Friday, April 14, 2017

My Review: Life After, plus giveaway!


"I guess that's what life is, though, isn't it?  A whole bunch of little moments that don't seem significant or life-altering at the time, but when you look back . . . I don't know.  They become the most profoundly beautiful things."  - Anna

Description:
It could have been me.
     Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city's transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.
     A year later, Autumn Manning can't remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest. 
     Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she'll bring more wreckage in her wake. 


About the Author:

Katie Ganshert is the author of seven novels and several works of short fiction, including the Christy Award-winning A Broken Kind of Beautiful and Carol Award-winner, The Art of Losing Yourself. Katie lives in eastern Iowa with her family. 









My Review: 5 stars
There are some books that touch your heart.  They draw you in and you only put them down in case of fire (or someone yelling your name).  You connect with the characters and maybe their stories break your heart a little bit (or a lot), but you laugh with them, and cry.  They become dear friends and you become their cheerleader, hoping they’ll find a happy ending, sometimes against the odds.  This was definitely one of those stories, for me!  The kind that you turn the last page, then battle the desire to immediately open the first page again, and start the journey anew.  Needless to say, it grabbed my attention at once and didn’t let go, despite the many things begging for my time!  This is undoubtedly a story that I will be reading over and over!

I always adore anything Katie Ganshert writes, though I do keep tissues close at hand, because she usually makes me cry at least once.  There’s something about her writing style that captures my attention and my imagination.  I can so easily picture Autumn, haunted by questions from the accident, and Paul, trying so hard to move on and keep it together for his kids.  I can see Reese, fighting to hold on to memories, and Tate, with his boundless energy and contagious smile.  I can imagine a pick up basketball game in the pouring rain and hurting people trying to make sense of tragedy.  These characters became so real to me, their heartache and pain, their questions and laughter and tears.  Ms. Ganshert drew me in ever deeper with every page, until I honestly had to step back a couple times and remind myself that this was fiction, though there are people living similar stories every day.  Her writing is compelling, at times poetic, and unapologetic.  And I do have to add that I loved the lighthearted moments and the surprise laughter found here and there.  Just little things that added a bit of light and joy to a story revolving around a tragedy.

I loved the honesty found between the covers.  This story is hard.  It deals with grief and survivor’s guilt.  It voices difficult questions that some may prefer to have left unsaid.  It challenges me still, days after finishing it.  But it’s also beautiful.  The very first line is a bit startling, but reminds how fleeting life really is.  I was incredibly curious how the author would choose to handle the questions that are posed throughout the story - questions I myself have asked more than once - and was left with tears in my eyes at her answers.  Of everything else I enjoyed about this book, the faith element was undeniably what has made it a favorite.  Seeing the characters grow and become better versions of themselves, as they figure out “life after.”  All of it combined made this story unforgettable.

I loudly and enthusiastically recommend this book! (and maybe some tissues!)


Thank you so much for stopping by!  If you took the time to read my review, I thank you again.  If you just scrolled down here to learn about the giveaway, that's cool too.  I don't judge (and there's no way I could possibly know, anyway).
A couple things first - as always, there will be purchase links below, but because the official release date isn't until Tuesday, the 18th, there are no reviews available on those sites.  That being the case, if you'd like to read opinions other than my possibly slightly biased one, I'm also including the link for Goodreads, since there are already several reviews available.  :)

And now for the giveaway stuff!  I have to admit, I'm excited!  I can't remember the last giveaway I did and I so loved this book that I just can't resist!  So, I'm giving away a paper or ebook copy (winner's choice) of Life After!  Since ebook is an option this time, that means International friends can enter, too!  That's pretty exciting for me.  :)
The giveaway will be open until midnight EST, April 17th, and the winner will be chosen Tuesday morning (release day!).   The Rafflecopter form should load below and I think that's all there is to it!






Website links:




 

Friday, April 7, 2017

My Review: Final Verdict



". . .deep down, he was aware he could love her.  He could easily fall and fall hard. . . ."

Description:
When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in townand in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it's his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancée from a dangerous felon, but he'll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs.



