Saturday, December 27, 2014

Top Reads of 2014




I'm happy to say that this year, I fulfilled my goal of reading at least 26 books!  That would have been an easy goal for me a few years ago, but ever since my daughter was born, I have to intentionally set aside time to read.  I'm not complaining though, I love my munchkin!

               

My top five books of the year were:

1.  In the Shadow of Jezebel by Mesu Andrews - Read my review here.
2.  Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade - Read my review here.
3.  Balanced by Tricia Goyer - Read my review here
4.  Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund - Read my review here.
5.  Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers - Not reviewed.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Vacation, anyone?

Book Blogger Hop


Every week Coffee Addicted Writer hosts the Book Blogger Hop. Participants answer a question and then visit other blogs of fellow participants to chime in on the discussion. This week's question is:

“Do you have a book with a location that you just HAD to visit after reading the book?”

My answer:

I've never visited a location because of a book, but the two places I wish I could visit are:

1.  Israel - because I would like to experience the places of the Bible
2.  Emily Dickinson's House in Amherst, Massachusetts - because I'm a huge Emily Dickinson fan.

I think it's neat when books are set in cities that I have visited. I always find myself comparing the setting of the book to the real place.  I once enjoyed reading book set on Anna Maria Island, Florida, which a beach community about 25 minutes from where I live. Wish I could remember the name of the book! LOL.

What about you?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

Emma Chambers craves stability. Coming from a turbulent past, her intense desire for a home and family leads her to a hasty marriage after she and her brother lose everything in a pirate attack. Emma's new husband, Patrick Garraty, is handsome, kind and God-fearing, but besieged by his own dark past. When rumors about Patrick's role in his late wife's death reach Emma, the suspicions she already had seem even more real. Still, Emma finds herself deeply drawn to Patrick in spite of her doubts. When the truth is revealed, will Emma and Patrick find the grace to forgive and release their pasts? Read more in Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund.

I thoroughly enjoyed Love Unexpected. Themes of grace and forgiveness, not only between Emma and Patrick, but also between God and humanity were expertly dealt with. The story commences with a pirate attack that effectively engaged my interest. The story was well-paced, well-written and had no trouble holding my interest. I felt like the physical desire aspects were a little overdone as Emma and Patrick were continually desiring one another, yet holding back. Still, this added tension to their relationship and the story, so I can see why it was included.

I could totally relate to Emma dealing with Patrick's son, Josiah, a strong-willed toddler. This added authenticity and a bit of humor to the story. However, it seemed to me that there were strong parenting messages in the novel regarding spanking, thumb-sucking, discipline. I personally agree with the stance that Emma chooses, so I wasn't offended, but those who adhere to more strict ideas regarding spanking, not co-sleeping, and ending thumb-sucking at a certain age may be at odds with the parenting messages that are conveyed.

Love Unexpected is the first, full-length novel in Jody Hedlund's Beacons of Hope series. There is a prequel, Out of the Storm, which is a free e-book novella that ties in with Love Unexpected. However, if you don't read the prequel, it won't negatively affect your understanding of Love Unexpected.

I recommend Love Unexpected to fans of inspirational romances. Like the rest of Jody Hedlund's books, this one is a keeper for my bookshelf. I'm sure I'll read it again and I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series.

Read an excerpt from Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund on the publisher's website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Friday, December 19, 2014

To Review or Not to Review......

Book Blogger Hop


Every week Coffee Addicted Writer hosts the Book Blogger Hop. Participants answer a question and then visit other blogs of fellow participants to chime in on the discussion. This week's question is:

“Do you write a review for every book you read or only review copies from publishers?”

My answer:

It's a given that all the books I receive from publishers get reviewed eventually... otherwise they'd stop sending me books.

As for books that I buy or rent from the library, I review them if I have the time and desire. Extra time is often in low supply around my house, but I will make time if I feel the book warrants the effort. If I find an amazing book, I'll definitely share how much I enjoyed it. If the book is disappointing, I'll warn others to rent before buying.

What about you?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman

Megan McClare's time in Paris changed her from the inside out. Upon her return to San Francisco, her best friend, Bram Hughes, withdraws from her, fighting a new and unwelcome attraction to her. Struggling to make sense of the new status of their relationship, they both strive to keep it platonic. Bram is promised to another and Megan is interning to find her life direction. When Megan's childhood crush, Devin Caldwell, becomes a co-worker, she turns to Bram for advice and support. As Megan deliberately puts the past behind her and strives to forgive Devin for crushing her heart, they begin to grow closer. Outwardly, Megan and Bram are committed other people, but inwardly, attraction and romance simmers. Will Megan and Bram choose kinship without romantic attachments or will love eventually find a way to blossom? Read more in Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman.

