Saturday, December 12, 2015

Book Review: From the Start

From the Jacket: Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?

My Review:  While you might be thinking "Football?  A book about football?", you'd be pleasantly surprised to find so much more packed into this sleepy little romance novel.  From the wonderful character roles, sweetness of the town, and the united front two 'broken, lost souls' put forth really brings home the mystery of falling in love unexpectedly.

The strong theme within From the Start is purpose.  Everything seems to need to have a purpose - from Colton's injuries and break up with his fiance', Lilah, and the book he wants to write about his life to his foundation.  And then there's Kate, with her disasterous, ill-fated relationship with former lover/co-writer Gil and dissatisfaction with her writing career - wanting so much to complete her mother's mission to Africa.  Having purpose for all things done seems to be the guiding force behind a lot of the story line in this one, along with what pulls Colton and Kate together.  

"I just need an open window, God." 
 Just a sliver of sunlight to remind her that He had a plan even if she didn't.  (book quote)

This book is full of events (tornado, dam breaking!) in a picturesque, quaint little town called Maple Valley.  From the description of the small, hometown feel, the friendliness of the neighbors and townsfolk, Megan and her coffeeshop, this sounds like one fabulous place!  I loved the relationship Kate had with her very good friend and her son, Breydan and pictured her playing Mario Kart much like someone would with a small boy. Tagg does a wonderful job of pitting desciptions to characters and makes them very likeable.

Overall, a surprisingly little read but this book didn't quite make a "touchdown."
 I burst through the first few chapters and then it just fizzled as I lost interest with the direction the story was going and how slow it seemed to get to the end.  
I do, however, like Tagg's writing style overall and hope to read another book by her again,
hopefully gaining favor as a author I'd favorite.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for an honest review from Bethany House,
a division of the Baker Publishing Group and was not required to write a positive review.  
Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such

Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Review: Summer by Summer

Book Jacket:
When Summer took a job as a nanny for a couple vacationing in Belize, she imagined it would be a fresh start before starting college in the fall. And while she adores her charge, Josh, she can’t say the same for her employers’ oldest son, Bray. He’s cocky, inconsiderate, and makes her feel she’s a chore he has to put up with. In short, he’s everything she dislikes in a guy.

Bray had a plan for the summer: party, hang out with friends, and forget all the responsibilities waiting for him back home. But every time he’s forced to be around Summer, her dour, serious mood sets him off. Not to mention she has a habit of picking up on what he already knows is wrong with him.

Then the two find themselves on a dive trip gone wrong, stranded on a remote island. As they focus on survival, their differences melt away, and they find being together may be what both needed all along.

My Review

This book's stunning cover art stirs the soul!  I close my eyes and I can smell the salty sea air, feel the sand between my toes and feel the heat of the sun as it kisses the skin.  Summer by Summer is as refreshing as of all of that ~ and stays with you as you drift from the concluding last page of the epilogue. 

The summer for Summer starts out slowly, with lunches and shopping trips with  family the family she's hired to work for.   Little Joshie's mom takes a liking to her immediately and treats her like a daughter, all the while her heart is troubled from a darkened past.  She loses her boyfriend, Michael, in a fatal accident and she finds healing to be almost impossible.  Accepting the job as a nanny for little Joshie's will give her some time to get away and try to heal.  She keeps her heart guarded, especially where Joshie's much older brother, Bray, is concerned.   He seems like trouble, and she knows it, and she doesn't have time in her life for his partying ways and carefree life.  

 "I don't think I'm above you.  I think the people like you - the pretty people, the rich people - thinks the world revolves around them. And the really awful thing, It kinda does."  {book quote}

That is until a boating trip goes wrong and they find themselves in the middle of a deserted island!   Forces to cooperate together for survival, this almost coming of age book is filled with intrigue. From the shark that aims for Bray while searching for the lost boat anchor to the strangers on the other side of the island suspiciously involved in something illegal, they fight for survival.  Their need for each other grows stronger each day, as does their attraction for each other, depending solely on each other for comfort, shelter, food, safety. 

Quiet, thoughtful Summer, who wears vanilla as her signature scent, 
 wants nothing to do with Bray when she's hired as the summer nanny. 
 She wears her purity ring with pride and holds fast to her beliefs of abstinence until marriage.  However,  be warned:  There is sexual tension displayed through-out this book.  The desires are clear, and Burke doesn't dimension the longing between these two as they get closer.  If you are looking for a more guarded book without any mention of the desire between two kids, this book isn't it.  In addition, there are talks of underage drinking at parties 
and drinking and driving.