                        About the Author:

Jessica R. Patch lives in the mid-south where she pens inspirational contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. When she's not hunched over her laptop or going on adventurous trips in the name of research with willing friends, you can find her watching way too much Netflix with her family and collecting recipes to amazing dishes she'll probably never cook.





My Review: 5 stars
Can I just start out with oh-my-goodness?!  I LOVED this book!  Im not even exaggerating - this book was awesome!  I finished it and immediately wanted to dive into another of Ms. Patchs books and find out what Id been missing!  I was so looking forward to this book, especially after meeting being introduced to the two main characters in the previous book, Concealed Identity.”  And I can happily say that it exceeded all of my expectations!
I found that I really enjoy Ms. Patchs writing style.  Im not entirely sure I can describe it, but its kinda . . . . comfortable.  Picking up her books feels like revisiting old friends, even if the story is brand new.  Im confident that Ill love the people shes created and want to just keep devouring her books - theyre addicting!  They flow smoothly and I love all of the Southern expressions that Ive either heard used and I laugh, or Ive never heard of and they still make me laugh!  And her characters are so realistic!  I felt as though Id known Aurora and Beckett for ages, instead of just a few pages.  I also really appreciated getting into Auroras head and learning how she could do a job thats so controversial.  Especially when she was stuck in close quarters with Beckett, whos job was in contrast with hers.  I loved her sass and determination and unwillingness to back down.  Poor Beckett, I felt a little bad for him, but he was just so bossy (he prefers commanding) and needed someone who would stand up to him and tell him whats what.  They complimented each other so well and I so enjoyed getting to know them better and going through the mystery with them.  Ms. Patch is excellent at misdirection and keeping me guessing, thats for sure!  Until the very end, I was still debating and trying to figure out what was going on and who was lying and who was telling the truth.  And the ending!  Definitely worth a sigh or two.

I highly recommend this book if youre looking for a mystery that will keep you on your toes, mixed with a romance that may inspire a few sighs here and there!



It's not often I read two "5 star" books in a row, but I truly loved this book and Lisa's (my last post)!  And I obviously highly recommend this book and really any of Jessica's books, because I've caught up on them in the last few days and let me tell you, they are all excellent!  And the ending of this one! *sigh*  So good!  As always, links are below, if you'd like to check out this book!  I can't wait for the next one (the start of a new series!)!!

Oh!  And before I forget - be sure to stop by Jessica's new website (link here ) and enter her giveaway for a Kindle Fire and a signed copy of Final Verdict!  It's open until the end of April, so don't miss out!
Thanks for stopping by!
Have a colorful day!


Friday, March 31, 2017

My Review: Security Detail


"Sometimes we need to search outside of ourselves to find something bigger.  Stronger than us.  Love that can heal even the hurt that goes so deep it rips at the fabric of who we are."

Description:
Stopping to pick up a file late at night, former president's daughter Kayla Harris discovers her law office has been ransackedand the culprit is still there. But undercover Secret Service agent Conner Thorne comes to her rescue, and he knows exactly who is after herjust not why. Conner and Kayla go way back to their time in the White House when she was the rebellious first daughter and he was the rookie who saved her neck. Now Conner will put his life on the line again to keep Kayla away from the mobster he's investigating. And it's about much more than his job, because this time the woman he's sworn to protect is also the woman who's claimed his heart.


About the Author: Lisa Phillips
A British ex-pat, Lisa loves high-stakes stories of mayhem and disaster where you can find made-for-each-other love that always ends in happily ever after. Lisa leads worship with her husband at their church. They have two kids and an all-black Airedale.











My Review: 5 stars!
When I pick up one of Ms. Phillipsbooks, I know right away that Im in for an adventure!  And I love that!  Her books actually kinda put me in the mind of action movies - they are super fast paced and theres always something happening!  She keeps me on the edge of my seat, wondering what could possibly happen next that these poor characters may or may not survive.  Those statements are definitely true of this one, as well!  Im also very excited that this is the first book in a new series and cant wait to find out whos book is next (I think I know, hopefully)!
This new series is Secret Service Agentsand I was curious at the premise of one being undercover and coming across his previous protectee, a former presidents daughter.  I have to be honest, I thought the Secret Services sole responsibility was protecting the president and dignitaries, so I was interested to learn of the other ways they work to protect the US.  I appreciated the details the author included that added depth and layers, both to the investigation and to Conners character.  Speaking of which: the characters are always my favorite part and the reason I keep reading any book, and these were excellent!  I enjoyed getting to know Kayla and seeing the strength of character so ingrained in her.  She is stubborn, brave, determined, but also has the sense to allow Conner and the other agents to protect her when needed.  Conner shares most of those attributes, but the last one.  He doesnt see himself as needing protection, but rather the one who has to watch over others.  I loved seeing him come to accept the help others offer.
I honestly cant think of anything I didnt enjoy about this story!  If youre looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful, on-the-edge-of-your-seat story, with a bit of romance, then I highly recommend this one!  