Surprised by Love is the third novel in The Heart of San Francisco series by Julie Lessman. The author gave enough background information for things to make sense, but still left me wanting to read the other books to get the full story. Surprised by Love combines romance, humor and depth to create memorable story. The witty and refreshing banter during the character's dinners added a touch of lightheartedness that I enjoyed. The story successfully kept me wondering how things would work out. From the back cover, I could guess who Megan would end up with, but there were times when it seemed it would surely be someone else. I liked that the ending wasn't obviously apparent from the beginning and I didn't see certain plot twists coming. Surprised by Love is an excellent read for historical fiction fans. It's definitely a keeper for me as I plan to read the prior two books in the series and then re-read this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot

Rainbow's End, a once beautiful resort in the Texas Hill Country, sits in decay, physically and financially. Kate Sherwood, whose marketing career is on the upswing, reluctantly agrees to her ailing grandmother's request to visit Rainbow's End together for one month. While Kate's grandmother, Sally, relives the memories of her previous visit fifty years ago, Kate sees only a month without internet and cell phone service, a potential death trap for her career. When Greg Vange, whom Kate assumes is the resort's handyman, helps her get an internet connection and tells her where to find service, Kate is ready to get back on track. Or is she? As she brainstorms the marketing concept for her newest client, Greg is distractingly handsome, fun and rich. Greg has the money to restore the resort. Kate has the talent to create marketing appeal. It seems like a great match to bring life to Rainbow's End, except that Rainbow's End and Greg Vange don't fit into Kate's life plans. Will love find a way to bring them together? Read more in At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot.

At Bluebonnet Lake is the first novel in Amanda Cabot's Texas Crossroads series. The premise, billionaire meets marketing maven, delivered a gentle story of friendship that transformed to love. The novel was laced with humor and touched on redemptive themes such as letting go of bitterness and surrendering to God's will for one's life. However, the plot meandered and was repetitive... as in the same settings/scenes occurred repeatedly. Unfortunately, I lost interest and even though the ending was sweet, I probably won't read it again.

At Bluebonnet Lake has some good points and readers who love the small town setting might like it more than I did. However, I was a bit disappointed and I recommend renting the novel from the library prior to buying.  

Read an excerpt from At Bluebonnet Lake on the publisher's website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar

Disregarded by her birth family, Ruth's desire to belong is satisfied in her marriage to Mahlon, a kind man whose mother, Naomi, treats Ruth as her own daughter. When Mahlon and his brother die, Ruth and Naomi journey to Bethlehem, Naomi's former homeland. Desperate for food and income, Ruth gleans, picking up the pieces left behind by the field reapers employed by Boaz. As the camaraderie between Ruth and Boaz transforms into romantic inklings, both are convinced that they can never be together. Will love find a way? Read more in Tessa Afshar's In the Field of Grace.

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar is a Biblical retelling of the Book of Ruth. The author used plenty of literary license to add story details and character motives, but also inserted quotes from the Book of Ruth. Throughout the story, various characters are taught spiritual lessons which became the themes of the book. At times, I felt like characters learned certain lessons too easily. Without enough internal struggle or tension, the development seemed a bit inauthentic. Still, themes such as surrendering what one wants most into God's care and accepting God's will with joy even when circumstances are hard are primary messages in the book that will resonate with Christian readers. I enjoyed the storyline and interspersed humor. In the Field of Grace is a keeper that I'm likely to re-read.

Those who liked Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar will enjoy In the Field of Grace as there are substantial similarities in characters and plot. I recommend In the Field of Grace to Christian readers looking for a historical romance combined with prevalent spiritual themes.

Read an excerpt for In the Field of Grace on Tessa Afshar's website.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Magnificent Tales Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times by Kelly Pulley

The Magnificent Tales Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times features twenty well-known Bible story poems illustrated by Kelly Pulley. The narrative lines up with the Biblical accounts except for a few minor discrepancies. Example: Guards at the tomb pretending to be asleep rather than fainting. As is common for this type of book, some of the less pleasant details of stories are omitted. Example: Jonah getting angry that the people of Nineveh repented. I liked that the story of Jesus' baptism was included as not many Bible story books recount that one. Each separate story has a title page which makes it perfect for reading just one or two at a time.

This collection of Bible story poems is recommended for children from four to eight years of age. I didn't realize that at the time I signed up to review it. However, my two year old loved it! We've had it around the house for at least a week now and she still looks though it every day. That's a lot more use than some of her books get...

Like most Bible story books, the narrative is a rhyming poem. The poetic meter changes between stories and sometimes even during the stories, but the lyrical quality makes it engaging for children. Unfortunately, during the story of Joseph, the only word that is used to rhyme with “dreaming” is “seeming.” Since “dreaming” is used often, so is “seeming.” It's very repetitive and probably my least favorite story in the book. However, the repetition didn't bother my daughter in the slightest and since the book is for her, it isn't a big deal.

My daughter, my husband and I liked the illustrations. This book is 352 pages long and well over half of those pages are fully illustrated. The colorful illustrations brought the stories to life for my daughter. Although the characters have strangely large knobs on their elbows and knees, it gave us something extra to giggle at as we went through the book and I consider it very well-illustrated.

