REVIEW – World of the Innocent

5 out of 5 stars.

Today I’m bringing you a review of World of the Innocent by Nadine Keels. I absolutely fell in love with this book, hence the 5 star rating.  Below the review is also an interview with the author!


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Stylized word "LOVE" with a heart in the middle of the O.
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Jhoi: she’s poetic. She’s guarded. And she couldn’t imagine having much to do with a guy like Marcas. Sure, Marcas is a brilliant fellow artist, admired by plenty of fans. But he’s so remarkably…strange.

Still, Marcas touches Jhoi’s soul. And through the counsel of a shrewd old neighbor, Jhoi will discover a link between intimate friendship and becoming a steward of an era.

A tale of love, enduring belief, and the meaning of innocence—based on a true story.

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WOW. That’s the first thing I said when I finished this book. Just WOW. This book totally blew me away. It’s in my top five of “the most romantic books I’ve ever read”, especially considering there wasn’t much physical intimacy. Plenty of emotional intimacy, just not much physical. And yet, still one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read.

Our main characters, Jhoi (pronounced Joy), Marcas, and Nathan are all wonderful. They’re complex characters and very well-rounded considering it’s not a very long book. I just love Jhoi. She reminds me a lot of myself with her reluctance to get involved with anyone or even casually date.

The plot line moves along steadily. I felt the pace was just right. It wasn’t too fast but not so slow that it wasn’t believable. The twist at the end made me breathless. In hind sight, I wondered if I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to spoil it for the rest of you.

highly recommend this book. I think it was fabulous and I think you will too!

Stylized word "LOVE" with a heart in the middle of the O.
©Graphic Garden

Interview with Nadine Keels

Before we get into the questions and Ms. Keels’ answers, I first just want to say thank you to Ms. Keels for asking me to read her book and for being willing to answer these questions for me!

Q1: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Ah! Well, I’m not at my computer every day, pounding out words, and not all my time to write is “set aside.” But do I write every day? Yes. Because writing isn’t only something I do. I am a writer, and my whole life factors into what eventually ends up on the page. Living is all a part of my writing process, so in essence, I’m always writing.

Q2: Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Oh, yeah, I give my manuscripts time to “marinate” before I get more technical with them. Have to just let a story resonate for a while, make sure the journey is complete and my characters have truly spoken their piece.

Q3: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional? 

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Ha! I don’t know if there’s even a such thing as a truly—or perhaps I should say “wholly”—fictional character. All character traits are going to come from somewhere, from some part of the author’s observation or experience. One way or another, whether it’s intentional or not, or whether or not it’s even noticeable, the people in an author’s life are going to end up in that author’s books.

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Q4: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Might be an unusual answer, but I’ve been rereading the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. I mean, I loved the books when I was a little girl because I saw so much of myself in Ramona. Revisiting the books now, I can see how wise the stories actually are and how much Cleary truly has an understanding of human nature, from children to adults.

Q5: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Yup, I read my reviews. Most of them, anyway. I thank the reviewers, if they’re people I personally requested a review from. But I don’t comment on reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Book reviews are posted in those places for readers, so I don’t think a reader’s message to other readers is the place for an author to step in and have his/her say.

I do think much can be gained from authors actually listening to the folks they’re writing for, though, so I pay attention to how my books are affecting the people reading them. I have taken into account concerns from reviewers on technical points, but when a reviewer’s concern or dislike is simply a matter of different tastes, I’m fine with their being entitled to their taste, and my being entitled to mine.

Q6: Do you have any hobbies? What are they?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Is it lame for a writer to say her hobby is writing? Teeheehee. One of this bibliophile’s biggest hobbies is writing about the books she reads. That is, I absolutely love book blogging! Also, because stories are my passion, whether literary or visual, I’ve become almost as much of a cinephile as I am a bibliophile. I so enjoy watching films and discussing them with folks who appreciate them as much as I do.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Small heart with teddy bear face and paws peeking over top Happy Valentine’s Day! Small heart with teddy bear face and paws peeking over top

I’ve never been a huge Valentine’s Day fan. None of my family is really. We all maintain that we tell each other and show each other how much we love each other enough throughout the year that we don’t really need a commercialized holiday to prove it. And yes, I am single, but that’s mostly by choice. I like being single. I like not having the complications a relationship brings, so that doesn’t really have any bearing on whether or not I like Valentine’s Day.

However, I spotted a few other blogs doing things like Favorite book couples and Favorite book boyfriends/girlfriends, so I thought I’d do the same to help celebrate this day of love!

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Favorite Book Couples

These are not in any specific order, just the order in which they popped into my head!

Brooklyn & Derek – Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile Series – Derek & Brooklyn ROCK! I have loved them from the very first moment. They compliment each other well. Derek helps keep Brooklyn from being too impulsive and she helps provide laughter and joy in his life, which when you’re the owner of a private security firm, it’s hard to find those moments. Plus, Derek is obviously completely besotted with Brooklyn, so that makes it even more fun to read!

