Monday, December 11, 2017

Review of "Out of the Ordinary" by Jen Turano

Jen Turano is such an interesting author! She takes a historical era and beautifully illustrates the time period (you can easily picture how it was to live then) - but then, the twist! She writes with a more modern viewpoint, with sparkling characters and witty dialogue. This book is legitimately laugh out loud funny! It also includes a mystery, intrigue, and a sweet romance.

Gertrude Cadwalader is a paid companion to Mrs. Davenport, a society lady who has a penchant for "borrowing" things that Gertrude is all too regularly required to return. No one can say Gertrude has not taken one for the team about 47 times too many, but it's pushes her over the top when it occurs at her dear friend's engagement party.

Harrison Sinclair has long valued Gertrude's friendship and admired her character. Now, as she is in trouble and needs his assistance he realizes just how deep his feelings have become. The supporting cast is delightful, and this book is well written. This book is a stand alone novel but your reading experience will be enhanced by enjoying Apart From the Crowd Book #1 first.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano

Review of "When God Made You" by Matthew Paul Turner

I'm really not sure if this book could be any cuter! Written by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated beautifully by David Catrow, this book almost makes me wish I had a toddler to read it to! However, I've decided this story is actually relevant and important for all ages, and here's why:

It tells an important (but largely sidelined) truth, that when you learn to see yourself through God's eyes - how He made you, who you were designed and thought about and dreamed about to be - your life will be transformed.

I've decided this is going to be my new "baby shower gift", but maybe I'll give it to my teenage daughter this year, too. It's a message she needs to hear. I strongly recommend this book.

This book was provided to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

When God Made You

Review of "Picturing Heaven" by Randy Alcorn

This beautiful devotional includes 40 "points" of things we will experience in Heaven. Each devotional is combined with a matching coloring page. The author has done extensive research (see his book, "Heaven") and these 40 curated devotions, along with Illustrator Lizzie Preston's pictures are gorgeous.

The book is beautiful as is, and it is easy to see how lovely it will be when the pages are colored in, too. It is intended to inspire your imagination as you think on the devotion and take time to color the pages. The fonts are beautiful, and so are the illustrations. This would also be a lovely gift at any time of year!

This book was provided to me by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Cover: Picturing Heaven

Monday, October 30, 2017

Review of "Seven-Mile Miracle" by Steven Furtick

I thought it was unusual, but it took me awhile to get through this one. Normally, I race through the books of this author (I have read several in the past), but this one was different. However, when I finished I was truly grateful I stuck it out.

Focusing on the seven final phrases of Jesus before he died, Pastor Steven parallels the phrases to the phases of the journey of those who follow Christ. He writes in a very conversational style, including personal stories, the Scripture in question, and practical applications. There are also some thought provoking questions at the end of each "mile". Finally, you can reference the 40 day reading guide relating to Jesus' death and resurrection.

This book could easily be used as a devotional; each chapter is not overlong and have ample life application woven through them. The illustrative stories match the topic well, and everything is plainly spoken. You are motivated to find a deeper truth and I did ultimately get a lot out of it.

I am happy to recommend this book.

I was provided a copy of this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Review of "A Dangerous Legacy" by Elizabeth Camden

One of the things I most love about reading historical fiction is that you know the author must have done a tremendous amount of research to be able to paint a clear picture of what life was like during the time period in question - and Elizabeth Camden is one of the best at this, in my opinion. This book is no exception.

Lucy Drake and her brother Nick have been waging a legal and personal battle for many years; they are fighting not only for the legacy of their father and grandfather, but also for those who can't afford her grandfather's invention - a pump and valve method that allows water to go up to even the highest floors of the tenements. The "other side" of the family who currently controls the rights are mean, spiteful, and perhaps even a little crazy.

Lucy is a telegraph operator (and a Morse code expert) with an "upstart" news Agency, the Associated Press. Sir Colin Beckwith is a manager at the AP's rival, Reuters...and they actually work in the same building. However, sparks seem to always fly between them that are more of a personal nature rather than the work-rival context.