Don't forget to visit the blog tour hosted by Litfuse Publicity to read more opinions on Magnificent Tales Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times by Kelly Pulley. There's also a Kindle giveaway that you can enter!



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Celebrate the Treasury of Bible Stories by entering the Rhythmical Rhymes Kindle Giveaway!

Part of the Magnificent Tales series, Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times will delight children ages 4–8 with rhyming Bible stories pairing spiritual truths with playful illustrations.

Enter the Rhythmical Rhymes Kindle Giveaway 9/15 – 10/12.

Treasury of Bible Stories Kelly Pulley

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 12th. Winner will be announced October 13th at Kelly's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Kelly's blog on the 13th to see if you won!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz

If given her own choice, Rowena “Wren” Ballantyne would have stayed in Kentucky instead of journeying to her grandparent's manor, New Hope, in Pennsylvania. James Sackett, the Ballantynes' most valued steamship pilot, transports Wren to Pennsylvania and then thwarts her attempt to leave. In spite of a rocky start, Wren and James find common ground and a solid friendship as Wren navigates the changes of her life. As romance blooms, James is convinced their relationship can never be more than friendship as he's been targeted by a pro-slavery group for his abolitionist efforts. Can Wren convince James that their love is worth the danger? Will they both survive when the danger arises? Read more in Love's Fortune by Laura Frantz.

Love's Fortune is the third and final installment of The Ballantyne Legacy series by Laura Frantz. While Love's Awakening (the second novel) remains my favorite of the series, I did enjoy Love's Fortune and I think it would be fine as a stand-alone story if you haven't read the others. Each character was so well-developed that I liked them all, including the less popular ones: the selfish heir, the cranky great aunt, the wild in-law. As usual, Frantz's writing is lovely and the story moved at a good pace. Overall, I recommend Love's Fortune to fans of Christian romance who are looking for an entertaining book that has depth, but is not too heavy of a read.

Click here to read an except from Love's Fortune on the publisher's website.

And here's a video about the making of the beautiful book cover:




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Cover and the Book

Book Blogger Hop


Every week Coffee Addicted Writer hosts the Book Blogger Hop. Participants answer a question and then visit other blogs of fellow participants to chime in on the discussion. This week's question is:

“How important is a book's cover to your overall impression of it?”

My answer: There's an old saying that you can't judge a book by its cover. But I do. Often.  I'd say the cover contributes about 10% to my overall impression.  The content far outweighs the cover, but an attractive cover can certainly catch my eye if I'm just browsing.

What about you?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Before Amen by Max Lucado

In Before Amen, bestselling author Max Lucado introduces readers to the power of a simple prayer:

Father, You are good. I need help. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus' name, amen.

As Jesus gave a model prayer to his disciples, so Lucado is giving a prayer that can be used quickly when time is short or used as the basis for a longer prayer. Each phrase has a correlating chapter to expound on the Biblical background of the thought, the appropriate application of the idea, and the spiritual blessings and possibilities that prayer can bring.

Lucado's emphasis in Before Amen is on making prayer approachable and simple for anyone. One of my favorite quotes was: “We Speak. He listens. He speaks. We listen. This is prayer in its purest form.” (pg.11) Throughout the book, I felt like Lucado reiterated the approachability of both God and prayer as well as advocated prayer as a means of experiencing deeper intimacy with God.

Before Amen is mainly targeted to Christians who desire to pray, but struggle with consistency or insecurity relating to prayer. Christians who already have a strong prayer life will likely find it minimally helpful as it is simplistic. However, I think that everyone could find encouragement in this book as Lucado often reminds the reader of Biblical truths and promises. For me, reading the chapter about God as Father was a refreshing reminder of God's love and care for each of us.

Don't forget to enter the Before Amen giveaway!

And visit the blog tour hosted by Litfuse Publicity to read more opinions on Before Amen by Max Lucado.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an Advance Reader Copy of Before Amen from the publisher via Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Spotlight: Song from the Ashes


About the Book:

Attorney Landon Kingsley craves order and normalcy, and aside from his well-hidden vice of smoking, he lives the life that everyone expects from him in his hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee. Recently engaged to beautiful nursing student, April May, Landon’s new fiancĂ©e is everything he could want in a wife. She is devoted to her faith and family and truly loves him.

April’s cousin, Ella Casey, has returned to Kingsport after ten years of pursuing a career as a country music singer in Nashville. Ella’s failed career and affair with a married music producer scandalizes her in the eyes of the town, but her legal troubles drive her to Landon for help. Landon finds himself increasingly attracted to Ella and more discontent than ever with the path he has chosen for his life. Amid a firestorm of family and town gossip, Landon is tormented by his past and the complicated decision of whether to listen to God’s voice or follow his own desires.

SONG FROM THE ASHES, a modern retelling of the classic Edith Wharton novel The Age of Innocence, explores the dilemma between the pursuit of dreams and personal happiness versus contentment in God’s plan for marriage and love.


