Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Review: Petticoat Detective

Pinkerton detective Jennifer Layne is no stranger to undercover work. But posing as a lady companion named Amy at Miss Lillian’s Parlor House and Boots is a first for her. She’s finally landed a high-profile case and is on the trail of the notorious Gunnysack Bandit, when one of Miss Lillian’s girls essential to her investigation meets an untimely demise. Only a handful of people are in the house at the time of her death, including handsome Tom Colton, a former Texas Ranger determined to clear his brother’s name. Amy has many reasons to suspect Tom of murder—and one very personal reason to hope that she’s wrong about him.

About the Author:
Bestselling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than thirty novels. Her books have won numerous awards, including Readers’ Choice and Award of Excellence. She’s a former Romance Writers of America RITA finalist and has written for a TV soap. Happily married to her real-life hero, Margaret and her husband have three grown children and live in Southern California.
(Description, cover photo, and about the author copied from Christian Book.  No infringement intended.)

My Review: 3 stars
It was okay.
Petticoat Detective is the first book in Margaret Brownley’s new Undercover Ladies series. I have really enjoyed Ms. Brownley’s previous books and was really looking forward to reading this one. I found that I enjoyed it, though not as much as some of her past books.
Margaret does an excellent job with the details and descriptions, and I could easily picture the characters and the town. The historical details were also great and I really enjoyed learning more about the Pinkerton Detective Agency. I did find the random details about the Pinkertons a smidge annoying once in a while. It almost seemed as though the author had found all of these interesting facts and felt compelled to throw as many of them into the story as possible, whether they fit or not.
Jennifer Layne is the heroine of this story, though we know her better as Amy, a lady of the night. She is in Kansas attempting to catch the notorious Gunnysack Bandit. I really liked Jennifer, though I didn’t connect with her very well. I appreciated her heart for the women she was living with and her desire to do the right thing not matter the costs. She has mistakes in her past that haunt her and she uses her job as a way to redeem them, I think. I liked seeing her character change and grow throughout the story, as she went from just doing her job, to finally understanding the ladies she lived with and forming real friendships with them. 
Tom Colton is an interesting character and hero, though I wished we knew more about him. The book is mostly Jennifer’s story, though he does get a chance to share from his point of view every now and then. He is an ex-Texas Ranger turned rancher, looking to find the truth about his brother. He was a fairly flat character in my mind, which frustrated me at times. While Jennifer is fully rounded and we know her quite well, it seemed Tom was overlooked with everything that was going on. Also, for a Texas Ranger, he was a pretty poor detective, letting Jennifer do all of the work. I did enjoy their relationship. I liked that it slowly grew and changed throughout the story, making the romance very believable.
While I enjoyed the spiritual aspect and how involved it was, it also became very overwhelming at times. It seemed to weigh down the storyline until I was struggling to remember where we were with the mystery. I appreciate the important points Margaret was trying to get across, things like redemption, trust, God’s will, and a couple others, but I quickly became annoyed with it. I found myself skipping over parts of it, wanting to move on with the story. It overshadowed the storyline so much that I had a hard time following it. 
I did enjoy the mystery and the fact that Margaret had me well and truly stumped. There were just too many suspects for me to guess correctly “whodunit.” I would never had figured out who it was, so that was very interesting for me. I also liked the humor that was mixed throughout and had me laughing aloud a few times. 
Another thing that bothered me was the number of secondary characters. Margaret did her best to create a whole town for this book and I really appreciate her effort, but I found myself getting lost so many times. I couldn’t remember who everyone was or how they fit. I finally reached the point where I just didn’t care any longer. She did include a little reminder for most of them, but it was still very difficult for me to keep up. I wish there had been a few less characters, so that I could have known the more important ones better.
Overall, I did enjoy this book. The humor was fun, the mystery compelling, and the characters interesting. I would recommend it for someone looking for a historical mystery set in the Old West.

Please note, I was reading an advanced copy and my opinions are based on that. The final edition may be very different.

