Accidental Fate by MA Stacie


Published: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Source: Review copy from author (thank you)


~The Blurb~
From Goodreads

When Leo Sommers opens the door to his record store, the last thing he expects to find is a screaming baby — a baby that turns out to be his. Flung into parenthood, he struggles to care for the one week old. Unable to contact the baby’s mother, he battles the incessantly crying baby alone. Until he literally crashes into his savior.

Erin Miles gets out of her car to trade insurance details with the man who has rear-ended her car, she receives more than she expected. Instantly, she’s drawn to the tattooed, exhausted man holding the squalling bundle. She sees how much Leo loves his son and offers help. Erin’s patient and gentle caring for Leo and Joe soon develops into something far more than either of them had expected.

Caught up in a whirlwind romance, they are on the cusp of exploring their new relationship, when reality hits them in the face


~ My Thoughts ~

Accidental Fate is a steamy and quick read about the most unlikely bad-boy turned father. Leo was a carefree 26 year old who balked at the word commitment until an infant was left on his doorstep with a note calling him daddy. Leo struggled with raising his son until an unlikely encounter brought a woman into his life who would not only help him learn to be a father, but believe he was worth loving as well.

Accidental Fate is a novella that spans a period of about a month with an epilogue taking place 11 months later. The intense relationship between Leo and Erin is hot and definitely moves quickly. I had a difficult time believing their intensity at first because of the sheer speed that it developed, but as the story moved on their romance felt more authentic and any doubts that I had were quickly pushed aside. I could see their emotional and physical draw to each other and the chemistry was definitely there.

M.A. Stacie has a gift for incorporating seemingly small details that help breathe life into her characters. Some of my favorite scenes from this story were the ones that gave subtle glimpses into the personalities of these characters.

Hi”, she said softly, chuckling at the astonished look on Leo’s face as he spun to face her. Joe snuggled in his arms while he tried to clean up the spilled soup on the floor. The baby was red-faced, his tiny hands clenched tight. Leo spluttered, rocking the baby and sweeping a cloth across the floor with his foot.”

Here is a man who is clearly overwhelmed but trying to do his best. It would have been so easy to have the baby wailing in his bassinet while Leo cleaned up the mess, but the fact that he was rocking the baby in his arms says so much. Even though he is overwhelmed and doesn’t know what he is doing, he clearly cares about this child and is capable of loving with his whole heart – I think this was the moment that I became completely sold on Leo.

While we are speaking of gifts let’s take a moment and recognize M.A. Stacie’s ability to turn up the heat in any room in the span of just a few pages. *sigh* There are a few love scenes that might have you running for a cold shower. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Because of the length of the story I felt as though I didn’t get to know these characters well enough. I know he was a guy with a heart of gold who loved his son and in this way I saw a glimpse of Leo the father but I would have liked to see more about Leo the man. There is enough going on plot wise and in terms of romance that Accidental Fate could have been a phenomenal full length novel. I was invested enough in these characters that I desperately want to read more and am not reading for their stories to end just yet! To me this is a sign of a great storyteller! I’m not pointing out a fault in the novella, on the contrary actually. I loved the story so much that I didn’t want it to end so quickly.

If you are looking for a sexy romance and an absolutely swoon-worthy bad boy turned father-with-an-edge than Accidental Fate should definitely be your next read.

2012 TBR Pile Challenge Kick Off!


Today marks the kick off of the 2012 TBR Reading Pile Challenge and I am stoked. Let me tell you why. In 2011 I added over 300 books to my goodreads TBR list and these are just the books that I really, really want to read – there aren’t even any maybes there. So my 2012 reading is going to be all about me and catching up on all of those great books that I missed out on.

I’m sure that there will be other challenges in 2012 but this one is the closest to my heart I’m hosting along with the fabulous Evie from bookish and some amazing other bookies! So if you haven’t already you really must check out the awesomeness that going on with this challenge in the way of monthly mini challenges, review link ups and prizes!.