There are beautiful inclusions of witness scattered through out this book.  Summer is able talk with Bray about loss and devastation and eventually, healing.  She's instrumental in leading his heart towards what God can do in times of trouble.  Bray is able to open his heart and to the possibility of strengthening his relationship with God.  "If God got us out of this, and back home to our families, like Summer was so certain He would, I'd want to explore this whole thing with that made Summer so filled with such faith against such difficult odds."  {book quote}

I was captivated to the very end - darting through this book quicker than sand passes through the fingertips at the ocean's edge.  Perfect for the summer months!

                                 I thank BookLook bloggers for the chance to review this book 
                        and my review is a positive opinion expressed by me on my own accord.


Book Review: After a Fashion

My Review:
Before I get into the entirety of this charming novel, can we just take a moment and swoon over the cover artwork for After A Fashion?  *sigh*

Have you ever been pouring through a book, turning the pages and then having that moment of clarity that you actually feel like you are watching it as a movie instead of reading it in a book?  Turano descriptive cast of characters is so incredibly well that this fast flowing, seamlessly easy read projects more like a movie!   Each scene, from flying hat boxes to the playful dog, Buford,  gave such life to this book.  Refreshing, hilarious, unwaveringly descriptive, After a Fashion sews it up in as one fashionable tale!

Set in the 1880's, this light-hearted read begins with Harriet Peabody, who works in a New York City hat shop.  Customers are rich and obnoxious, and she dreams of the moment when one day she can open her own dress shop where she can take gowns and refurbish them for the every day women.  When a moment of misfortune lands her way, she loses her job and has a huge sum of money to unfairly repay.

Enter Mr. Oliver Addleshaw, wealthy businessman and witness to the unfortunate circumstances that Ms. Peabody loses her employment, swiftly offers her a job.  That job?  To offer her a position to pose as his betrothed!
As a most sought-after, eligible bachelor, he needs someone to accompany him as his companion on one of his business deals.  He sees something unique and different in Ms. Peabody, unlike the usual cast of snobby, rich girls, who pine their days away planning weddings and being in society.   She takes the job, until something from her past threatens everything she is carefully hoping for - paying her dues, taking care of loved ones and special people, and all while showing compassion and hope for a future.  

This christian romance book is typical in the sense that most christian historical novels are - backdrops are sweeping and descriptive, a sign of the times so clear.  Love felt but not displayed until exaggeratingly sweeping declarations of love while falling into each others arms ..... however, if you are a reader of christian romances, it will be all too familiar.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for an honest review from Bethany House,
a division of the Baker Publishing Group and was not required to write a positive review.  
Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: Steadfast Heart

Book Description: 
Despite her spoiled upbringing, twenty-year-old Lenore Fulcher isn't pretentious. She simply believes a marriage should be built on true love. Her father, however, thinks she's wasted enough time searching for the perfect husband. He wants to marry her off to one of his business partners--who is seventeen years her senior--an idea that is out of the question for Lenore.

Kolbein Booth, a young lawyer from Chicago, arrives in Seattle looking for his headstrong sister, who he believes may have answered an advertisement for mail-order brides. Sick with worry, he storms into the Madison Bridal School, demanding to see his sister, only to learn she isn't there. But Lenore Fulcher is, and something about her captures his attention.

Is this the man Lenore has been searching for? She may not have long to find out... 
My review As I tackle the books that have piled up on my nightstand, I re-read Tracie Peterson's Steadfast Heart (originally read mid-year) to refresh my recollection.  I have to state for the record, however, that I love me some Peterson!  I enjoyed A Matter of Heart and A Moment in Time  so I jumped at the chance to read this one.  At the risk of being cliche', this one just wasn't as solid and quickly prompted me at why it wasn't a favorite on my list for 2015.

Let me tell you what I DID love!
~ The empyrean sweetness between Kolbien Booth and Lenore Fulcher ~ both seeking a faithful, true love meeting of the heart. 

~I adored the 'big brother' that ran to the rescue to find his sister, feared to be a mail order bride. I have a big brother.  That juxtaposition reminded me of while he searched for his sister at all costs, wrought with fear and worry, mine would have been doing the same!