I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book from NetGalley for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
I would like to say that I am truly sorry I didn't enjoy this book more.  I do hope that it appears different in the final edition, because I believe many people will love it.
Thank you so much for coming by my blog!  I hope you will stop in again!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Review: Hawk

May I just say how much I love this cover?  Because in my opinion, it's awesome!  The best part to me is that the guy on it is military.  I love that Barbour was able to do that with each of the Quiet Professionals books.  (deep breath)  Okay, I'm good now. :)


Raptor's communications expert, Staff Sergeant Brian "Hawk" Bledsoe is struggling with his inner demons, leaving him on the verge of an "other than honorable" discharge. Plagued with corrupted intel, Raptor team continues to track down the terrorist playing chess with their lives. Afghan pilot Fekiria Haidary is devastated when a systems glitch on her aircraft forces a weapons launch on a safe target. And when the deadly bombing separates Brian from the team, he must make an impossible choice: save his brothers-in-arms, or save the woman and children depending on him to survive a brutal snowstorm.

About the Author:
Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-plus years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with their four children, a Maltese Menace, and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia. Author and speaker, Ronie loves engaging readers through her Rapid-Fire Fiction. Ronie can be found at, on Facebook (, Twitter (@roniekendig), and Goodreads (
(Description, about the author, and cover photo all copied from Christian Book.  No infringement intended.)

My Review: 4.5 stars
What happens next?!
Hawk is the second book in Ronie Kendig’s The Quiet Professionals series. I was very excited to read this one after finishing Raptor 6 and am happy to say that it was great!
As always, Ronie does an excellent job with descriptions and details. I love how her books pull me into the story and keep me on the edge of my seat. Her writing is so bold and unapologetic in its honesty. She doesn’t pull many punches and gives what I believe is a fairly accurate look into the life of our soldiers. She does, of course, take certain liberties for the sake of the story and to protect the same people she writes about, but it is still very eye-opening to read one of her books. 
While the story started out a little slow for me, with a lot of details and back story to catch up on, Ronie quickly captivated me. Her talents really shine in this series There are several different view points that build this incredibly complex storyline. I have to confess that one of my favorite ones to read is one of the villains’. The “voice,” which is very dry and sarcastic, is written so that it sounds as though he is talking to the reader. He has his own narration going on and I could picture him perfectly.  
This book picks up shortly after the first one left off, which was interesting. I actually wish I had waited to read them all at once, because they tie so closely together. I think this may be the most interconnected series Ronie has written to date. Some of her books I would say could stand alone, but this series doesn’t contain one. Reading them in order is highly recommended if you want to be able to keep up with everything that is going on. I also find it interesting how she manages to bring in characters from her previous books and tie them so smoothly. I love that her books are almost a continuous series where the characters step into and out of each one. 
Fekiria Haidary is one of the main characters and I have to admit that I didn’t like her very much at first. She seemed very self-centered and didn’t appear to care for anyone but herself. But, as I got to know her, I realized how much of that was to keep from being hurt again. She has fought her entire life to prove her worth and strength, and she has so many questions. We met Fekiria in the first book, but she was very much a background character. I loved getting to know her beyond the hard wall she has built. She became very real to me as I learned more about her and began to understand what motivated her and made her who she is. I also loved watching her grow throughout the story and begin to lose some of the weight she had been carrying around.
Brian “Hawk” Bledsoe is the lose cannon of the Raptor team. He has a temper and doesn’t follow orders well. At least, not when he believes he knows better. We got to know him a bit in Raptor 6, but there were still so many things to discover about him. I loved the layers in his character. He is so much more than the labels people had tried to place on him. He is a man of honor, even though his team doesn’t seem to always see it. He is also strong, kind, very sarcastic and blunt. He doesn’t hold anything back, whether fighting to protect his team, or giving his opinion. He is passionate about the things he believes in. He claims the title of Christian, even though for a while his life didn’t show that. He has so many questions, almost as many as Fekiria, and only begins to grasp some of their answers at the end of this book. I’m looking forward to seeing him continue to grow in Falcon.
I also really enjoyed Brian and Fekiria’s relationship. They start out as just short of enemies, what with Fekiria’s disdain and borderline hatred for Americans. They also both have such strong personalities that an explosion or two is to be expected. I liked following them as they figured out how to work together and slowly become friends, then maybe something more. I appreciated how they challenge each other and push one another to do their best. 
I always love the spiritual side of Ronie’s stories. She does a wonderful job of incorporating Biblical views and values into the storyline, without overwhelming the reader or having it seem unrealistic. Fekiria and Brian both have questions and neither is entirely sure what they believe. How do you trust in Someone you can’t see? Who seems so removed from the here and now? These are honest, real questions that people ask every day. Ronie does answer them to some degree, but she never deviates from the plot to “preach” to the reader. I also enjoyed the bits of wisdom throughout. There were several times when I would stop and just think about a sentence or two that struck my heart.  
I have to confess, I was pretty irritated with Ronie when I reached the last page - I didn’t want it to end! Also, she leaves us with a pretty major cliffhanger, which made me wish I could grab Falcon now and find out what happens next! Waiting is definitely not my strong suit when it comes to any of Ronie’s books!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys military fiction, suspense, or just a great book with realistic characters and a great storyline.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in anyway. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my review!  I hope you enjoyed it!  
If you're interested in looking into the book further, or perhaps purchasing a copy, here are a few links to help you out.