Sir Colin is desperate to marry an American heiress and thereby save his estate in England; so even though he might be able to love Lucy, he believes he cannot. Lucy has been driven and focused for so long on her cause that she may not be able to see other things in her life very clearly.

This book is incredibly well written and interesting. The characters are fully developed and believable. There is action, adventure, romance, injustice, surprises, and a great ending. It is very easy to recommend this book!

I was provided a copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review of "An Inconvenient Beauty" by Kristi Ann Hunter

The final book in the Hawthorne House Series. I am bereft. :/  Finishing (appropriately, IMO) with Griffith's story, we watch as his orderly systems, defined rules, and 'logical' thought processes simply do not serve him well when he decides that it's time to get married!

Now that The Duke of Riverton has seen his siblings settled, it's time to find a wife. He has methodically, mindfully made his choice of eligible ladies, and begins his suit. However, he never counted on the fact that his intended is not interested. Not only that, her gorgeous cousin Isabella is always around - and when he is not with either of them, Isabella is the one who is never far from his thoughts.

Isabella Breckenridge is crazy beautiful, but she has secrets. She is desperate to help her family, and her Uncle is desperate to have a law passed, so he proposes a deal: She will come to London and debut in Society, using her beauty to gain the ears of numerous powerful men - and he will then attempt to influence them to vote his way. If she does this, he will save her family farm and help her siblings go to school. Isabella feels as if she has no choice, so against her better judgment she agrees to the scheme.....but never counted on falling in love, or the deep conflict with integrity it will reveal.

This is a beautiful conclusion to a wonderful series! This novel can be read as a standalone but you will greatly benefit from reading them in order. The author brings a lighthearted but still meaningful touch to this Regency period story; the characters are incredibly likeable, and the layers of motivation are revealed masterfully. Another great book from Kristi Ann Hunter!

I was given a copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review of "Praying For Girls" by Teri Lynne Underwood

This. This is the BEST prayer for your kids type book I have ever read, seen, heard of - please for the love, GO GET YOURSELF A COPY OF THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW. The author focuses not just the potential behaviors of the child, but as the tag line says, focuses on "asking God for the things they need most."

Covering your girl(s) in prayer for the following are highlighted: Prayers for Her Identity, Prayers for Her Heart, Prayers for Her Mind, Prayers for Her Relationships, and Prayers for Her Purpose. The "sample" prayers she includes in each chapter/topic are real, not fancy sounding. They are Scripturally based with supporting references, and are beautifully written. She includes real life stories, snippets Just for Moms, and for those doers out there, practical actionary items that support each section - they are broken out into little girls, middle girls, and older girls. This book is comprehensive and practical and well written and did I mention it's the best of this type of book I have ever seen? If you have girls, ever hope to have them, or even if you have a special niece/goddaughter/sweet pea in your life - you will want this book!

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Review of "Freedom's Ring" by Heidi Chiavaroli

Set in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, runner Annie David is haunted by the guilt she feels over her niece Grace's injury from coming to cheer her on as she finished the marathon on that fateful day. In her grief after the tragedy, she abandons her sister's family - shutting them out completely - and buries her emotions. This goes on for several years. As the book opens, she is barely making inroads to reconnect, and the road is definitely rocky.

Liberty Caldwell is a bold and brave woman in the midst of the beginnings of the American Revolution. Her brother is killed in the Boston Massacre, and that day is a turning point for her in more ways than one. In the horrors that follow Liberty is faced with choices she never thought she'd have to make, and ultimately she must decide - will she trust God to care for her above all else?

This novel has such an interesting point of view! I know bouncing back and forth between time periods has been done before, but the author has woven the stories of Annie and Liberty together seamlessly. Both stories are compelling and interesting. Both heroines are seeking justice and have experienced unusual tragedy. The supporting characters (Annie's boyfriend, sister, and niece; Liberty's British love interest and faithful future spouse) are compelling. It is easy to recommend this book - make sure to check it out!