About the Author:


Megan Whitson Lee grew up in Tennessee but moved to the Washington, D.C. area as a teenager. She worked for criminal attorneys before earning her master’s degree from George Mason University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. Previously she received a Bachelor of Arts in Music followed by a year-long residence in London where she worked as a Literary Assistant. Her self-published first novel All That is Right and Holy won second place in the 2009 Christian Choice Book Awards. Megan teaches high school English in Fairfax County, Virginia where she lives with her husband and two Greyhounds. 


Purchase your copy:

Title: Song From the Ashes
Author: Megan Whitson Lee
Publisher: eLectio Publishers
Pages: 350
Genre: Christian Fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle
Purchase at AMAZON

Book Excerpt:

The snow was already forming crusts on the unsalted parts of the road that January evening. The weathermen had talked of a dusting, or perhaps even showers, but the severity of the precipitation was wholly unexpected.  It was only a high school event—a talent show held at the local civic center. Even so, Landon Kingsley was upset with himself and his late arrival. Landon always made a point of being on time, but tonight he had lingered over the reading of a brief. At least that was how he rationalized it. In all honestly, he hadn’t wanted to stub out his cigarette prematurely. He always enjoyed a smoke when his mind was preoccupied.

Landon knew his girlfriend and her parents would be waiting for him. He slipped into the rear of the auditorium and scanned the mass of people for April and her family. She had texted that they were sitting near the front, and he cringed thinking that would make his entrance all the more embarrassing—everyone would see him entering late.

April’s two younger sisters were both in high school, and although he had not heard them sing, Landon understood they were talented. In fact, April’s Aunt Julia informed him that the entire family possessed great musical talent.

“On her daddy’s side of the family, everyone tends toward musical talent in piano and guitar. On her mama’s side, nearly everyone has beautiful singing voices—especially that Ella—she’s out in Nashville right now, you know. She’s been out there for years singing country music. I guess she does all right.”

Landon had never met Ella, but he had heard about her, and he understood that through some circumstance or other she would actually be attending the talent show that night.

As he made his way down the sloping aisle, he saw familiar faces—many of them flashing him a smile and a wave. In a town of this size, people knew each other or at least knew of one another. Part of the tri-cities area in Northeastern Tennessee consisting of Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol, Kingsport was the second largest of the three—a town of around fifty-thousand that had grown a little over the years but was no booming metropolis either. It retained a small-town feel, a place where people still smiled and greeted one another on the streets. A town where people spent their whole lives. Retirees from up north settled down there, and people who had lived there most or all of their lives called it home and heaven. The downside was that gossip spread like wildfire, and no one was ever free from the scrutiny of folks who wanted what you had or who didn’t think you had enough.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pre-order Max Lucado’s BEFORE AMEN and receive a FREE book. And, Enter to WIN an iPad!

Prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and his child. In Before Amen, best-selling author Max Lucado joins readers on a journey to the very heart of biblical prayer, offering hope for doubts, and confidence even for prayer wimps. Let the conversation begin.

I got my review copy of Before Amen by Max Lucado in the mail on Saturday and I've already started reading it. Look for my review to come soon.

Be sure to enter the Before Amen iPad Mini giveaway. AND if you pre-order a copy of Before Amen by 9/29, you'll receive a FREE ebook copy of Max’s best-selling Second Chances: More Stories of Grace.


beforeamen-400-click

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • Before Amen by Max Lucado
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on September 29th. Winner will be announced September 30th on the Litfuse blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit the Litfuse blog on the 30th to see if you won! (Or better yet, subscribe to their blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Being a healer's apprentice affords Rose many benefits. She reads Latin, writes stories, knows how to use herbs to heal, and earns an income that allows her to avoid marriage to a bachelor of her mother's choosing. Rose's problem is that blood makes her squeamish. When she must treat Lord Hamlin, the future duke, it isn't just the blood that makes her unsettled. His handsome features and personal integrity draw Rose's interest, in spite of his high social status and well-known betrothal. Lord Hamlin is committed to fulfilling his duty. Rose is committed to becoming a capable healer. Despite their friendship and attraction, Rose and Lord Hamlin must each learn to walk their own path and follow the One whose plans are greater than their own. Read more in The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson.

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson is based loosely on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. The story moved very fast in the beginning and right at the end, but for the majority of the time it was well-paced with intriguing characters and an engrossing story that felt original in spite of its fairy tale basis.

The Healer's Apprentice is marketed as Young Adult reading and had definite YA overtones that were mixed with Middle Age Catholicism. I was creeped out by the strange pagan rituals and demonic possession scene. Had I known those were in the book, I wouldn't have read it. Given its Sleepy Beauty basis, I suppose this shouldn't have been as surprising to me as it was. With an obvious Catholic/Christian perspective, the name of Jesus prevails over the demons. However, for me, that didn't negate the disturbing scenes. Had that part of the fairy tale been creatively changed somehow, I probably would have given this book a five star rating. The creepiness factor brings it down to three. The Healer's Apprentice is well-written and engaging, but I wouldn't read it again or recommend it to any of my friends.


