Kella Campbell

SEE JANE FALL by Katy Regnery

See Jane Fall (Heart of Montana) - Katy Regnery

If you enjoy “ugly duckling” stories and family sagas, this is a book (and series) for you. Jane thinks she’s plain, as her name suggests, having grown up in the shadow of her supermodel cousin Sara — known to the world as Samara Amaya. Under family pressure to keep her job as Samara’s assistant despite truly unpleasant working conditions, she’s overdue for a bit of love and happiness. Unfortunately, past experience has proven that every nice thing Jane has gets taken away, and she has no reason to hope it’ll be different this time. So when she meets tour guide Lars Lindstrom during the preparation for supermodel Samara’s fashion shoot in Yellowstone National Park, Jane knows she won’t have a chance once Samara rolls in. Lars says he’s “not that guy” but Jane can’t trust his words, can she?


See Jane Fall is a truly enjoyable book, smoothly written, entertaining, with a nice balance of fun and heat and emotion. I like Jane and her inner turmoil and issues feel real. As for Lars, his choices at certain stages of the book might annoy or infuriate some readers, but I think he comes across as authentic and fully developed, and he certainly redeems himself in full by the end. There’s a bit of red herring jealousy involved, but it’s handled naturally enough that it didn’t really bother me. I adore the way he calls her Minx, and their unfolding relationship is as full and sweet as anything I’ve read in a while.


The message? Family relationships are complicated but everyone has a breaking point beyond which no amount of blood ties and obligation will hold.


Favourite quote? “And yet without his permission or blessing hers was the face the earth had turned to him, to whom he felt bundled and bound, as surely as he did to Yeller, as surely as he was a Lindstrom, and he didn’t know what to do if he couldn’t have her — if she wouldn’t, or couldn’t, belong to him.”


How I found this book? I know the author through Facebook and was invited to be part of the blog tour — Book Plug Promotions gave me a PDF review copy, but I ended up buying it for my Kindle anyway.


4 stars • a definite keeper, highly recommended, totally gripping and very well done



Miss Mabel's School for Girls (Network Series, #1) - Katie Cross

If you like YA fantasy, Miss Mabel's School for Girls is a must-read. Set aside your comparisons with Harry Potter (inevitable forevermore when an author combines boarding school and witches, not to mention competitions and curses), because Miss Mabel's is an all-girls boarding school, and Bianca Monroe is far from a "smart girl" stereotype in a witch hat. She struggles with homework, prefers practical study to book learning, adores her family, can't bear to be caged in... and then there's that deadly curse she needs to get rid of. To live past the age of seventeen, she has to negotiate with an ultra-glamorous and deadly devious witch who's playing a much deeper game than anyone knows.


It's a page-turner that will tempt you to read it all in one sitting, staying up past your bedtime or whatever it takes. The characters are engaging, and the plot clips along with enough unexpected twists to keep you guessing. Don't expect romance — the only men we see are Bianca's father and the old coachman — but the plot doesn't need it. Do expect some darker elements; there's illness, pain, nasty curses, a couple of deaths, and hints of impending war (so readers below middle school might not be ready for it). This book would make a fabulous movie.


The message? You can be as strong as you need to be.


Favourite quote? “It felt good, mixing fear with a bit of courage, making me feel like I stood up to her, when really I depended on her for my life.”


How I found this book? I know the author through Facebook and am on her launch team — go, Katie!


4.5 stars • rare • truly excellent, blew me away, unforgettable



The Christmas Wish - Katy Regnery

A sweet and inspiring Christmas novella. I read it straight through in one sitting (by staying up well after I should have been asleep) and really enjoyed it.


I particularly appreciated that Tess and Lucas aren't unattainably perfect — neither one is supermodel-gorgeous or a gifted genius or rolling in money, and neither has lived an unblemished life — so they feel genuine and accessible.


Overall, it's a touching and inspirational romance, best to read around Christmas for the seasonal good cheer it brings.