Barnes & Noble

Christian Book 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sunday Devotional: Beyond His Reach?

“I’ve been the one to believe
that where I am
You cannot reach.”
-MercyMe, You Are I Am
Have you ever believed this? Have you ever thought that you were too far for God to reach you? I think almost every Christian has. I know I have. Which, when you think about it, seems a little arrogant. God of the Universe, Creator of everything, and you’re too far away for Him to reach you? How does that work? What could you have possibly done that He wouldn’t be able to reach you?
Anyway, have you ever noticed that even when you think that, there is some small part of you that seriously hopes you’re wrong? Because without that hope, you have nothing. If you’re too far gone for even God to care, the God who allowed His own Son to be brutally murdered for you, then what’s left? Pretty much everyone has heard Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [NIV]
I find it interesting that Paul starts with death and life, in that order. Death seems to us the ultimate separation, but according to Paul, even that cannot keeps up from Him. So if none of those things are able to pull us away from the Lord, then why do we seem to think that anything we could ever do would make Him cast us aside?
I read this quote from Amy Grant a couple years ago and it has stuck with me: “God is never more than an arm’s length away because that’s as far as we can push . . . Thankfully, He is always there within our reach!” Read that line in bold again. “. . . He is always there within our reach.” None of the things Paul listed can remove us from Him, but we can. We can push Him away and He won’t force us to come back. That isn’t the kind of God He is. He wants followers who are willing to give their all and love Him with everything they have.  
So if you are feeling distant from God, I pray that you will remember that you are never outside His reach.
Lord, please forgive us for our arrogance and help us to see that You are always there. You will never leave us. You will never abandon us to our own devices and we are never so far as to be beyond Your reach. Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Interview with Dawn Crandall

Dawn Crandall (author of The Everstone Chronicles series) very graciously allowed me to interview her for my first Q&A here!  I'm so excited!  She is such a wonderful lady and it's been my pleasure to review her books and get to know her a bit!  

To start off, a few questions about you:
Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Dawn: I am an introvert, and I love to be alone. However, when I’m around friends or family, or I’m really excited about something I become more extroverted than normal.

What are three “fun” or “unique” things about you?
Dawn: I have ADD.
I’m a lot older than I look.
I’m pretty boring.

If you weren’t a writer, what would your dream job be?
Dawn: I’d be a stay-at-home mom-which I am as well, at the moment.

Describe yourself in one word.
Dawn: Scatter-brained.

I heard that you have a 7 month old baby (very belated congratulations, by the way!) - I can’t imagine trying to keep up with home life, taking care of a baby, and writing! How do you manage to juggle everything?
Dawn: Before I got pregnant, my life was so very different! I used to take two or so full days a week and write all day long. When I got pregnant, I had a very difficult time staying awake, let alone trying to remember what I was writing about. Since my son was born seven months ago, I’ve been trying to figure out my new normal. I was already used to taking care of a baby from when I was a nanny, but writing while having a baby at home is such a difficult task! Writing used to be my absolute favorite thing to do - and now I have two favorite things: writing books and playing with my baby. I keep my notebook around at all times to pre-write my chapters into, and I usually write them out on my iPhone.

Your new book The Bound Heart just released, so of course, we have to talk about that!  (In case you missed my review, you can find it here.)