 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Covers: Do They Need to Pull You In?

Book Blogger Hop


Every week Coffee Addicted Writer hosts the Book Blogger Hop. Participants answer a question and then visit other blogs of fellow participants to chime in on the discussion. This week's question is:

“Do covers pull you in?”

My answer: Absolutely!  If there's something stunning about the cover, I'll check out the back cover to see if I'm interested in the book.  Conversely, a dull or amateur-looking cover will put me off even if the synopsis sounds interesting.

Here are some eye-catching covers of books that I've read recently (or at least semi-recently):



 Hmm... I think I see a trend. Yes, a lovely evening gown is sure to catch my eye.

And here's one cover that I think is exceptional sans-evening gown:



Something about the model's smile looks genuinely happy and it makes me want to find out the reason for her happiness.  :)

What about you?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sharing Christ with the Dying by Melody Rossi

No one wants to think about the death of a loved one. Knowing that an individual is not ready spiritually to cross from this life to the next can be a source of turmoil to anyone who believes that salvation through Christ is the only way to reach heaven after death. Melody Rossi knows the difficulty of dealing not only with a loved one's physical illness, but also the spiritual threat to the dying person. By following the leading of the Holy Spirit in multiple ways and covering her loved ones with prayer, Rossi witnessed the spiritual births of her mother, father and step-mother. In Sharing Christ with the Dying, Rossi shares her personal story as well as gives guidance on matters such as: how to show the love of Christ by serving, how to hold on to hope, how to recognize and respond in the moments of spiritual openness, and what to expect spiritually and physically from a dying individual.

Reading Sharing Christ with the Dying by Melody Rossi helped me to understand more about how to talk to my loved ones about spiritual matters. Having walked this journey multiple times, Rossi seemed like a wise, experienced friend who offered compassion, encouragement and Biblical-based reasons to hope. I come from a background with a lot of emphasis on verbal witnessing and somehow I learned it was my responsibility to save a soul. I had the mindset that if I could do everything just right, then my loved ones would turn to Jesus. However, I've come to see that I'll never be perfect and Rossi made a statement that resonated with me, “It is not your responsibility to save that soul. That is the job of the Holy Spirit, and anything done apart from Him will fail (pg 34).” The theme of this book really is about coming alongside what God is already doing and working with Him to lead another person to know Christ. Each unsaved person's journey will be different, but Rossi gives some broad tips that can apply to many situations. Additionally, there is a section of questions for the reader to answer to help him or her identify a path of service and to better understand the backgrounds and needs of the dying person.

I highly recommend Sharing Christ with the Dying by Melody Rossi to anyone who has a dying loved one that does not know Christ. There is so much information that I'm getting ready to read it through again and I know I'll be keeping it to refer back to in the future.

Read an excerpt from Sharing Christ with the Dying on the publisher's website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

Ellie Moore is desperate after the loss of her job at the theater company. With no family to turn to, she aggressively pursues a position with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, thinking it will be an opportunity to use her acting skills and to have a grand adventure in the Wild West of Arizona. Her plans quickly go awry when her partner, a seasoned detective, bails out and Ellie is forced to play two roles: Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, and Jessie Monroe, a young and adventuresome flirt. Keeping up such an act is difficult enough, but then Steven Pierce, one of the mine owners that hired the Pinkertons to solve a mysterious string of silver robberies, is terribly attractive and he seems to feel the same way about Jessie! As Ellie edges closer to finding the thieves, both Lavinia and Jessie become targets. Can Ellie thwart the thieves before they strike again? If her identity is revealed, will she lose the love of a lifetime? Read more in Love in Disguise by Carol Cox.

I love it when a book is better than I expect. Love in Disguise by Carol Cox was such a book. The mystery kept me hooked throughout the story. The clues were there, but I didn't know who was behind the silver thefts until the climax. Truly, the mystery was the heart of this book. There was adequate romance between Steven and Jessie/Ellie, but it wasn't emphasized like the mystery was, nor did there seem to be any romantic tension until the very end. I liked Ellie's development throughout the story. Her surrender of herself – just as she was – to God was a hidden gem of a theme that played out in other areas of the story. I recommend Love in Disguise to fans of Christian fiction who love mystery. I'm sure I'll read it again, but for the moment, I'm passing it along to my mother-in-law to enjoy.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

Eleanor Braddock's arrival at Belmont Mansion relieves some financial difficulties, but presents a new set of complications. Her wealthy and demanding aunt, Adelicia Acklen, provides her with a place to stay as well as proper care for her ailing father. However, Eleanor longs for more than an arranged marriage to a rich suitor of her aunt's choosing. She finds purpose and passion in serving the widows and orphans of the Civil War, but her endeavor brings her closer to Marcus Gottfried, an architect, botanist and man of secrets. Eleanor and Marcus have very different ideas about how to house the widows and orphans, yet even as they disagree, romance seems to unexpectedly arise. Read more in A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander.