So my goal for January is pretty simple. I plan to read all 4 books from the Iron Fey series this month. *sigh* I have been waiting far too long to read these books and hope that I can fit them all in this month. Reading time will be short but I think I can manage.

What are you going to be reading this month?

Disrupted Lives by Brenda Youngerman

Disrupted Lives

Published: April 11, 2011
Publisher: Eloquent Books
Source: Free review copy from the author (thank you!)

From Goodreads: A name does not make a person, a person makes a name.

Such is the theme of Disrupted Lives, the story of how one adopted child touches and intersects with many lives, but ends up destroying one family name, while building another family’s legacy.

Darren and Amelia Kane were high school sweethearts torn apart by war. They reunite and discover that they both must put their nightmares behind them to build a life together. Betrayed by her parents, Amelia was earlier forced to give up their child.

Fiona Porter and Sterling Lake are thrown together as part of a business proposition. They end up surprising both their families by enriching the Lake empire and family name. The Lakes become synonymous with society, power and money, and their children must carry that torch forward at all cost. When an adopted grandchild is brought into the family, he questions the definition of “family.”

From 1920 to present-day Georgia, this saga of family secrets and old Southern prejudices are explored in the explosive novel Disrupted Lives.

Brenda Youngerman lives in Southern California and is writing her next novel, Skewered Halo. “I write what I call ‘Fiction With a Purpose,’ something that I hope takes the reader on a ride so when they put the book down they say, “Was that real?” I also want the messages in the book to stay with them.”

My Thoughts: In Disrupted Lives, Brenda Youngerman has created a remarkably complex family history based on wealth, power, unattainable expectations, compliance with family ideals and regret. Both compelling and beautifully written this is the sort of novel I had to read in nearly only sitting, I couldn’t stand to put it down and not know how things would unfold.

I found it very interested to see how the lives of 2 separate families came together and affected each other so much. I loved how Youngerman went back in time so far to discover several generations of the Lake and Kane families and relate how their actions affected the next generation. I found the stories and the family dynamics to be particularly fascinating.

I did at times find this 90 year time span to be a little wide and sometimes felt as though time was rushing by too quickly when I wanted to read more about a particular character or major life event. Sometimes the speed at which time passed could be dizzying, however I understood the need to move time quickly along considering the span of time the novel had to cover.

What made this book for me were a few specific characters. I loved Amelia’s story and I wanted to read so much more about her. She was strong, compassionate and a little bit damaged by her past but she didn’t allow her past hurts to ruin her present life. She allowed her past to give her perspective and spent her energy focusing on those people in her life who truly supported and cared about her. I could have read an entire novel solely about Amelia and her struggles. I was also fascinated by Fiona and Steel’s relationship and found it so interesting to read about how two generations of Lakes approached their lives, and the people in them, so differently. These intense family interactions pulled me into the story and had me completely invested in the lives of the people I was reading about.

I would recommend Disrupted Lives to anyone who loves to read family focused fiction or drama, or is interested in Southern fiction.

Guest Post with Author Dianne Greco

Image result for Dianne Greco author of In the Hands of Grace

Dianne Greco author of In the Hands of Grace stopped by Hands and Home today to discuss her favourte chapter in her novel. If you did not catch my review of In the Hands of Grace you can see it here.

My favorite chapter would be chapter eight. Susan is feeling restless after an altercation with her friend Patsy at the day spa where she was treated to a new hairdo, a facial and more information about her husband than she really cared to know.

On a whim, she pops in on Grace, and finds the table oddly set with coffee mugs for two. She wonders if Grace was expecting company, only to find out that she had been waiting for Susan to come over. Once again, Susan is taken aback by Grace’s clairvoyance.

They chat about the spa, the herbs in Grace’s kitchen, and the subject of her deceased husband come up. Before she knows it, Susan is baring her soul to Grace about the less than wonderful marriage they had, and ends up sobbing in Grace’s arms.

In an effort to help Susan get her mind off the awful events of the day, Grace takes Susan by the hand and leads her outside to her canoe resting on the shore.

Susan is terrified at the thought of going out at night in a canoe with an elderly woman, but Grace manages to get her in and in no time they are floating in a sea of stars and water, with no beginning and no end.