I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review of "The Two of Us" by Victoria Bylin

Nurse Practitioner Mia Robinson has had a rough time in the love department. The parent figure to her late teens sister, and highly bound up in a DEEP sense of responsibility in all areas of her life, Mia is determined to not let Lucy make any major mistakes.....including getting married at 19, just because she is pregnant! As a by product of this impending wedding, Mia soon meets Jake Tanner, now the father figure to the almost-groom. Jake is a former police officer who was forced to retire after a career ending injury which also killed his partner, soon to be groom Sam's mother.

Jake and Mia have even more in common than they first think, but Mia's fears continue to impact their future at every step. However, Mia and Jake, Lucy and Sam, and even their families are all determined to find what God is saying to do when they are confronted with decisions and events. The author has created numerous layers and depth in the characters. However, it was a challenge to give this book 'highest marks' because I didn't find Mia to be completely likeable, and had a hard time rooting for her. This is just my opinion of course, and others may not read her that way at all. This book also addresses many life issues, such as a worldview of poverty and what real people can do about it, loneliness, career change, fear, control issues, Alzheimer's, aging parents, and more - but overall everything is covered with a lot of grace which makes up for quite a bit. :)

I was provided with a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review of "High as the Heavens" by Kate Breslin

In this sweeping and comprehensive novel primarily set in German-occupied Belgium in 1917, the author focuses on the complicated wartime relationships between British Nurse Evelyn Marche, her family, and Captain Simon Forrester.

Eve is a nurse by day but a spy always, working with the resistance organization La Dame Blanche (The White Lady). Even though their work is very dangerous -and they even have German soldiers billeted under their very roof - most of her family is also involved. Eve's role as a nurse allows her a unique access to important information that can help the Allies, and she works diligently to pass along what she learns.

One night, Eve goes to meet "a package" (not knowing that the package is actually her long-believed-dead husband) - and when his plane crashes, he is wounded. She takes steps to conceal his identity and their relationship, but Simon is now suspicious of Eve's motives as he is unaware of her role in the resistance. Her risks to keep his true identity and their relationship hidden go deep, and to further complicate things, there is a double agent in the mix.

We also bounce back and forth between memories of Simon and Eve's courtship, as well as the great emotional burden Eve still carries from war crimes several years prior.

This book reads as very well researched and clearly illustrates some of the conflicts and difficulties experienced in this time period. Eve and Simon's struggle to reunite all of the family, keep their loved ones safe, and learn to trust each other again are well done. The author also paints a lovely picture of redemption. I am happy to recommend this book!

This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review of "A Name Unknown" by Roseanna M. White

Roseanna M. White's first book in her latest series, "Shadows over England", is truly a gem. Featuring a high end female thief and a wealthy (secret) author of a fiction adventure series, she has created a beautiful story of redemption and well illustrates that what is seen is not always the truth of the matter.

Rosemary Gresham was orphaned at eight and forced to steal to eat. Over the years she has managed to create a large family - one not related in any way by blood, but of their shared need for survival. When she is 'hired' to find out where the loyalties of Peter Holstein lie - is it with England, or Germany? - she poses as a librarian to gain access to his house and life.

Peter Holstein actually has dual citizenship, but chose England when he turned 18. As the country is on the brink of WWI, the questions and accusations against him grow louder, and Peter must locate the documents that prove his citizenship. He hires Rosemary to organize his library and family history, and find the items he needs - and in the process of this job, things begin to change for both of them.

The plot points are layered without being tedious or clunky; the humor and mysteries are equally well done; and this is easily one of the best novels I've read lately. I can enthusiastically recommend this book!