~The matronly, little old ladies in the bridal shop, so prim and proper had me in stitches and I could paint the picture in my mind of them as plain as day!  Peterson paints a great picture of characters, including this tea sippin', God fearin', high neck dress wearin' gals!

~Lenore's sweetness and caring for the less fortunate, seeking to keep them fed and dry and risking
so much to bring them just the bare necessities - including replacing so many bibles :)

I don't have any bad remarks towards this book, the first in the Brides of Seattle series, although it just wasn't a page turner.  I wasn't excited to get to the end - I just wanted to get TOO the end.

Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to review this book!

Book Review: Chivalrous

From the jacket cover:  Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers. However, that is not an option for her, not even in the Arthurian-inspired Eden where she dwells. Her parents view her only as a marriage pawn, and when her domineering father is determined to see her wed to a brutish man, Gwendolyn must fight for her future.

She's surprised, however, for that clash to include a handsome good-hearted newcomer.  Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, but he finds in Gwendolyn the most unexpected of women.

Tournaments, intrigue, and battles - along with twists and turns aplenty - await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies. 

My review:

"His body drifted like a lodestone toward her, but more than that, his heart and soul and spirit cried to unite with hers. He needed to be closer to her. To breathe in her very presence.  No longer moving from any sort of conscious decision, he wrapped her in his arms..."

 And that, dear readers, is a strong, dashing knight!

From the clash of swords to the clank of chain-mail on the battle,
 shouting men and horses whining,
 Chivalrous bursts into the limelight with such unexpectancy! 
While Chivalrous is the second book in the Valient Heart series, fret not.
 I personally have not read book 1 and this one plays out
 from cover to cover as it's own entity.  

Gwendolyn was born to defy a time when girls were used as pawns
and seen as commodities to be bought and sold, married off to 
gain lands and alliances.  Brought up by an abusive, horrid father, she trains in secret to be as tough as any of the knights in her North Britannia, skilled in jousting under the disguise of being "Sir Geoffrey Lachapelle."
I love her reflection on faith and how much she relies on it ...

Lord, not my will but let thine be done today. Let me move by your power and your spirit. Give me courage, strength, speed and ability.  But most of all give me wisdom and peace to accept if your plans are not the same as mine ..."
(book quote) 

Enter Sir Allen of Ellsworth, traveling as he feels God directs him after a broken romance,  can't believe his eyes when he first sees Gwendolyn.  While he is interested in her, he doesn't come forward with his feelings (at first) due to his pride but I feel the author intended for us to get a glimpse into that part of his life.  He's faced with incredible obstacles, including an almost instant unwanted marriage to a duchess, when his heart longs for Gwendolyn.

The reasons I loved this book so much are simple - 
knights depict visions of dashing heroism, romance, refuge.
  Laden with scriptures and beautiful prayers, this novel is a refreshing change as glimpses into the other side of these brave warriors, riding off to battle, protecting what is theirs in land, titles, family, their hearts.  
These warriors of the battle, yielders of the sword, yet filled with emotions like the gentlest of men, seeking truth, justice, fairness for all in a time of lands in turmoil and war. 

Move over Robin Hood and Maid Marion - Gwendolyn has saddled up 
and matches faith, wit and brawn with the knights of Chivalrous

Full review on

Disclaimer:  I received this book for an honest review from Bethany House,
a division of the Baker Publishing Group and was not required to write a positive review.  
Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: Not By Sight


From the jacket:  With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country's cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she'll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them--or the faith they'll need to maintain hope.

My ReviewNot By Sight is more than just a novel, it's a beautiful period piece.  "For King, For Country, For Freedom" become the mantra of this faith-based novel and projects us readers forward into the life-life of WWI movements. Set in the early 1900's, with it's captivating characters and lush descriptions, this historical romance will sweep you off your feet.  It's a breathtaking journey into an era that author Kate Breslin allows us to visit through her sweeping tale. 

Opening with an opulent display of costumes and masks during a posh, polite society ball, Grace Mabry is determined to find out what happened to her missing brother, Colin.  With a mane of fiery red hair and emerald green eyes, dressed as the mythical Pandora, she gains entrance into the ball to hand out
white feathers, the sign of cowardice and disgrace.  And she hands one to Jack Benningham, the dashing heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, of all people!   He's working undercover as a spy catcher for the British Crown.  He flees the party in search of the spy and is horribly disfigured and blinded and retreats to his country estate for refuge and healing.