It is here that Susan learns to overcome her unfounded fear of the water and relaxes into the ride and the incredible beauty of the endless night sky. I think this chapter mirrors the fear she had of finding out the truth about her husband and the lesson that once a fear is faced head on, it becomes easier and easier to resolve.

The Memory Palace – Mira Bartok

The Memory Palace

Genre: Literary Memoir
Published: January 11, 2011
Publisher: Free Press
Source: Free review copy from publisher


From Goodreads: “People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you’ve been through,” Mira Bartók is told at her mother’s memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship between Mira, her sister, and their mentally ill mother. Before she was struck with schizophrenia at the age of nineteen, beautiful piano protégé Norma Herr had been the most vibrant personality in the room. She loved her daughters and did her best to raise them well, but as her mental state deteriorated, Norma spoke less about Chopin and more about Nazis and her fear that her daughters would be kidnapped, murdered, or raped.

When the girls left for college, the harassment escalated—Norma called them obsessively, appeared at their apartments or jobs, threatened to kill herself if they did not return home. After a traumatic encounter, Mira and her sister were left with no choice but to change their names and sever all contact with Norma in order to stay safe. But while Mira pursued her career as an artist—exploring the ancient romance of Florence, the eerie mysticism of northern Norway, and the raw desert of Israel—the haunting memories of her mother were never far away.

Then one day, Mira’s life changed forever after a debilitating car accident. As she struggled to recover from a traumatic brain injury, she was confronted with a need to recontextualize her life—she had to relearn how to paint, read, and interact with the outside world. In her search for a way back to her lost self, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where she believed her mother was living and discovered that Norma was dying.

Mira and her sister traveled to Cleveland, where they shared an extraordinary reconciliation with their mother that none of them had thought possible. At the hospital, Mira discovered a set of keys that opened a storage unit Norma had been keeping for seventeen years. Filled with family photos, childhood toys, and ephemera from Norma’s life, the storage unit brought back a flood of previous memories that Mira had thought were lost to her forever.

My Thoughts: The Memory Palace is Mira Bartok’s haunting memoir of what is was like to grow up from the age of six with a severely mentally ill mother whose schizophrenia dominated every aspect of her life. Mira wrote of the things that she and her sister witnessed and heard as a result of her mother’s illness. This memoir was at the same time disturbing and poetic. It was as much a story of strength and determination as it was of hardship and pain.

I was struck by how the author continued to care so deeply about the woman who because of her erratic and dangerous behavior forced her daughters to change their names and hide their whereabouts. Mira kept in regular contact with her mother by writing through a P.O. box and was deeply concerned about her well being. The amount of guilt that Mira felt about leaving her mother was shocking to me and one of the most powerful moments in the book for me was when she wondered if her mother would forgive her for leaving – as if she was the one to cause the hurt.

The ending of the book really stayed with me. In the last weeks of her life Nora was placed in a nursing home and Mira and Natalia kept vigil by her bedside. Mira wrote of how she had been shopping for 17 years for clothing that could be layered to keep her mother warm on the streets and now she shopping for her mother for the last time ever buying pretty nightgowns. That statement alone really summed up for me how she felt about her relationship with her mother.

The Memory Palace is an exquisitely written memoir that explores the strength of the relationship between mother and daughter. I was surprised by much of what I read but mostly how a young girl could remain so strong and still be compassionate towards the woman who made her life so difficult. Mira did a fantastic job of not only bringing her own life and struggles to light but also of realistically illustrating her mother in a way that the reader could almost see and feel this woman. By including selections of her mother’s writing in the memoir we are given an incredibly intimate look at how Norma’s mind worked and the fears and delusions she had.

The Forgotten Echo by Jen Wylie

Image result for The Forgotten Echo by Jen Wylie

Genre: Paranormal Short Story
Published: February 22, 2011
Publisher: Echelon Press
Source: Free review copy from author (thank you!)