Describe The Bound Heart with 5 adjectives
Dawn: Redemptive, Emotional, Steamy, Heart-moving, Complex
As someone who has read the book, I have to agree with all of those!

Please share a little bit about your novel and the main characters (pictures are great).
Dawn: One accidental kiss. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt’s world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn’t have the time or the desire to fall for her friend Lawry Hampton. However, with Vance out of the country and Lawry constantly at her side, Meredyth can’t help but wonder if what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeeem herself from their unfortunate past.

When Vance comes home to stake his claim on Meredyth, will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she’d convinced she deserves? Or will she find the strength to accept that God’s plan for her life could include redemption . . . and quite possibly the love of her best-friend?

Jessica Chastain as Meredyth
Armie Hammer as Lawry
Henry Cavill as Vance

The covers of your books are simply lovely! Did you help with the design?
Dawn: I emailed the graphic designer at Whitaker House a ton of photos I’d collected over the years of my characters, the settings and the houses involved in the stories. The first time I saw the covers, they were as they are currently. They were simply perfect. 

What do you hope your readers will take away from The Bound Heart?
Dawn: I know many Christians see other Christians they know as non-struggling, perfect people with perfect lives. But every single one of us is struggling through things that we need God’s help in overcoming. Meredyth believed a huge misconception about God’s love and grace. Not everyone has such a “big” heart-issue to deal with, but dealing with them - whatever they are - is usually complicated. Even when it seems the worst possible things are happening, and that we’ve come to the end of our wits trying to unbury ourselves out of the mire, God is still working, still offering us grace and His perfect love. He is digging too - and He won’t stop trying to dig us out of our self-produced mire. Ever.
I love that!  I may "steal" some of that for a future post - just so you know. 
What responses to your novels have affected you the most and why?
Dawn: I really LOVE to read my reviews! Every reader latches on to something different in my novels, and it thrills me to no end to learn what they specifically got out of them. There is so much complexity to writing a 90K word novel that takes a character from where she is and what she’s like at the beginning of a book and transforming her, stage by stage throughout the pages into who God wants her to be. I think readers love to see this. I certainly love to write it. Creating a character’s inner/spiritual journey and seeing their transformation by the end of the novel is my favorite part of writing books.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
Dawn: I really hate how long it takes to form the story and then get it out (I’m not a fast writer). My favorite thing is having the finished, complete story in my hands!

I know The Captive Imposter, the third book in The Everstone Chronicles series, is set to release in February 2015. Do you have plans for any more books, yet?
Dawn: I have lots of book ideas on the back burner. As soon as all this craziness of releasing my debut series - three full length books in six months! - is over, I’m going to write up a bunch of proposals for my agent to start pitching to publishers. I’d really love to continue writing stories about some of the other characters introduced in these first three books!
Wow!  I have no idea how you've managed to keep up with everything!  I've just recently witnessed how much promoting you're doing for The Bound Heart so I can definitely concur with the craziness.  I think most readers assume that once the book is released you are able to start on your next one, but that is so not the standard.  I can't wait to see what you come up with next, but hopefully after you've had a chance to take a break!
What are some ways we can support and encourage you, both personally and as an author?
Dawn: I really love to hear from readers! Writing is a very lonely job. Unlike “normal” jobs where you get job evaluations every once in a while writers don’t really get that. We get, “Produce more! When’s the next book coming out?” it’s kind of crazy - and I love that readers adore the stories that I’ve written, and my writing even - but it takes a reader a few days to read and enjoy what I spent a year producing. Think about putting that kind of timeframe in any other kind of job or industry . . .it’s enough to drive a writer bonkers at times! I really like hearing encouragement; that readers really liked my words and the stories I made up. I know from experience that I’ve assumed my favorite authors KNOW that they’re awesome, that their writing is the best thing since sliced bread and all that - but really, because of the way this while publishing books thing works, it feels more like we’re not doing nearly enough when we’re doing all we can.
I definitely assume that my favorite authors know they're awesome and I try not to bug them with messages.  Hmm . . .  Any authors that read this, be forewarned that Dawn just gave me a free pass to drive y'all nuts with Facebook messages and emails! LOL  Don't worry, I'm kidding (mostly).
Thank you so much for joining me (us) Dawn!  And for letting me pester you with questions!  :)
If you'd like to follow Dawn online, you can find her on:
About Dawn:
A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming published, he let her quit her job in 2010 in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.
Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a premarriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter.
The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to be become a finalist in 2013.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Devotional: Bring the Rain