When Grace is admonished for actions at the ball, her mission to find her brother goes awry when she stumbles, by fate, into the employ of Jack Benningham.  Through her work with the Woman's Forage Corps, she becomes Jack's 'eyes' as his driver, his companion, and by eventually letting down her guard, his friend.  Her kind nature, strong faith instilled by her mother, coupled with compassion and wit, Jack soon warms to her. He faces disdain from the spoiled brat fiancĂ© who can't bear to look at his disfigurement and blindness and Grace is saddened by her lack of compassion. She's encouraged to help Jack understand God's will and the test is one of faith, not necessarily by sight.   They grow to care for each other with understanding and kindness, their connection through their 'question game', making the utmost of their unusual employment.  Grace becomes the 'eyes' for Jack, painting beautiful words so he may 'see' what she sees, honing in on her desire to one day pen a novel. 

Breslin does a wonderful job with this novel.  From building upon a time period in history that beholds much sorrow and loss, Grace and Jack's patriotism proves loyal and just.  Toss in a warming romance blossoming in the midst of war surely makes the heart swell with the same pride that each felt.  That's not only a leap of faith, but a testimony that two souls entangled in uncertainty can see what's right in front of them if they look hard enough. 

As per the FTC declaration requirements, I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are purely my own.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: In Wilderness

In the winter of 1966, Katherine Reid receives a shattering diagnosis. Debilitated by a terminal and painful illness, Katherine moves to an isolated cabin deep in Georgia’s Appalachian Mountains. There, with little more than a sleeping bag, a tin plate, and a loaded gun, she plans to spend the few short months remaining to her in beautiful but desolate solitude. Her isolation brings her peace, until the day she realizes the woods are not as empty as she believed. A heartbeat in the darkness. Breathing in the night. Katherine is not alone. Someone else is near, observing her every move.

Twenty-year-old Vietnam veteran Danny lives in the once-grand mansion he has dubbed “Gatsby’s house.” Haunted by the scars of war and enclosed by walls of moldering books, he becomes fixated on Katherine. What starts as cautious observation grows to an obsession. When these two lost souls collide, the passion that ignites between them is all-consuming—and increasingly dangerous.

Suffused with a stunning sense of character and atmosphere, Diane Thomas’s intimate voice creates an unforgettable depiction of the transformative power of love, how we grieve and hope, and the perilous ways in which we heed and test our hearts.
My review:  Wow, this book will have you wanting to reach the end the moment you start it!
It's powerful, raw, strange, disturbing ~ like a car wreck ... you try NOT to look, but you catch yourself craning your neck to take a peek anyway!

I wasn't so sure about the story plot at the beginning - with Katherine seemingly unsure about how to handle her illness and modern medicine.  Her troubles lead her to living on her own in the middle of a vast wilderness and she soon realizes that she's not. 

The characters, Katherine and Danny, are a little bit odd, not going to lie.  But in their oddity, they bring something unique to the table - a sense of belonging with each other and knowing that no matter how lost you are in the world, whatever is troubling you, there is always something bigger than yours and together, a possibility of healing. 

Hang on to the edge of your seats -this book will take you for a ride!

Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review: Deadly Echoes


Book Jacket:  After a youth filled with tragedy and upheaval, Sarah Miller's life is finally settled with all echoes of the past silent at last. She happily calls Sanctuary her home and spends her days teaching at the local school.

Sarah's joy at her recent reunion with her sister, Hannah, and meeting the niece she didn't know she had is too soon interrupted when Deputy Sheriff Paul Gleason informs Sarah her sister has been killed.

As she learns more about Hannah's death, the circumstances are eerily similar to their parents' murder. Sarah enlists Paul's help in digging deeper into the murders the police are dismissing as burglaries gone wrong. Paul's concern encourages Sarah's growing feelings for him, but as their investigation peels back the layers of lies almost twenty years old, they get close to uncovering the truth one person will do anything to hide--even if that means coming after the last remaining members of the Miller family.

My Review:    I normally read review books in the order received but as soon as Deadly Echoes by Nancy Mehl landed in my mailbox, I couldn't wait to jump in.  I read it cover to cover in a couple of hours.  This isn't my "first rodeo" with a Nancy Mehl book and one thing is certain ... she can weave a trail of intrigue!