A Beauty So Rare is the newest installment in Tamera Alexander's Belmont Mansion series. Though it's the second book of the series, it works fine as a stand-alone novel. I hadn't read the first one and didn't feel like I was missing anything. In traditional Tamera Alexander style, the book is long with plenty of twists, but the story never drags or becomes boring. I liked the character of Adelicia Acklen, but kept wishing someone would flat-out refuse to acquiesce to her. There was plenty character development for most of the characters and the romance was sweet. I recommend to fans of historical Christian fiction.

Read an excerpt from A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander on the publisher's website.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Friday, June 20, 2014

Waiting For His Heart by Joy McClain

In Waiting For His Heart, Joy McClain recounts the joy of her wedding day, her husband's unexpected alcohol addiction, the difficulty of a legal separation and a glorious restoration that only God could accomplish.

I first heard a snippet of Joy McClain's story as she was interviewed by a radio show host on Moody Radio. When I received the opportunity to review McClain's book, I eagerly accepted it. Reading her story was a bit different that I had expected. Rather than straight autobiography, McClain recounts certain events and times and then follows it up with a “Learning Along the Way” section in which she gives practical advice derived from her lessons learned.

Waiting For His Heart is a well-written retelling of the author's struggles within her marriage. However, I have some mixed feelings as far as recommending this book. McClain has some excellent spiritual insights and encouragement for a women with a marriage in crisis. Themes such as learning to sacrificially love someone as Christ loved us and learning that personal joy shouldn't be dependent on one's spouse are wonderful lessons for any spouse. However, I would caution women in crisis marriages about reading this book. McClain admits that she had to go to professional counseling before she could see how she had been enabling her husband's downward spiral and there is even a disclaimer at one point that neither McClain nor the publisher intend for readers to take the advice as counsel for their own situations. It seems like it would be far too easy for a struggling wife to read this and just think that she should stay in the situation and stick it out until she gets a happy ending like McClain did.

You can read a free sample of Waiting For His Heart by Joy McClain on Amazon Kindle, Barnes&Noble Nook Book, and at Christian Book Distributors.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

Ellis Eton may be about broke, but at least her life doesn't lack for excitement. As the semester at Radcliffe College comes to an end, she's managed to write, direct and act in her own play while planning her Hollywood career and avoiding the attentions of Griff Phillips. When she agrees to fill in for her friend, Janie, as a telephone operator, Ellis jumps at the chance to play the roll of someone else. However, Ellis' plans begin to unravel as she finds Janie's job is more complex than simply assuming a role. When Ellis accidentally overhears a plan to hurt Griff, it's up to her to make sure he stays safe. Keeping him safe is more difficult than expected and puts her together with him more than she should be. Will she be able to save his life and keep their relationship platonic? Read more in Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell.

Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell is a stand-alone novel set in the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition, a big issue during that time period, was a significant part of the book. I thought Love Comes Calling excelled in dealing with the dilemma of attempting to legislate morality through the characters' dialogues, actions and consequences. I would have liked more romance in this book. It seemed that while Ellis and Griff's relationship did progress, it didn't really deepen until perhaps the final scene. I liked the character development. Ellis seems to be an air-head in the beginning, but develops into a very likeable, well-intentioned, somewhat distracted heroine. Though categorized as a Christian romance, there are only a few references to God and one reading of Scripture. Some people like this while others prefer more spiritual development. For me, the spiritual content was a bit too light. I think it could be categorized as clean, secular fiction.

In conclusion, Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell was a quick, enjoyable read. I recommend it to fiction readers who are looking for a little humor and a sweet story.

Read an excerpt from Love Comes Calling on the publisher's website. 

Love Comes Calling  is currently on sale for $3.99 for Amazon Kindle and $3.95 at Christianbook.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

Celia Park always had a thing for handsome Ty Porter, but he's always had a thing for someone else. When they meet up in Las Vegas, a crazy romance develops, culminating in a hasty marriage at a wedding chapel. The next morning, the fun is over and Ty's certainly not ready to be married to Celia. Celia leaves with a broken heart and wounded soul. Ty, while perhaps less cognizant of his own pain, is no less wounded. Over five years later, Ty insists on meeting Celia for a final time to apologize and move on. A left-behind bracelet leads him to Celia's home and to the child living with her – his child. Ty cannot abandon his child, no matter what his feelings are toward her mother. As Ty and Celia co-parent their daughter, romance begins to simmer. But can Celia ever trust Ty? And will Ty be willing to sacrifice his long-held dreams to be the husband Celia needs?