Alexander & Clara – Geneva Lee’s Royals Saga – Alexander and Clara are such a wonderful couple. What starts out as just pure lustful attraction turns into a love for a lifetime. Alexander has always kept women at a distance, not allowing them to see/feel his scars. Clara’s the first woman to get through those barriers. They work so hard to overcome the obstacles in their path and they seem so realistic. So relatable. Those are just a few of the many reasons why I love them.

Morgan & Miach – Lynn Kurland’s Nine Kingdom Series – If I had to pick just one couple, Morgan & Miach would be it. I absolutely love them. Morgan is headstrong, oblivious to her past at first, and a great swords-woman. Miach, though he is the archmage of the realm and one of the most powerful men in all of Neroche, is humble, unassuming, and completely besotted with Morgan. I love them both and have read their story at least a half a dozen times since the first book came out in 2006.

Ashton & Lila – Nora Roberts, The Collector – Something about this book and this couple just has gotten under my skin and into my heart. I’ve read their story many, many times and the book was just published in 2014. I love the story line in general, but Ash & Lila’s relationship is a big part of that story line. Lila never thought she’d needed anyone in her life romantically, but Ashton completely takes her by storm and sweeps her off her feet, though she doesn’t recognize it at first.

Eve & Roarke – J.D. Robb’s In Death series – Seriously, how can you not like Eve & Roarke? They’ve both made themselves into their own person after growing up in abusive families. Eve’s a cop and Roarke’s a reformed criminal (his words). She’s used to having nothing and he’s used to having everything. Sometimes that comes between them, but they always figure out a way to work it out. (Though as a side note, I love them as a couple, but Roarke’s not really my type so not really my idea of a good fictional boyfriend.)

Continue reading “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Angelina’s Bachelors – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars

Angelina's Bachelors by Brian O'Reilly book cover - photo of a woman from the neck down dressed in a black dress with an apron and high heeled shoes getting ready to set a table with plates

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Far too young to be a widow, Angelina D’Angelo suddenly finds herself facing a life without her beloved husband, Frank. Late one night shortly after the funeral, she makes her way down to the kitchen and pours all of her grief and anger into the only outlet she has left, her passion for cooking. In a frenzy of concentration and swift precision, she builds layer upon layer of thick, rich lasagna, braids loaves of yeasty bread, roasts, plump herb-rubbed chicken; she makes so much food that she winds up delivering the spoils to the neighbors in her tight-knit Italian community in South Philadelphia.

Retiree Basil Cupertino, who has just moved in with his kindly sister across the street, is positively smitten with Angelina’s food. In a stroke of good fortune, Basil offers Angelina (not only husbandless but unemployed) a job cooking for him, two meals a day, six days a week, in exchange for a handsome salary. Soon, word of her irresistible culinary prowess spreads and she finds herself cooking for seven bachelors, and in the process discovers the magical power of food to heal, to bring people together . . . and maybe even to provide a second chance at love.

Filled to the brim with homemade warmth, Angelina’s Bachelors is a sweet tale of overcoming grief, redefining family, and following your heart, through food.



Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly is a wonderful debut novel. It’s well-written; the characters are lovable and interesting; and the story line is well-thought and well-executed.

The bachelors that Angelina ends up cooking for are all fascinating and it’s fun to gradually get their back stories as the novel progresses. The level of emotions throughout the book also seemed to fit the circumstances of where they fell in the plot. This book struck the right balance between heavy, emotional reading and light-hearted, carefree reading.

The one thing I did find annoying was that, at least in the copy I read, the recipes for Angelina’s dinners were right in the middle of the story line. It was very annoying to have to keep skipping over three to five pages with the recipes on them just to get back to the story line. It would’ve been much better if the author had put those at the end of the chapter.

All in all, a wonderful debut novel and I would love to read more from this author should he publish more.

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Daring Brides – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars.

Daring Brides by Ava Miles book cover - photo of women's torso dressed in wedding gown and holding a bouquet of pink peonies

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Your favorite Dare Valley characters have survived betrayal, secrets, and tragedy to find true love. Now, watch each of these daring brides walk down the aisle to their happily ever after with the man of their dreams. You know, the hero who fires up all their engines. And, of course, the town of Dare Valley comes out to throw these fabulous couples quite a party.

From NORA ROBERTS LAND, Meredith Hale and her own hero, Tanner McBride, embark upon the journey into their new life, Marriage Land. See what makes Meredith’s wedding day so daring, and meet Tanner’s best man, international news correspondent Asher Harrington. Then, there’s Grandpa Hale’s priceless advice about what makes a long-lasting marriage.