From Goodreads: Sometimes death is only the beginning…

Even after the bad day she’s had, Cassy is still surprised to find herself shot, an innocent bystander in a drive by shooting. Bleeding to death in an empty parking lot, she knows she is going die.

What she doesn’t expect, is the arrival of a strange, and unnaturally handsome, man who tells her he can keep her from passing on in return for being his forever. In desperation, she agrees but afterwards she is beyond dismayed to discover she has died.

To make matters worse, the stranger has disappeared, leaving her spirit to wander through a series of worlds unknown to her. Her existence is one of fear and loneliness, until she meets another like her and discovers she’s not a ghost at all but something much more.

My Thoughts: The Forgotten Echo was a fantastic read for me because it is unlike anything that I have been reading lately. Wylie has a way of capturing your attention and not letting you go until she is finished telling her story (or at least this chapter of it).

Cassy isn’t a ghost, although she is initially ghost-like in that she cannot be seen and cannot touch objects. She is tied to an Immortal (the Immortal who turned her into an Echo) but he has disappeared and she is left to learn about what she has become on her own. She has no concept of time, decades pass as would days or weeks, and she spends what would feel like an eternity desperately alone, not knowing what she is or what her purpose in her current form is.

The Forgotten Echo was my first introduction to Jen Wylie’s work and I am so, so happy that I had a chance to read it. The story line and concept of this series is unique and held my interest from the first page. There is so much left to discover in terms of what Echos really do, why the Immortals need them, what exactly is going on in the Otherworld and I am excited for this series to continue on. I wished that The Forgotten Echo wasn’t a short story because I didn’t want it to end! Jen Wylie is an exciting emerging author and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next and am eagerly anticipating the next release in the Immortal Echoes series.

Another Dawn by Cathryn Cushman

Genre: Christian Fiction Pages: 314
Published: February 1, 2011
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Free review copy from Publisher


From Goodreads: Grace Graham is back in Tennessee with her four-year-old son on a short unpaid leave from work, helping her father recover from surgery and spending time with her sister. Shoal Creek seems more backward than ever after her years in California, and it’s hard to find organic food anywhere.

When the unthinkable happens and her son is diagnosed with measles, Grace’s fears over modern medicine take a dangerous turn. Worse, the town has fallen into quarantine and its residents focus their anger and blame on Grace. She is alone and scared, until one brave woman chooses to reach out a hand of forgiveness and mercy. But when the outbreak takes a life-threatening turn, will Grace be able to forgive herself?

My Thoughts: In Another Dawn, Cushman deals with a very controversial subject – childhood vaccines. Many parents struggle with the decision of whether or not to vaccinate and most have very strong opinions about the safety of vaccinations. Some of these opinions are based on medical evidence others are based on real life experience and situational evidence but regardless of how the opinion is formed they are deeply personal. I really loved that this book brought another argument to the vaccination-debate table because you often see the negatives of having vaccinations presented in novels, as opposed to the negatives of not having the vaccination.

This vaccination debate is used in Another Dawn as a way to help Grace come to terms with her own anger and resentment about how the choices made by various people in her life had affected her. I found it interesting to see this theme of your choices influencing the lives of others carrying through the novel and it really made me think. There are so many examples of how there are two sides to every story and Cushman writes quite a bit about having faith and compassion towards your friends, family, and neighbors, and most of all faith in God.

This book was really just OK for me. It was an intriguing concept that I could identify with as a mother of small children and I liked where Cushman was going with the story but it all tied up a little to neatly with a pretty bow at the end. There was not a single question left unanswered. I’m not saying that I prefer a book that feels unresolved, but when there is a little left to my interpretation, when a book leaves me wondering just a bit it stays with me longer (ie . What happened to this character, where did she go, what did she decide to do? Etc.). I was also frustrated with the voice that Cushman gave to Dylan. There is no way that a 4-year-old by would have reacted the way Cushman described to the situation he was in. Dylan sounded more like an 8 or 9 year old child, he was far too articulate, intuitive and emotionally mature for his character to really be believable and resonate with me.

That being said, Another Dawn was a sweet story and had a tall order trying to tackle a subject like this. I did enjoy the story for the most part and found it to be a nice, quick read that I devoured over the course of the weekend.