This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Review of "The Divide" by Jolina Petersheim

In the conclusion of the story that began in "The Alliance", we pick up some time after the Mennonite community has become established in their new location, in the mountains. Leora Ebersole is beginning to grow very weary under the combined pressure of caring for her family and her worries about what has happened to Moses Hughes, the pilot who crashed in their original commune. Meawhile, Jabil is happy to step into the gap Moses' absence has created, and he and Leora grow closer.

As the world continues to shift based on the new "rules", the divide between previous loyalties and relationships become even more tenuous. It's almost impossible to know who to trust, and Leora makes serious choices about things she never thought she'd have to face. And, who will she finally choose - Jabil, or Moses? Will the new community survive? Can Leora live with her secrets?

This two book series was enjoyable and interesting. I have found that as a reviewer it's challenging to expand too much more on the storylines in this book, without giving any spoilers! Also, please note that this is definitely a sequel that you will want to read the books in order; I didn't feel this was a standalone novel. So if you haven't already, make sure to pick up "The Alliance" first!

This book was given to me by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

The Divide

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review of "Just Look Up' by Courtney Walsh

Interior Designer Lane Kelley is forced to return from her big city job and life, to her small tourist town when her brother Nate is in a terrible motorcycle accident. She has avoided home like the plague since a devastating rift occurred. (The author doesn't tell you right away exactly what neither will I!) For years, Lane has intentionally buried herself in work - and she has been successful at both advancing her career and studiously avoiding the real issues.

Veteran Ryan Brooks has his own emotional scars; he and his sister barely survived their childhood with no mother, and an alcoholic dad. Now a renovator/businessman extraordinaire, Ryan is determined to do his part to revitalize the tourism for their lake front town. He was also in the accident with Nate; he has vague memories of what happened, but suspects there is more to it than he can fully remember. And what he does remember shames him deeply, even though none of it is his responsibility. Ryan is also buried in his huge development project, but still manages to find some balance; all the while, trying to draw Lane out of her shell and find the girl he once knew.

The layers the author has created with these characters and story were nuanced and well done. The quirkiness of some of the characters is fun, rather than odd; and although I know we must have conflict(!) the author does not take a cheap version of misunderstandings to create this tension. Instead, she draws from the character's backstory to find ways that are completely plausible rather than annoying. Do we think they will be together in the end? Will there ever be healing for Lane and her family relationships? Will Ryan ever be free of the stigma of his childhood, and will his business venture succeed? Probably, but how the author gets there is unusually well done.

I was provided a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review of "True to You" by Becky Wade

This book is the first in the Bradford Sisters series, new from author Becky Wade. I have to say that I'm almost sorry I read this now, because I can't stand the fact that I will have to wait who-knows-how-long for the next two. :/

Middle sister Nora Bradford was engaged to a childhood friend, and then one day, she was not. Since then (several years ago) she has chosen to focus on her work, her family, and a fairytale world of books and a BBC television series - but she has completely closed herself off to the possibility of romantic happiness. She is certain that things are just fine this way, and tells herself that she is content. For the most part she is successful and really believes it, until she meets......

...former Navy SEAL John Lawson. Retired from the Navy, he owns an emergency training company, is a real-life successful hero, and has known for years that he was adopted. However, he has recently been diagnosed with an inherited condition. When John reaches out to Nora for her research experience, an instant connection is formed.

I can't count the number LOL's or satisfied sighs I experienced reading this book. I have no idea how many sweet moments (all without being cheesy, predictable, or over the top) this book has. All I can say is that it was real, interesting, funny, touching, hit appropriate emotional points, the pacing was perfect, it made me think, and truly, the characters only charmed - never frustrated or annoyed me. Nora is incredibly likeable, as are her sisters, so really, I can't wait another second for the next installment. Please hurry, Becky. :)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review of "Behind the Scenes" by Jen Turano

Have you ever read any of Jen Turano's books?? If you haven't, I have to tell you that you're totally missing out. I'm serious. They are all super funny - so imagine my excitement when the opportunity to review her first in the "Apart From the Crowd" series came up.