Jill Hale from FRENCH ROAST has wanted to marry Brian McConnell since she wore pig tails in grade school. Brian has come around—finally. Sure, she got pregnant before they tied the knot, but it doesn’t matter because they’re going to live happily ever after. Find out what makes Jill a daring bride besides her wish to rent a pink circus tent for the wedding reception.

Peggy McBride from THE GRAND OPENING never imagined getting married again, especially to hotel magnate and poker champion, Mac Maven. See what Mac gives her to make their wedding day daring, and watch as her cute-as-a-button son binds their new family together in the most adorable way ever.

Abbie Maven from THE HOLIDAY SERENADE resisted her love for bad-boy Rhett Butler Blaylock, not only because he’s a poker player, but also because that Southerner knows how to start a ruckus wherever he goes. Now, it’s their wedding day, and Rhett’s friends from Dare River show up as well as his mama, Eugenia Lynn, and his cousin, Charleston. Of course, a ruckus breaks out, making Abbie feel more than a little daring, but it’s all in good fun and makes this couple’s wedding the most memorable one in Dare Valley for some time. (love story, contemporary romance, alpha males, heroes, billionaire, romance, family, falling in love, sweet romance)

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Daring Brides by Ava Miles falls in between books eight and nine in the Dare Valley series based on publication date. It actually falls in between the fourth and fifth books as far as the characters it deals with.

A wonderful visit back to Dare Valley. This set of novellas describing the weddings of Meredith & Tanner; Jill & Brian; Mac & Peggy; and Rhett & Abbie, felt like a wonderful visit with old friends. I laughed and I cried, but overall I enjoyed it all.

Other than the fact that I would’ve loved to have seen these stories as epilogues to the books involving these couples, there’s not much I would’ve changed. There was enough detail to keep your attention without being too overwhelming for those who don’t care to focus on all the details that go into wedding planning.

If you’re picking this book up expecting there to be lots of controversy and conflict (since the title is “Daring Brides”), you’ll be disappointed. While it isn’t filled with those types of “Daring Brides”, it is filled with brides who do things their own way, who are their own woman and who are unapologetic about it. These stories are sweet, brilliant, lovely descriptions of the weddings of the first four couples in the Dare Valley series and are a great way to revisit those old friends. If you haven’t read the first four books in the Dare Valley series (Nora Roberts Land; French Roast; The Grand Opening; and The Holiday Serenade), go out and get them today so you can enjoy this book even more! 🙂

(I received an eBook copy from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own.)

The Bridge to a Better Life – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

The Bridge to a Better Life Book Cover, background of trees and a bright red shrub, wooden bridge in foreground

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Sports hero and newly retired NFL quarterback Blake Cunningham wants a second chance at love…with his ex-wife. He’s bought the house next door to her in Dare Valley and has built a bridge connecting their properties. It’s his bridge to a better life, the one he lost when Natalie Hale left him after a family tragedy destroyed their marriage.

Natalie has just started a new job as the head caterer at the small town’s historic hotel. When she discovers Blake has become the boy next door-literally-she secretly has to admit he still fires up all her engines and tugs at her heart. But the ghosts from their past seem too monumental to conquer.

Blake vows to help Natalie remember the power of their love and friendship. With the intense sparks of attraction flying between them, Natalie begins to put her heart out there again. How can she resist Blake when he makes her laugh and swoon by even acting out her secret Outlander fantasy? As they both give love a second chance, they are forced to face their most disturbing memories, not only the tragedy that ripped their lives apart, but also the secret parts they were afraid to share…

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The Bridge to a Better Life by Ava Miles is the eighth in her Dare Valley series and is currently my favorite in the series.

Wow. You know a book is powerful when it brings up enough of your own similar issues that you have to stop reading for a day or two until you can get your reaction under control.  This book did that for me. Natalie reminds me so much of myself. Her struggles with grief and loss have been my struggles with grief and loss. It was so inspiring to watch her grow and change throughout the book; to come to terms with at least some of her grief and to allow herself to open herself up to Blake’s love once again.

Dear Blake. How can you not love a hero who gives up as much as he gave up in order to win Natalie back again? How can you not love a man who is that patient and loving and tender. That’s not to say that Blake doesn’t have his own issues or is perfect. He’s not, but wow, what a wonderful testament to the power of love.  Blake does his own growing and changing throughout the book too, tho’ his is not quite as dramatic as Natalie’s.

As with all of Ms. Miles’s “Dare Valley” novels, the surrounding community and the families and friends of the hero and heroine provide the much-needed support that anyone needs when dealing with grief and loss.  The characters are well-rounded, the story line believable and the writing is crisp, clean and well done.

I highly recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a contemporary romance with a great set of characters.

(I received a free ARC from Ava Miles in exchange for my honest review. My review was not influenced by this and all conclusions and opinions are my own)