I give Another Dawn 3 Hands and Home stamps of approval!

Little Battles by N.K. Smith


Published: April 28, 2011
Publisher: TWCS Publishing House
Source: Free review copy from Publisher

From Goodreads: Spending time with Elliott instills a faint whisper of hope within Sophie Young; hope that both terrifies her and promises redemption. But the demons of her past are never far behind, and old habits are hard to break. The more she tries to push him away, the stronger the pull towards him becomes. As Sophie’s broken heart continues to seek comfort in Elliott, can she put aside her destructive ways and take the most dangerous risk of all?

For many years, Elliott Dalton had lived a solitary existence, keeping his emotions under tight control. But as his feelings for Sophie grow and her life spins further out of control, his carefully built facade begins to crack.

He is determined to protect her at all costs, just as he protects the hidden secrets of his past. Secrets that threaten everything. For if she knew, he would lose her forever…

My Thoughts: Smith’s writing is so brilliantly natural, raw and beautiful. There was nothing about the narration in this story that felt forced or contrived and I think that is why this book affected me as much as it did, it was just so unbelievably real.

Smith wrote Sophie and Elliott’s characters with such authenticity that it literally hurt me to read their stories at times. I did not feel as though I was reading a novel, I felt like I was watching these two kids try to come to terms with their past traumas and understand how they were affecting their present lives. In Little Battles we as readers are given a painfully close look at Sophie’s past and how it has affected every detail of her life, from her drug use to her inability to be close with anyone. The explanations given for Sophie’s behaviors and attitudes are heart wrenching and I couldn’t help but feel for this girl.

What was so interesting to me is how Sophie and Elliott were able to connect with each other when they either had difficulty or no desire to connect with others. How Elliott’s character developed and changed surprised me and throughout the novel I was dying to read more about him. There was so much that he wanted, or needed to say, but just couldn’t. I am absolutely sitting on pins and needles waiting for the 3rd installment of this series Weight of the World to come out on August 25, 2011! I think that this is the book that will give me the answers that I so desperately crave about Elliott.


I am giving Little Battles 4 Hands and Home stamps of approval!

Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer

Genre: Amish Fiction Pages: 359
Published: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Review copy from publisher

From Goodreads: An Amish settlement in Ohio has run afoul of a law requiring their children to attend public school. Caleb Bender and his neighbors are arrested for neglect, with the state ordering the children be placed in an institution. Among them are Caleb’s teenage daughter, Rachel, and the boy she has her eye on, Jake Weaver. Romance blooms between the two when Rachel helps Jake escape the children’s home. Searching for a place to relocate his family where no such laws apply, Caleb learns there’s inexpensive land for sale in Mexico, a place called Paradise Valley. Despite rumors of instability in the wake of the Mexican revolution, the Amish community decides this is their answer. And since it was Caleb’s idea, he and his family will be the pioneers. They will send for the others once he’s established a foothold and assessed the situation.

Caleb’s daughters are thrown into turmoil. Rachel doesn’t want to leave Jake. Her sister, Emma, who has been courting Levi Mullet, fears her dreams of marriage will be dashed. Miriam has never had a beau and is acutely aware there will be no prospects in Mexico. Once there, they meet Domingo, a young man and guide who takes a liking to Miriam, something her father would never approve. While Paradise Valley is everything they’d hoped it would be, it isn’t long before the bandits start giving them trouble, threatening to upset the fledgling Amish settlement, even putting their lives in danger. Thankfully no one has been harmed so far, anyway.

My Thoughts: It is no secret that I love Amish fiction but when you read a lot of one specific genre, the stories can sometimes get overdone, tired and predictable. This is why I was thrilled to discover that Paradise Valley was a completely unique look at Amish fiction. The characters and the story line were all written in the lovely tradition of Amish fiction but they shone with new life and really were a breath of fresh air.