Deadly Echoes reads like a cross between CSI and Little House on the Prairie.  Sisters, Sarah and Hannah, suffer an unimaginable loss and the story weaves from that loss to present day.  It's chalk full of old fashioned ways of life, old school virtues and values, where kindness and respect and being neighborly meets a murder mystery to be solved.  Sarah falls in love with the small town cop, who's feelings are reciprocated, but their romance is slow to take off while they are trying to peace together who is putting Sarah's life in danger.  She takes on her sister's wishes to raise her niece as her own after she is killed, and that puts an interesting spin on the relationship as well - both to Sarah herself as an "instant mom" and to the life she's hoping to build with Paul.   As I read this book, 2 Corinthians 4 kept echoing in my mind ~ "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed."  To go through all that Sarah went through and still have a graceful heart and faith strong enough to move mountains is a wondrous thing.

I did lose interest towards the middle of this book - it started to get a little too long to get back on track.  It reminded me somewhat of 'filler words' when you need to get to a certain amount of pages and extend the story.  While an entertaining story to read, it became repetitious and of course, a highly predictable ending to the story.  But if you like books with an old fashioned country plains feel with a mixed intrique, you'd find this story worth your while.

3 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review and the stated opinion I have expressed is my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: 21 Things the Devil Cannot Do


Book Jacket:  The devil's weaknesses far outnumber his strengths."Know your enemy" is an ancient military principle that has stood the test of time; yet we forget this when we enter the spiritual battlefield. How much do you really know about Satan? Is misinformation inadvertently hurting you and your loved ones?

In this accessible, hands-on book, respected pastor and broadcaster Duane Vander Klok reveals the devil's true limits--and exposes all the things he cannot do. In doing so, Pastor Duane equips you to take a firm grip on the spiritual weapons Jesus gave us and to wield them more effectively. He also shows you how to pinpoint, and then to reclaim, the areas in which you have unknowingly given the enemy influence in your life.

Don't give the devil more power than he actually has. Through Jesus, you have authority to defeat him. It's time to put him in his place.

My Review:   From cover to cover, Duane Vander Klok does a very good job at covering the bases of his thoughts and depictions of the 21 ideas behind staying Satan's attempt to lure and sway.
This book is an awesome tool to witness - if you are going to walk in the war against Satan, you must bear arms!

All 9 chapters are thoughtfully written, including passages to research and reflect on in addition to the author's thoughts.  Such topics the author has reflected on include obedience, righteousness, salvation, faith, prayer and spiritual life, just to name a few.   It's to our own advantage as Christians to prepare against a possibly assault from Satan, and the more aware we are, the better off we are. 

One of my favorite passages, from Chapter 6, simply put states "walk in obedience with the Lord -
you are delivered and protected in Jesus name."

There is a handy 14 page quick reference guide as well included at the conclusion of chapter 9, which is super helpful, especially if you'd like to use this book as a learning guide, reference or teaching manual for small groups, bible studies, etc.

This is not an easy read and takes time, consideration, serenity.  It read to me almost like a college text book but it's very informative.  In my review notes, I wrote down Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."  While not everything that happens to you, especially the bad stuff, is God's will, the devil promotes that ire ~ he permits resistance, plants the seed.

Stand strong in faith is a good message to deliver!

*Disclaimer:  I received this book for an honest review from Bethany House,
a division of the Baker Publishing Group and was not required to write a positive review.  
Any reflection of such is my own and this review is an honest reflection of such.

Book Review: Still Life


Book Description:  Ada escaped her family’s self-enclosed world to elope with a mysterious stranger. Five months later, she’s a widow in a strange new world.

Ada was born into a fringe religious sect named for her father, The Prophet. But her lifelong habit of absolute obedience was shattered when she fled the family compound to elope with photographer Julian Goetz.

Katherine Walker’s marriage was a sham. She and Will rarely spoke without yelling—and never touched. Her affair brings her both escape and guilt.

When a tragic plane crash takes Julian from Ada and exacerbates Katherine’s sense of shame, both women become desperately unsure of where they belong in the world—until the devotion of an artistic young boy conspires to bring them together.