In case my review didn't say it loudly enough - you should read this book!  Seriously!  Well, if you love suspense.  If not, then maybe this isn't quite the book for you.  But if you love action, go for it!  And, there are always links below, if you're interested.  :)
Thanks for reading!
I hope your day is filled with sunshine!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book



Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Review: To the Farthest Shores


"I sometimes find that Americans treat apologies too carelessly, which gives them permission to drag out old offenses when convenient.  That should never happen once a apology is accepted.  The offense is in the past.  The rift is mended.  It will not be brought up again."  - Ryan Gallagher

Description:
It has been six years since army nurse Jenny Bennett's heart was broken by a dashing naval officer. Now Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher has abruptly reappeared in her life at the Presidio army base but refuses to discuss the inexplicable behavior that destroyed their happiness.

Ryan is in an impossible situation. One of the few men in the world qualified to carry out a daring assignment, he accepted a government mission overseas that caused his reputation to be destroyed and broke the heart of the only woman he ever loved. Honor bound never to reveal where he had been during those six years, he can't tell Jenny the truth or it will endanger an ongoing mission and put thousands of lives at risk.

Although Ryan thinks he may have finally found a solution, he can't pull it off on his own. Loyalty to her country compels Jenny to help, but she never could have imagined the intrigue she and Ryan will have to face or the lengths to which they will have to go to succeed.

About the Author:
Elizabeth Camden is a research librarian at a small college in central Florida. Her novels have won the coveted RITA and Christy Awards. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband near Orlando, Florida.
She regularly posts about the joys of the book world at http://elizabethcamden.com/blog
  



My Review: 4 stars
I always look forward to reading Ms. Camden’s books and this one is no exception!  Her characters are always so unique and I love how her stories manage to both entertain and teach me.  Prior to stumbling across her books, I doubt I would’ve read about opium addiction, or watchmakers in Chicago, or magazine illustrators, or librarians for the Library of Congress, or tuberculosis studies, or pearl farming, or the other curious things she writes about.  And I love that!  I love the adventures I find between the covers.  It’s almost always something unexpected, but that completely works.  This story drew me in from chapter one and rarely slowed!  I just had to know how everything would work out!
As always, Ms. Camden’s writing was excellent!  Her details and descriptions, and the amount of research I’m sure went into this story make it so authentic.  I loved the bit of mystique surround Ryan and his past, and fell in love with sweet Lily.  There aren’t many heroes whose main trait is kindness, but that seemed to be Ryan’s.  He is so kind, but there’s an inner strength and moral compass that guides everything he does.  I confess that I struggled a bit with Jenny’s character at first.  She isn’t exactly the most lovable lady, especially in her interactions with Ryan, though I couldn’t really blame her, either.  One of my favorite things was seeing the relationship between them change and slowly grow, as Jenny learned how to truly forgive.
My only negative comment is that I felt the suspense moments were thrown in rather haphazardly and the story would’ve been fine without them.  They didn’t really drive the story much and seemed more afterthoughts.  And I do love a good suspense novel, but this one was great as just a romance.  So ignoring those, I really enjoyed this book and getting to spend time with some unique characters and their equally quirky friends.

My thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for my complimentary copy of this book!  I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Once again, thank you for stopping by!  I hope you feel your time has been well spent! 
Now, I have a question for you:  do you agree with the quote at the top of the page?  Because it really hit my heart and I'm curious as to whether anyone else feels the same.
As always, links are below!
Have a great (hopefully) spring day!









Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My Review: The Elusive Miss Ellison


Description:
Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.


That's the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister's daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won't take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia's pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother--who stole the most important person in Livvie's world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he's just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there's already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn't the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society's opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.


About the Author: Carolyn Miller


Im an Inspirational Regency romance author who lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wale, Australia with my husband and four children.  I love reading (especially Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer), music, films, gardens, art, travel, and food.  I really enjoy creating worlds where flawed people can grow in faith, hope, and love.



My Review: 3.5 stars
I’m going to be honest: I’m not typically a huge fan of Regency novels, though I do enjoy them on occasion and have a couple particular authors whose books I always snatch up and devour.  That being said, I was intrigued by this book - the title, cover, and I love checking out debut authors, so I decided to give it a go.  And while it wasn’t a favorite, I did enjoy it.  The characters were interesting and it is most definitely a Regency novel.  Ms. Miller did an excellent job of making it period correct and it’s obvious she studied her craft and made sure the wording and behaviors would be accurate.  Despite these things, I think this book simply falls into the category of “just not my cup of tea.”
As mentioned, the writing is excellent, but it didn’t capture my attention as quickly as I had hoped.  I struggled, at first, to connect with the characters and found them a bit annoying.  But as the story progressed, I slowly found myself liking them more and cheering them on in the end.  It definitely helped to see them grow through the story and become better versions of themselves.  One of my favorite things about this story was how the author didn’t have them change overnight, but showed them struggling to hold their tongue, or let go of their pride, or not react in the same old manner.  It was a great reminder that we’re all a work in progress.  I know some may dub this book “preachy” because of that very aspect, but I loved the scripture references and spiritual discussions (Lavinia is a rector’s daughter, after all) and seeing Nicholas gradually find peace for his past.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Regency romance that challenges the heart.

My thanks to the author and Kregel Publishing for my complimentary copy of this book!  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   


Again, I thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my blog!  Your time spent here is much appreciated!
I made the comment that this book simply wasn't my "cup of tea" - have you read a book that you couldn't explain why, but it just wasn't your favorite?  Or is that just me?

I hope your day is wonderful!


Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book


Sunday, March 12, 2017

My Review: The Illusionist's Apprentice


". . . a hero doesn't always have to slay a dragon to save the day. . . . Sometimes he just walks through the fire alongside you, and that's enough."  - Wren Lockhart

Description:

Boston, 1926. Jenny "Wren" Lockhart is a bold eccentric--even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman's dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini's death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini's ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he's known as one of her teacher's greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton's defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren's carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her.


About the Author:
Kristy Cambron has a background in art and design, but she fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, was named to Library Journal's Best Books of 2014 and nominated for RT Book Reviews' Choice Awards Best Inspirational Novel of 2014 and for the 2015 INSPY Awards for Best Debut Novel. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal's Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction) for February 2015 and a Top Pick for RT Book Reviews. Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three young sons. 
Website: KristyCambron.com  Twitter: @KCambronAuthor  Facebook: Kristy-Cambron