In Paradise Valley we travel with the Bender family as they leave Ohio for Mexico in the hopes that they will be allowed to live their lives as their religion requires. The family faces unbelievable struggles as they attempt to start their lives over in a country which is itself trying to recover from war and revolution. The enormous emotional strength of each character is evident but I was pleased to see how it was the Bender women who were portrayed as some of the most brave, independent and capable members of the family.

Cramer takes some of the more traditional elements of Amish fiction (ie. the idea of forbidden love and longing) and puts a completely new spin on them. Amish fiction (In my opinion anyway) typically has a lot of expectations placed on it in terms of how characters will act and types of problems they will face. I think that it is really special when an author can take a genre like this and turn it on its head without alienating, frustrating or disappointing readers. I really loved Paradise Valley, as I am sure is evident by my gushing, and hope that you love it too!

This is the first time that I read Dale Cramer and I highly recommend him to any fan of Amish fiction, or really to any fan of contemporary fiction for that matter. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in The Daughter’s of Caleb Bender series when they come out and while I’m waiting I will definitely be picking up his earlier novel, Levi’s Will.

The Union Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini

From Goodreads: In 1862 Water’s Ford, Pennsylvania, abolitionism is prevalent, even passionate, so the local men rally to answer Mr. Lincoln’s call to arms. Thus the women of Elm Creek Valley’s quilting bee are propelled into the unknown. Constance Wright, married to Abel, a skilled sharpshooter courageous enough to have ventured south to buy his wife’s freedom from a Virginia plantation, knows well her husband’s certainty that all people, enslaved and free, North and South, need colored men like him to fight for a greater purpose. Sisters-in-law Dorothea Nelson and Charlotte Granger wish safe passage for their learned husbands. Schoolmaster turned farmer Thomas carries Dorothea’s Dove in the Window quilt with him. Charlotte’s husband, Dr. Jonathan Granger, takes more than a doctor’s bag to his post at a field hospital. Alongside the devotion of his wife, pregnant with their second child, Jonathan brings the promise he made to his unrequited love, Gerda Bergstrom: “My first letter will be to you.”

Together with the other members of the circle, the women support one another through loneliness and fear, and devise an ingenious business plan to keep Water’s Ford functioning. That plan may forever alter the patchwork of town life in ways that transcend even the ultimate sacrifices of war

My Thoughts: Right away The Union Quilters struck me as more of a stand alone historical fiction novel then an Elm Creek Quilts novel. Since I love historical fiction this is just fine (and lovely, and perfect) by me! If anything I would compare this book to The Sugar Camp Quilt by Chiaverini (hands down my favourite book in the series) as it wasn’t quite as light as the other Elm Creek Quilts books. The actual quilting theme was secondary in this novel and I found that the story really was focused upon the various battles in the civil war, the ones fought on the battlefield and off.

I found the story surrounding Able and Constance Write to be particularly interesting. Able was a free-born man in the North of the Union and Constance had been born into Slavery in the south having had her freedom purchased by Able. Able was desperate to fight for the union cause but was denied the opportunity time and time again. Constance was torn between supporting her husband’s desires to fight for the union and her need to have him safe at home with his family.

Another dynamic that I found to be complex was the relationship between Anneke and Hans. Hans being a staunch pacifist and Anneke a devoted Unionist who could not understand nor accept her husbands beliefs. She felt guilty and ashamed that while her friend’s husbands were fighting and dying for the Union, and while others like Able wanted to badly to fight for the cause but couldn’t, her husband was safe at home by his own choice.

The women who eventually formed The Union Quilters were deeply loyal to the Union cause and use their quilting ability to raise money for their local regiments and veterans as well as to supply quilts to various field hospitals. As much as it was a historical fiction novel about The Civil War, The Union Quilters was also a story of female strength, and the impact of war on those left at home. Many fans of the Elm Creek Quilts novels have complained that this book missed the mark but I think the opposite. The Union Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini paints a sometimes horrifyingly vivid picture of the social context surrounding The Civil War and how women (many of them quilters) used their talents to support the Cause as well as the men who fought for it.


I received a free copy of The Union Quilters from Penguin Group (Canada). I was not required to write a positive review and all opinons are my own.