From award-winning novelist Christa Parrish, Still Life is a cunningly complex work that captures themes of abusive religion, supernatural love, and merciful escape. It will resonate with anyone who has ever felt called to a drastic change—or tried to hear the small whisper of God’s voice.

My Review:   Still Life by Christa Parrish is a paper onion -- layers upon layers of words and tart richness, you have to peel back each chapter to get more of the essence!  What a lush, poignantly written novel!  I confess at the requesting of this book, I had ideas of what it would entail in the imagination of my mind.  I envisioned a novel version of the
"Bounce" with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck.  Not so!  This book has a life all it's own, a tale meant to woven with a message to share.  Parrish can write.

Ada and Julian are intriquing characters ~ from different worlds but drawn together by a voice, an unexplained messanger - that 'sixth sense' that you hear in the back of your mind, faithfully entrancing you with a premonition that something is just and good.  Ada, from a strict sect and closed world, meets Julian after he is sent on assignment as a photographer to cover the sect, and they are brought together quickly like magnets.

Katherine Walker is a woman on the verge of a broken marriage beyond repair, having an affair and not caring much who it hurts.  As all the stars align in just the right order, place and time, she meets Julian at the airport - having been bumped from an overbooked flight - and they strike up a conversation . She learns he's hoping to be home in time for Ada's birthday, and gives up her seat to him.  And as the same fate would have it, the plane crashes with no survivors.

The ensuing aftermath of guilt, sadness, despair, terror of life unknown is worth the read alone.
While I have lost loved ones, that grief and how it weaves into the lives of the characters is rich and concrete.  Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Book Look Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: Be Still my Soul

Book Overview:  Night’s chill tickled her skin. Lonnie pressed her hands together and glanced up. He was even more handsome up close. Having grown up the shy, awkward daughter of Joel Sawyer, she’d hardly spoken to any boy, let alone the one who had mothers whispering warnings in their daughter’s ears and fathers loading shotguns.
Pretty Lonnie Sawyer is shy and innocent, used to fading into the background within her family, and among the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian hills. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith.  But when handsome ladies’ man and bluegrass musician Gideon O’Riley steals a kiss, that one action seals her fate. 

Her father forces her into a hasty marriage with Gideon—a man she barely knows and does not love. Equally frustrated and confused by his new responsibilities, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob.

Her distant groom can’t seem to surrender his rage at the injustice of the forced matrimony or give Lonnie any claim in his life.  What will it take for Gideon to give up his past, embrace Lonnie’s God, and discover a hope that can heal their two fractured hearts?

My Review:   Super sweet, christian read!  I fell for both characters - both Lonnie and Gideon and how they were thrust together so unfairly.  God truly has a divine plan for each of us, even if we don't know it at the time.

Be Still My Soul (Cadence of Grace book #1) is a heart-warming, enriching christian novel that entwines the sweet ‘falling in love’ with a faith based foundation.   The story opens with the simple encounter between Lonnie and Gideon and a musical event they both attend in the Blue Ridge Mountains backwoods, simple country life of the mountains.   The author blends a wonderful weave of tale with the time and era and the way of life is described so vividly, I felt as if I were walking through each of the chapters of this book with the characters!

With a simple wrong move by Gideon, influenced heavily by alcohol, Lonnie is deemed ‘tarnished’ by her father and forces the young teens to marry, neither of which is planned or happy about.  Lonnie truly is an innocent and she is caught up in the times of that era and must abide by her Pa’s doing or is considered tarnished for the rest of her life and unmarriageable.  I felt so sad for her when she was forced to be married and go to live with Gideon and his family, and Gideon soon instructs his parents that he is leaving to make it on his own with his new wife.  They are unprepared, have no money and the mishaps just start to pile up.

Be Still My Soul is about the ultimate trial and tribulations for this young couple yet God is always there with them both throughout.  One of the sayings that jumped out at me was when Lonnie's Aunt Sarah told her “don’t you let those lies stay inside you. The only opinion that mattes is God’s and he knows the truth.”  That’s a theme that resonates through this book as does 1 Peter 5:10.

This book is a breath of fresh air to read.  I look forward to reading more of Joanne Bischof’s work in the future!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: More Than This ...

Book Description:

When Mikayla imagined her prom night, she envisioned a fairy-tale evening full of romance. So when betrayal and tragedy come in quick succession, Mikayla is completely destroyed. Suddenly, everything she loved and everyone she relied on are tragically, irrevocably gone.