My Review: 4 stars
Despite the many wonderful things I’ve heard about Kristy Cambron’s books, this is the first of hers that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  There were several things about this book that intrigued me and I couldn’t resist giving it a go.  The first to catch my attention was definitely the cover, then when I discovered it was a mystery set during the 1920s, I was hooked.  I didn’t have much in the way of expectations, except the general ideas I have for any new books, but I can happily say that it did meet those and I’m looking forward to reading more of Ms. Cambron’s books.
I haven’t read many books set during the Roaring 20s and I was very excited to jump into a different time.  Though I don’t know much about this time in history, the author did an excellent job of drawing me into the story and making it seem as though I was right there with Wren and Elliot, searching out the mystery and questioning what’s real and what’s just a clever illusion.  I loved Ms. Cambron’s writing style and how it drew me into the story.  Her words are almost poetic at times, with unique descriptions that perfectly fit the period.  I do confess that it took me a couple chapters to really get into the story, but once I did, I didn’t want to put it down!  I was curious about the mystery and anxious to learn how a man rose from the dead, only to keel over again moments later.  Thinking back over the story now, I am wondering how accurate the portrayal of the FBI’s investigative methods is in this story.  Granted, they didn’t have the copious amounts of modern technology that we have now, but it seemed odd that they pulled Wren in to help before they had much of anything to go on.  Though that may have been common place, given how different everything would have been from our present television shows.  Much of the story focused on Wren, her history and the person she became because of her past, while somehow also pulling the mystery along with it.
Wren Lockhart was a character that I struggled with for a while.  She’s not particularly nice, or kind, or personable.  Instead, she’s aloof, withdrawn, sarcastic, and defensive.  Not traits that are overly endearing.  But it was the glimpses of the broken person behind the mask that kept me from giving up on her.  And after learning more about her past, my heart softened toward her.  I could completely relate with Elliot Matthews, though, and his frustration with Wren’s relentless determination to be entirely independent.  I’m sure it would embarrass him to hear it, but Elliot is such a sweet guy and definitely hero material.  I loved how he continually tried to look beyond Wren’s defensive walls and see the hurting lady underneath.
Overall, this was a good story.  Would I read it again?  Maybe.  Now that I know what’s going on and don’t feel as though I have to rush to the end to find out “whodunit.”  I enjoyed the unique mystery and setting and am looking forward to finding Ms. Cambron’s previous books and diving into them.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my advanced copy of this book!  I was not required to write a review and have not been compensated for it in any way.  All opinions expressed are my own. 


Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and read my review!  I'm learning to be marginally less long-winded, so that's a good thing, right?  I'm a work in progress.  :)
If you'd like to learn more about this book, there are, of course, links below.

Oh!  And I do have to just mention one last time how incredibly beautiful this book cover is!  The designers seriously did an amazing job!  A blogisphere ovation for them!  I don't know who they are, or if they even read reviews, but yay for people with that talent!  It's awesome!

I hope you find the "lovely" in this day.










My thoughts: Not For a Moment



I don’t often post things of a more personal nature, but I thought maybe someone else needed to hear this, too.  My life has been crazy lately (though isn’t it always?).  Work, family, friends . . .  Life.  And I’ve been struggling with some health problems for a while that have been not only a physical issue, but also a mental/emotional one.  Sometimes I don’t handle things well.  I mess up.  I get angry and frustrated and I just want to feel better.  I want things to be easier.  And then I feel guilty, because I know there are so many who have heavier loads than I.  And it seems every time I turn on the radio, I hear great songs that remind me God is still God in the midst of my circumstance and songs that remind me He’s got it and I can just be still.  And I love these songs!  They’re some of my favorites, but some days, that’s not what I need to hear.  
I was driving home last night and heard a song titled “Not For A Moment” by Meredith Andrews.  I’d heard it before, but it was like hearing it for the first time again.  It held a whole new meaning for me.  The full lyrics are below, and you can listen to here  if you so desire, but the bridge says:

“And every step, every breath You are there.
Every tear, every cry, every prayer
In my heart, at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it’s hard
You will never leave me!”

I’ve had quite a bit of the “at my worst” and “when my world falls down.”  And He’s been there for all of it.  When even I don’t want to be around myself, He’s been there.  He’s never left me in my questions, in the rubble of my doubt, in the mess of ugly crying, in the darkness of fear.  The Bible says: “For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  (Deut. 31:6b NTL)
He’s never forsaken me.  Despite the times I may feel alone and the questions that won’t stop pelting me with doubt.  “Not for a moment” has He forsaken me.  I’m not forgotten, I’m not abandoned, or alone.  He’s here with me, in this season, in this struggle, in this moment.  And in all of the moments to come.    

Father, thank You that You are a God who keeps His word.  Thank You for walking with me through every moment of this life, the painful ones, and the joy-filled ones.  Thank You for never leaving me, despite the times I push You away or wonder if You're even listening.  Thank You for knowing exactly what I needed to hear and sending reminders of what I should already know, but sometimes lose sight of.  Help me to keep Your Word close at heart and to find my rest in Your arms.  Amen

Lyrics: (copied from KLOVE)
You were reaching through the storm
Walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me

CHORUS
After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

You were singing in the dark
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me

Chorus

And every step every breath You are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my heart at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it's hard
You will never leave me
After all

Chorus

Not for a moment will You forsake me