"Behind the Scenes" features Miss Permilia Griswold, the brilliant and very self sufficient daughter of an extremely wealthy mine owner. Her mother died when she was very young, and as an only child she traveled with her father on all of his adventures, ladylike or not. She has always anticipated inheriting and then running the business - utterly unheard of in 1883 - but her father surprises her. He decides to marry again, and that his new wife will teach her how to become a lady. Her stepmother introduces her into society, but is quite disappointed to find that Permilia has her own way of navigating the social set - and she quickly becomes a dreaded "Wallflower."

However, this is only the beginning of Permilia's adventures. She soon meets fashionable store owner Asher Rutherford, overhears a plot to assassinate him, and rescues him from an attempt on his life. The stepmother and stepsister are not kind; they think her odd and embarassing. Her progressive attitude (she is an heiress suffragette and regularly supports causes that promote women's education" is refreshing! Too many hijinks ensue to cover them all here... (and really, you wouldn't want me to, because it's more fun to read about them in the book!)

The author's whimsical and especially clever style shines through the character's dialogue, their names, and of course the wild plot lines, all of which are often laugh out loud funny. I've read all of Jen Turano's books; none of them will disappoint!

I was given a copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review of "Deep Extraction" by DiAnn Mills

The second in the author's FBI Task Force series, "Deep Extraction" introduces us to FBI Agent Tori Templeton and Deputy US Marshall Cole Jeffers. They are both connected to the Moore family - Nathan Moore is a wealthy oil magnate who has recently been murdered. His wife Sally was a close college friend of Tori's, and prior to his death Nathan was a friend of Cole's. Is Nathan's death tied to a recent bombing of one of his oil rigs? Or is it more personal?

Both Tori and Cole are heavily invested in finding the truth and hope to remove Sally as a suspect. They quickly become frustrated when the investigation seems to go in a million different directions, and the bodies keep piling up. Complicating matters is Tori's partner Max who is not being himself; one the Moore teens is not immediately forthcoming with some important information, and it's clear that Nathan had some big secrets.

The mystery is well done (I had a tiny suspicion of who, but not a clear picture of how everything fit together until the very end). The "why" is more vague - very glossed over, even now that I have finished the book. I do think there are a lot of people who will love this book; yet the somewhat choppy style of the character's conversations isn't my personal preference. The dialogue doesn't always read as complete, and I found it challenging to follow. It felt like there were gaps, multiple times where things were left out. I went back to re-read certain sections and still did not find clarity. I also found very little chemistry between our two main characters. And to be fair I can't say exactly why, so again we will chalk that up to a preference. However, the action seems realistic and the topic is interesting.

Please check out the book trailer at:

I was given a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review of "Without Warning" by Joel Rosenberg

It's here! The third and final installment in the author's J.B. Collins series. The book opens with a meeting between J.B. and the President of the United States - in the Oval Office, no less. Just moments before the President will give a triumphant homecoming speech at the State of the Union address, J.B. challenges him on the depth of his willingness to see Abu Khalif taken out once and for all. However, it soon becomes clear that the President is not committed to this vision as clearly as J.B. is - and although they don't know it yet, they are both only moments away from a huge attack led by the ISIS emir.

Reeling from the tragedy and several other events where he barely escapes with his life, J.B. realizes this is even more personal than he once knew; now his family is at risk, and no one is safe. Still wrestling with all of his past life choices, he becomes determined to track Khalif himself. From there it's truly a roller coaster of events, where J.B. will learn who he can trust and just how far he will go to see justice served.

I have to say that I found it pretty difficult to write this review; not only is a great book series coming to an end, but so much happens that I felt was a spoiler, that it was a struggle to just give the highlights. All that to say, I recommend this book and series highly. If you are looking to up your game in knowledge of geography, this is your book. If you are interested in being forced to stay up past your bedtime to finish it, because you just have to know what happens, this is your book. If you want to laugh and cry and have an adrenaline rush all at the same time, this is your book.