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade was hard for me to put down. Seriously. When I wasn't reading the book, I was thinking of certain parts of the story I'd read or wondering how everything was going to turn out. Wade certainly knows how to craft a story and keep it moving. I've liked Wade's writing style since I read My Stubborn Heart and I still like it now. With a twist on the old “one-night-stand-produces-a-child-that-only-one-parent-knows-about” storyline, the story still felt mostly original as plenty of unique circumstances were added. Ty and Celia's chemistry and subsequent romance were delightful. The supporting characters were engaging and complemented the story.

While Meant to Be Mine is a clean romance, I would still recommend parental guidance for teens. There are a few questionable messages throughout the book. However, I see these as good opportunities to have a conversation. For instance, what constitutes faithfulness in marriage? Is it simply not engaging in a sexual act with anyone except your spouse? Is flirting outside of the marriage relationship considered okay? How about being in love with someone other than your spouse? I won't give away any spoilers, but I will say that my definition of faithfulness in marriage does not line up with marital faithfulness as defined by certain characters. I'm sure there will be different opinions and, like I said, it is an opportunity to start up a conversation.

Lastly, Meant to Be Mine is a stand-alone novel that includes a handful of characters from Wade's previous book, Undeniably Yours, but all necessary background information is supplied.

I recommend this book to fans of Christian romance. It's a keeper for me and I'll definitely read it again!

Read an excerpt from Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade on the publisher's website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong

Desperate to escape her circumstances, Lainie Davis leaves with only her boyfriend's backpack and a cheap car that she hopes will take her far away. When her clunker only takes her as far as Last Chance, New Mexico, Lainie is forced to seek help in this close-knit town with people who seem almost too nice to be real. Within the small town atmosphere, Lainie finds a change within herself and a possible love interest, but time is running out as Lainie's old boyfriend is searching for her. Will Lainie's past always dictate her life? Or can she find a fresh hope for the future? Read more in Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong.

Welcome to Last Chance is Cathleen's Armstong's debut novel and the first installment in the A Place to Call Home series. For readers who enjoy the small town atmosphere setting, this novel is spot on. The characters were likeable and the suspense of knowing that Lainie's old boyfriend was looking for her kept the story moving. Personally, I felt there were some mixed moral messages, but in light of Lainie's emotional and spiritual state when she arrives, I can understand why they were in the book.

Overall, Welcome to Last Chance is a tender story about life's changes and starting anew. I recommend it only to readers who enjoy stories set in the small town atmosphere. If you don't enjoy that setting, you probably won't enjoy this book. If you do like that setting and are looking for a sweet fiction book to curl up with over the weekend, Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong is for you.

Right now, Amazon and Barnes & Noble both have Welcome to Last Chance on sale for $1.99 for their e-readers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

In the Shadow of Jezebel by Mesu Andrews

Raised to fulfill her future roles as high priestess to Baal Melkart and a queen of destiny, Princess Jehosheba learned early to use manipulation, cruelty and fear to gain power and impress Queen Athalia, her father's wife. An invitation from Jezebel, the Queen Mother of Israel, and a letter from the dead prophet, Elijah, begin a whirlwind of events as Jehosheba learns deep family secrets and reluctantly marries Yahweh's high priest. As Jehosheba learns more of Yahweh, she loses faith in Baal Melkart.  Under a death sentence should she fail to carry out the plans of the queens of destiny, will Jehosheba overcome her fear and fully trust Yahweh for life, love and a safe future?

I was very impressed by In the Shadow of Jezebel, the first book I've read by Mesu Andrews. From the beginning, the story had my attention and, in spite of one scene that I think had a lapse in tone, my interest in the characters and their stories, never waned. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the story's setting. I haven't read a lot of fictional stories set in this period and the use of unfamiliar words such as “Ima” and “Gevirah” intrigued me. Andrews expertly weaved Biblical events with fictional elements. This book actually made me want to go back and read the correlating Biblical accounts. I can not say enough good things about this book and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Biblical fiction.

Read an excerpt from In the Shadow of Jezebel by Mesu Andrews on the publisher's website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Balanced by Tricia Goyer

About Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-home Mom:

How can a work-at-home mom raise kids, juggle a career and take care of family responsibilities with only 24-hour days? Working at home while raising kids and juggling a career and family responsibilities is no easy feat. Author and homeschooling mom Tricia Goyer shares her tips for finding balance among all your many hats as a mom. Balancing is a process and a journey, one that Tricia herself has yet to perfect. But between writing more than forty books, raising and homeschooling six kids, being a wife, and being active in her community, she has amassed valuable tips she shares in “Balanced.”
The book includes tips on:
—how to create focus themes for your family
—how to prioritize your schedule
—how to utilize your job so it also benefits your kids
—how to keep yourself out of the comparison game
—how to make working at home work for you
—and much more!



Purchase a copy, get a free downloadable workbook, and learn more at Tricia’s website.