The message? Don't judge people on their looks or reputations, and having hope for the future is more important than being defined by one's past.


Favourite quote? "I’m sorry other guys dumped on you and used you and didn’t stick around to figure out how damn wonderful you are, but you’re not my bus stop, you crazy-making woman. You are the destination."


How I found this book? I won it in a holiday giveaway event.


4 stars • a definite keeper, highly recommended, totally gripping and very well done


WICKED! by Jilly Cooper

Wicked! - Jilly Cooper

[This review was originally posted at my old Bookspot blog.]


I was absolutely delighted to discover Wicked!, in which Jilly Cooper takes on the British school system. Readers of previous Jilly Cooper novels will remember references to Bagley Hall; here, we get to experience the boarding school of the rich and famous for ourselves. For contrast, we also have Larkshire Comprehensive, stuffed with the county's poor and problem children. Disguised as a juicy romance, the book is really a scathing indictment of teachers and administrators who act on petty jealousies and play power games instead of actually teaching. It is also, even more pointedly, a strike against those who would sacrifice real education in favour of modernization, convenience, and the financial bottom line. Light summer reading at its best!

Essentially, the plot follows protagonist Janna Curtis, new head of the struggling Larkshire Comp, as she tries to save her school and its wild and troubled students. She's not perfect, of course — and it's not the carefully crafted "imperfections" of the typical romantic heroine either — she has a not-always-charming temper and shouts at people, she has not one but two affairs with married men, and she gets passing-out drunk on a couple of occasions. But this is classic Jilly Cooper; real-life imperfections are her trademark, and her characters get pimples and go on diets just like real people do. Admittedly, at times I felt a little less than comfortable with this one: fidelity in marriage is a pretty big thing, and while affairs aren't unusual in Jilly Cooper's novels, they are usually either true love rising above bad marriages, or just unpleasant people gratifying themselves. Janna is our heroine, and yet she has a passionate affair with a likeable man whose wife we also like very much.

One of my favourite things about Jilly Cooper's novels is that the recurring characters don't just become static cardboard. Relationships continue to change and develop. In Wicked!, Taggie & Rupert Campbell-Black return, along with their two adopted children, now teenagers attending Bagley Hall. Rupert and Taggie take on challenges so totally unexpected that I was blown away; quite apart from the challenges of parenting teenagers, Taggie takes on a new job and Rupert writes an exam. Jupiter Belvedon's machiavellian nature descends to a new level of, well, Machiavelli-ness, and Cosmo Rannaldini grows from a one-dimensionally mercenary schemer to a troubled wrongdoer who does actually have a redeeming moment toward the end. Really, one has to wonder whether Little Cosmo will find true love in some future novel...

I also really enjoy the side relationships, the ones that aren't a major focus of the novel but are lovingly detailed anyway, such as the growing romance between elderly Lily Hamilton (Aunt Lily from Pandora) and her neighbour. I think that's one thing that really sets Jilly Cooper apart from the chick lit and summer reading crowd: the level of detail and care that is given to the minor characters and relationships. The intertwining families and relationships sprawl and tangle together the way real lives do — so often in novels, the characters are neatly defined as major, minor, and incidental, and one or two plot threads run smoothly side by side, artfully crossing — Wicked! is tangled, exciting, convoluted, and surprising with characters popping up into prominence and then sinking back into the background as the plot rolls on.

I'll admit it, I'm a huge Jilly Cooper fan, and this is possibly my new favourite of all her novels (well, with the exception of Rivals, when Rupert met Taggie...).


The message? Shame on teachers who prioritize their own social and career issues over their students' welfare, and on administrators/bureaucrats who ignore the needs of marginalized students to plump up the financial bottom line. Also, it's never too late to mend past mistakes.


Favourite quote? "'If I still feel like that?' asked Emlyn slowly as, softly as a falling leaf, his hand touched her soaked cheek. 'Oh God, lovely, if only you knew.'"


How I found this book? I bought it at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.


4.5 stars • rare • truly excellent, blew me away, unforgettable


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