Jake, a handsome boy she just met, happens to witness her loss. With no one to turn to, Mikayla is forced to depend on this near stranger and his family, and he in turn is determined to take care of her. But Mikayla—thrust into adulthood with no one to guide her—is desperate to contain her grief and hide what she considers to be her weakness. Mikayla and Jake both want more, but despite their growing closeness and intense chemistry, she tries to keep her distance and protect her heart. As he does everything in his power to win her trust, Mikayla must choose between remaining alone and safe or letting love in.

My Review:  Here's the thing about reading a book ~ the author, sometimes, gets right into the heart and head of a character(s) and write with such conviction, it's hard to distinguish that it's just ficton and not an autobiography.  While More Than This wasn't my favorite book to read, one thing resonated with me as I plowed through this book at rapid pace:  Jay McLean can write.

The story takes place in a high school setting with Mikayla, a high school girl, and the events that unfold towards the end of her senior year in school.  Having a daughter exactly her age, this book jumped out at me but let me just say, that's exactly where the similiarities stopped and my review of this as literally work begins.  Mikayla, also known as Kayla to those closest to her, appears to be a typical high school girl by most standards - steady boyfriend, great circle of friends, loving family and focused on life after high school - college, work, career.  She has a best friend, Megan, who sleeps around including with Mikayla's boyfriend, and she catches them together as they are leaving for Prom.  Naturally, she is in tears and destroyed and Prom is ruined.  Enter Jake, an all around nice guy, who happens to be at the same diner as Kayla when this goes down and they end up going to his Prom instead.  What happens next is incredibly sad, a turn of events no child should ever have to encounter and that's the death of Mikayla's entire family in a house fire.  She's left alone with no where to go and grieve, and she's taken in temporarily by Jake and his family, whom she just met!
Their relationship blossoms and he's a caring and falling for Kayla at the same time as trying to juggle school and a baseball scholarship.   The story is captivating - you want to know, does Kayla make it to college?  Does she inherit anything?  How at 18 does a young girl survive in the world?

This book appears to be very real to 'real life' teens and aside from the catalyst of Kayla's incredible losses.  What bothered me mostly was the subject matter being very STRONG in sexual tones and
the bad language.  While I feel the writing style is good, it seemed a little over the top in the language and explicitly.  I wouldn't recommend this book for anyone attempting to 'shield' their children from the descriptions of teenage drinking, parties, sleeping around, loss and betrayal.  If you are okay with all of that, then this book is a page turner and I flew through it at record pace to see how it ended!

Special thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book for review ~ any opinions expressed are purely my own and I was not compensated in any way other than receipt of the book.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book Review: A Most Inconvient Marriage

From the book jacket:

Abigail Stuart Thought She was Jeremiah Calhoun's Widow.
But Jeremiah Calhoun Is Very Handsome, Very Alive, and Very Perplexed.
Most Inconvenient Indeed.

With few options of her own, nurse Abigail Stuart agrees to marry her patient, a gravely wounded soldier calling himself Jeremiah Calhoun. They arrange a quick ceremony before he dies, giving Abigail the rights to his Ozark farm and giving Jeremiah the peace of knowing someone will care for his ailing sister after he's gone--a practical solution for both of them.

After the war, Abigail fulfills her side of the bargain--until the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up, injured but definitely alive, and wastes no time in challenging Abigail's story. Abigail is

flummoxed. After months of claiming to be his widow, how can she explain that she's never seen this Jeremiah Calhoun before? How can she convince him that she isn't trying to steal his farm? And will she find a way to stay, even though this practical arrangement has turned into a most inconvenient marriage?

  My Review:

There is something incredibly wonderful about a Christian romance to warm the soul and tickle the senses with the sweetness of love.  That's the basic premise of  A Most Inconvient Marriage by Regina Jennings.  Toss in some unruliness, hard times and good decent folk, and this novel delivers just the western novel is purports to be.  However, this isn't a run of the mill western romance where the cowboy rides in and saves a damsel in distress with a tip of his hat and a howdy ma'am.  Rather, it's a slow simmer about two main characters, torn between what each believes is right, set in the Ozarks during a time where the North and South are battling each other, almost as much as Abigail and Jeremiah do through-out this novel.  They are both caught up in a web of an unusual arrangement where both are struggling to find themselves in the midst of a war torn country where everyone seems to be taking a side. 