I was provided a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review of "Maybe It's You" by Candace Calvert

Maybe It's You, the third installment in the author's Crisis Team series, continues the story of Nurse Sloane Ferrell (although this book can be read as a standalone, Sloane's story primarily began in Step by Step, book 2 in this series). Running away from her questionable background, she struggles to find her purpose as the past keeps rearing it's ugly head.

Micah Prescott is the interim Marketing Director for the hospital, determined to put a new face on the image smeared by a drunk driving Chief of Staff and other Employees who contributed to a cover up. He has created a campaign looking for the "Face of Hope" - and thinks it might be Sloane - but she is equally determined to stay out of the spotlight.

Throw in a Russian underworld connection, possible human trafficking, and a conniving ex-fiancée, creates a recipe for not only suspense, but

I especially enjoyed learning about hospital protocol and politics; as the author is a former ER nurse it lends a great deal of credibility to what our characters experience. I have read all three Crisis Team books, and this is a strong wrap up to the series.

I was given a copy of this book by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review of "Larger-Than-Life Lara" by Dandi Daley Mackall

Although this is technically a Juvenile Fiction book, I believe it has great value for all ages.

A beautiful life lesson has been woven into a story told from the point of view of Laney Grafton: 10 years old, 4th grader, dreamer, story teller, actress, neglected child....the author uses the premise of Laney following her teacher's instructions about constructing a story, and the method is very effective.

Lara Phelps arrives in class one day and is immediately bullied for her size. Although Lara is indeed very overweight (to the point the teacher has to find a different desk, etc.) she remains seemingly unphased by the mean comments and demonstrates a unique insight into her classmate's lives. She just smiles and goes about her business, and quietly serves in any way she can. Laney observes this quietly and is initially just glad people are taking a break from picking on her, but soon learns that simply staying quiet is not enough.

When the book comes to a climax in the last few chapters, your eyes are likely to be at least a little damp - and the lessons that are taught in this book are invaluable. This book is well written, interesting, and shows a different way of getting the point across that will likely teach and delight your young readers all at once.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Cover: Larger-Than-Life Lara

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review of "What They'll Never Tell You About the Music Business" (third edition) by Peter M. Thall

Musicians are artists. And usually have some of that artistic temperament. But does this mean they can't be business savvy, too? In this day and age, they must be - and that is where this book is of great help.

This is the third edition by Author and Lawyer Peter M. Thall, who is widely considered an expert in this field. The author has covered just about every topic you'd need to know to be informed and savvy, including information about publishing rights, advances, management, marketing, merchandise, touring information, songwriting credits and royalties, copyright laws...the list goes on and on.

The print is small, and the book is close to 400 pages - yes, it's that comprehensive. As both a singer-songwriter and an avid reader, I am so thankful this book has been written. Kudos to the author for his confident voice and experience to back up this information. Yes, the internet would allow you to research this yourself - but with this book in existence, why would you want to?

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Review of "The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill" by Julie Klassen

The first in the author's new series, Tales from Ivy Hill (her first series ever), this is an excellent introduction to the many interesting characters connected to Ivy Hill. Their stories are equal parts intriguing and fun. This installments focuses primarily on Jane Bell, newly widowed and inheritor of her late husband's coaching inn, the Bell. Jane struggles to not only adapt to sudden widowhood, but to the fact that as the innkeeper, there are certain roles she must learn - and quickly, as she discovers that her husband had taken out a substantial loan before his death - and it is now overdue.

Other storylines include Jane's seemingly cross mother-in-law Thora, childhood friends Mercy and estranged Rachel, the newly arrived-in-town James Drake - a future suitor? competitor? admirer? and the mysterious farrier, Gabriel Locke.

Jane must navigate these new relationships and grows in confidence and strength through this process. She finds that she is more capable than she imagined, and it is a pleasure to grow with her.

I can easily recommend this book and am excited for the next installment in this series!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.