenes, I'm safe to say I'll probably never get one in my life. :) Another important character in the story, whom I really loved, is Jake, Fin's brother. He's the brother I would have wanted in my life; he's funny and loving, and I loved his strong friendship with Ryan and how they cared about each other like brothers. There's a major "ugly tears" scene featuring Jake, but I won't tell you more than this. :) Rachael and Kyle are great side characters, too. Kyle is so funny and I'm happy he gets to play a rather important part in the second half of the book because I really liked him. I would actually love if he got a whole book about himself (and maybe get together with Rachael? Kate, if you're reading this, maybe this could be an idea for another book? Just saying...)

Is there a happy ending? Will Ryan and Jake come home safe from Afghanistan? Will Fin and Ryan live happily ever after? Sorry, I can't tell you that; you'll have to buy the book and find out for yourselves but trust me when I say you'll be glad you did.

This book deserves to be read and most importantly to be loved because it is one of the most heart-warming, tear-jerking and best written books I've read in years, especially by an indie author. There's only one warning before you start reading: Be ready to go around the house like a zombie with red, puffy eyes and a heavy heart after you've read it; but don't let this get you down, because for every single tear you'll shed, another stronger and happier emotion will soon capture your heart and bring a smile to your face. I guess this book should come with the "May cause addiction" warning. That's just how good it is.
As for my rating, well, there aren't just enough stars in the chart to rate Fighting Redemption. If I could, I would rate it a million stars but, since I can't, I guess I'll have to stick to five brilliant, freaking awesome shamrocks.

My favorite quotes (I didn't include the ones that are in the teasers, and which I absolutely LOVED):
"I have a thick skin, baby" he told her, his wide shoulders crowding her back against the cool tiles, "but you're under it. You're buried in there so deep it's like I was born with you in my soul."
"When I'm near you I'm consumed by you-your smile, your eyes, your heart. Even though we've never been together, you've always been mine, and even if I never get to keep you, you'll still be mine."
"Every piece of me is in her." He placed his palm flat on her chest, feeling her heart beat hard and steady beneath his fingers. He closed his eyes briefly at the beauty of it. "My breath, my heart, my life. I won't ever leave you if you keep that safe inside of you."
"You're all I see. Nothing holds more beauty in my eyes than you do. No one will ever love you the way I do."

Have you read Fighting Redemption already? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought about it.