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.