The characters are delightfully written and the author does a wonderful job of building each personality so well that you get to know them and either like them, nor not.  Abigail is a dutiful nurse, striking up a promise at the bedside of a dying soldier to go back to his farm and take care of his mother and sister, who is gravely sick.  Unbeknownst to her, he is not who he claims to be and finds herself in quite a dilemma after the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up, and none to happy to hear about her.  He's wounded, both physically and his pride, and finds the fiance' he left behind engaged to someone else and a 'wife' he doesn't want or acknowledge since he's alive and well, not the man who pretended to be him.

There is a whole cast of characters that helps build the plot ~  from the feisty, bitter sister Rachel to Laurel, the fiancĂ© that can't make up her mind who she wants:  Jeremiah or her new doctor suitor, Dr. Hopkins.  The two delightful and playful children of a neighbor, Josiah and Betsy who bring charm and wit to this otherwise hardworking, humdrum daily farm life back drop.  The chapter where Abigail makes a pumpkin pie from scratch to please Rachel and has a melting pie face to scare the busy-body children is absolutely hiliarious!   Jennings even paints a beautiful scene with Abigail meeting her old family horse, Ladymare, at an auction and shares a tender moment.   

However, even with the great character cast, I found this novel slow to warm and didn't quite reach the crescendo I'd hoped.  It is somewhat lackluster and dull in the dialog with the story being too monotonous at times.  I think the author had a nice theme but just didn't deliver the story well and each page, each chapter felt the same as the previous.  I kept waiting for the "wow" factor, but this one sadly fell flat for me.

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review and the stated opinion I have expressed is my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Review: Preschool Bible Learning Cards

These are truly the best kids' verses and bible 'flash cards'  that I've ever seen out on the market.  I wish I'd had these when my babies were small.  They are colorful, whimsical, attention grabbing with eye-catching drawings.  A pure delight!

The cards are color coded on the tops for finding themes, carefully written in the language of very young children. Bible verses (especially KJV) are often harder for the younger crowds with difficult biblical references and names we can hardly pronounce!  These bible cards are impressive and wrap it all up beautifully!

The illustrations draw the younger children right in, clipped together with a binder ring for easy use,
quick flipping and sturdy enough without worrying about cutting a little finger (no paper cuts with these!) and thick enough not to rip or tear should the children want to hold them and practice 'reading' or reciting. 

These bible cards are so adorable, they are PERFECT for gift giving!  While picking up a set for you,
grab one for a new baby gift, the toddler about to celebrate a birthday or special occasion .. they are THAT spectacular!  The preschool bible learning card pack contains 20 5" x 7" sturdy cards, appropriate for preschool levels 1-5.   But - even my teenage daughters literally swooned over these and read them, smiled, and said it was the most beautiful product!

Please visit the website to see a preview of the cards :

 Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.


Book Review: How to Survive Middle School and Monster Bots

Book Jacket:

Sometimes, being smart just isn’t enough.  It’s been a rough semester for Howard Boward, science genius. Not only is he having to dodge winter’s most feared weapon (snowballs), his close friend, Winnie McKinney, is barely speaking to him. If that weren’t enough, he’s the favorite target of some bullies who seem determined to make life at Dolley Madison Middle School as miserable as possible. But then Howard learns about an upcoming robot-building contest—finally a chance to show off his science skills and beat archrival Gerald “G-Force” Forster! Unfortunately, the only way to win is by using his secret “monster goo,” a formula that has terrifying side effects. Can Howard resist the temptation? Or will he unleash a robot rampage that could destroy the town—and ruin the school dance?

My Review:   What an incredibly delightful book!  This chapter book is a perfect read for older elementary age children and the older crowds - like it's namesake junior high level kids - will enjoy this and zip right through it!

Howard is an incredibly bright, wonderful student that creates robot for the science fair but it runs quickly sour!  He's bullied by his classmates which makes him a loner and he spends his time with science and building his new robot after his first one runs away from home.  It comes back and to the rescue when the new science fair robot tries to take over the school!

This book is a fun, quick, delightful read.  One note: This is the second book in the series, of which I did not read, and you don't need to read that one to follow along.  This book stands alone just fine!

I thank BookLook bloggers for the chance to review this book and my review is a positive opinion expressed by me on my own accord.