My thoughts:

Now, a confession: I'm a stay-at-home mom, not a work-at-home mom. Nevertheless, I struggle to balance my time between my child, house cleaning, errands, church activities, etc. I found that many principles in this book still applied to me: finding priorities, seeking God's wisdom, resisting certain societal pressures, being fully present in what I am doing at the moment, dependence of God, setting an example for my children, forming my schedule, not feeling guilty when I'm not supermom, inner freedom, and knowing God intimately.
In addition to the aforementioned principles, Goyer encourages mothers to follow their dreams while still emphasizing the importance of mothering children and realistically acknowledging that time isn't free.  It may mean paying someone else to watch the children and relinquishing that time with them. But it can also instill dreams and aspirations as the children watch you pursue your God-given calling. Goyer's ultimate point in this book is the value of knowing God and doing His will.

This is a book I could see myself reading annually around New Year's to realign personal priorities and dreams. I highly recommend Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom by Tricia Goyer to any mom who struggles complete the daily to-do list, needs to streamline her day, or just needs some encouragement and direction about priorities.

Read more reviews by fellow bloggers at Litfuse Publicity's website.

About Tricia Goyer:

USA Today best-selling author Tricia Goyer is the author of over 35 books, including the three-book Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series and “Lead Your Family Like Jesus,” (co-written with Ken Blanchard). She has written over 500 articles for national publications and blogs for high traffic sites like TheBetterMom.com and MomLifeToday.com. She is the host of Living Inspired, a weekly radio show. Tricia and family live in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have six children.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free from the publisher via Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Julia Midwinter's youth and vitality often stand in opposition to her mother's rules. As village matriarch, Julia's mother has prohibited all forms of dancing. This seemingly harsh rule is shrouded in family secrets, including the deaths of Julia's aunt and uncle. By natural curiosity and rebellion, Julia is drawn to Alec Valcourt, the newly arrived dancing master from London. However, Alec's past also proves dark and messy and he's certainly not the type of man Julia's mother would approve of. Will Alec and Julia both discover the truths about their pasts so that they can embrace the future with hope? Read more in The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen.

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen is a stand-alone novel set in early nineteenth century England. The mystery of Julia's past hooked my attention and kept me wondering how all the people and events fit together. For me, this is what kept the story flowing as I didn't find the characters as captivating as I expected. By the author's intention, I suspect, Julia's character was hard to like in the beginning. However, even after Julia's internal motivations became more clear and she began to develop as a character, I still found it difficult to like her. Lastly, someone mentioned to me that it sounds like a take-off of Footloose. However, I've never seen the movie, so I can't really speak that. I don't discourage anyone from reading the book, but I do recommend borrowing from the library before purchasing.

Visit the publisher's website to read an excerpt from The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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, January 20, 2014

Prize of My Heart by Lisa Norato

Captain Brogan Talvis is on a quest to reunite with his son who was secreted away by his unfaithful, late wife. His discovery of the boy's location leads him to the home of Lorena Huntley who cares for the child as her own. In lieu of an immediate kidnapping, Brogan meets with the family under other pretenses and finds himself drawn to Lorena, who has plenty of secrets of her own. As the time to take his son nears, Lorena is suddenly in danger and Brogan must decide whether to rescue Lorena or take his son.


I liked – but didn't love – reading Prize of My Heart by Lisa Norato. I thought the beginning was exceptionally good and liked that the story delivered both adventure and romance. Throughout the story, there was a strong emphasis placed on speaking the truth and knowing a person's background. Unfortunately, I felt that a certain twist later in the story undermined this theme as a prominent character was left not knowing the truth. I can't say more without spoiling things, but it did not sit well with the rest of the story or with me as a reader. Aside from that, Prize of My Heart is an enjoyable read. I recommend it to fans of historical romance who are looking for a little adventure in the story, but I do encourage renting it from the library before buying.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this free advanced reader copy from the publisher via LibraryThing . I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden

Mollie Knox, owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, employs veterans who served with her father in the 57th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. These veterans are talented artisans who craft high-end watches, but to Mollie, they are family. Mollie's contract with Hartman's, a fine department store, affords her a measure of financial security until Zack Kazmarek, Hartman's handsome, yet intimidating attorney, issues an ultimatum that Mollie must sell her business to Hartman or lose her contract. Unexpectedly, the Great Chicago Fire ravages the city, destroying tangible property and intangible dreams. When famed Colonel Lowe, leader of the 57th Illinois Infantry, helps Mollies rebuild, Mollie is torn between the kind, stable Colonel Lowe and the passionate, unstable Zack Kazmarek.

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden is a stand-alone novel set in nineteenth-century Chicago. Admittedly, I don't know many details regarding the terrible tragedy of the Great Chicago Fire and Chicago's period of rebuilding; however, Camden's depictions seemed authentic and realistic. Into the Whirlwind has a solid plot that quickly hooked my attention and carried it through to the end of the novel. I found it refreshing that the romance elements of the story kept me guessing who Mollie was going to end up with. I recommend this book to lovers of historical romances.

Read an excerpt from Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden on the publisher's website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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."