“Bring me joy.
Bring me peace.
Bring the chance to be free.
Bring me anything that brings You glory.
And I know they’ll be days when this life brings me pain,
but if that’s what it takes to praise You,
Jesus bring the rain.” 
- Bring the Rain by MercyMe
I was listening to this and singing along (if you'd like to listen to it, you can here), and it just kind of hit me. Is this really my prayer? The first three lines of this are easy to pray. They don’t require anything from me. But after that, it gets hard. It stops being about me, about what I feel or believe. It’s then about the Lord, about what brings Him glory and praise. Do I praise Him in the good times? Sure, of course. But when life is easy and I’m not straining or struggling, I can start to lose focus. I become very me centered and I stop relying on Him. But when the rain comes, when I’m faced with something I can’t easily conquer, I turn back to Him. I fall on my knees and humble myself before Him, apologizing for my neglect and asking for a second chance. Thankfully, He always gives both forgiveness and another chance. But will I honestly pray for this? Will I ask Him to bring the hard times, the rain, if it means He gets the praise and glory? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have a tendency to avoid the hard things in life. If there’s a way around it, I will gladly take it. But that’s not what this song is about and it’s certainly not what faith is about. If Paul, Peter, John, or any of the church leaders from years past had taken the easy road, Christianity wouldn’t be where it is today, in fact, it may not even exist, except that they continued to press on and gave all of the glory to the Lord. The same can also be said of Jesus. Dying on a cross was definitely not the easy path, but He still did it. He didn’t say, “no, this is too hard.” Instead He willingly stepped forward and followed the will of his Father.
So, am I ready to say, “Jesus, bring the rain”? Nope, not even close. I still prefer the uncomplicated way, but unfortunately (or maybe it’s actually a good thing), neither God nor this life wait for you to be ready. If they did, then I’d probably be in the same place my whole life. But “ready” and “willing” are two very different things. All God desires is a willing heart. I expect I’ll figure out the rest as I go.
Lord, please be with us this week. Give us willing hearts, and open eyes and ears to follow the path You have before us. And if that path takes us through a storm, then I ask that You would get the glory and praise throughout. Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Review: Surprised By Love, plus giveaway!

You know I have to gush about the cover, right?  I just can't resist!  I love this cover - it's my favorite of the books in this series.  The colors are gorgeous and I just adore that hat!  Her expression is also very fitting, she looks elegant, but also ready to take on whatever comes at her.  Okay, I'm good now. :)

She can turn the head of the man who spurned her - but can she turn his heart?

When Megan McClare left San Francisco to study in Paris, no one would accuse her of being poised and pretty.  But on the other side of the Atlantic, this wallflower blossomed into a beauty with big dreams.  When she returns to California and accepts an internship at the district attorney's office, she's thrilled that her life is taking shape.  But the excited opportunity quickly loses its glow when she discovers she'll be working alongside Devin Caldwell, who mercilessly mocked her at school - and with whom she was hopelessly enamored.
Bram Hughes is the best friend to whom Megan has always turned for support and advice.  But when she seeks his counsel about working with Devin Caldwell, Bram's vision is clouded by his sudden unwelcome attraction to a girl he had always thought of as a little sister.  He advises forgiveness, but can he forgive himself for pushing the woman he loves into the arms of another man?

About the Author:
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston series, the Winders of Change series, and The Heart of San Francisco series.  The recipient of seventeen Romance Writers of America and other awards, Lessman was chosen as the #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2011 and 2012 Readers' Choice Awards.  She resides in Missouri with her family.  Learn more at
(Cover photo from Goodreads.  Description [italics mine] and about the author copied from the back cover.  All rights reserved.)

My Review: 5 stars

I didn’t want it to end!
Surprised by Love is the third book in Julie Lessman’s The Heart of San Francisco series. I loved the first two in this series, so I was extremely excited to read this one. I was positive that Ms. Lessman couldn’t possibly top Dare to Love Again, which is the second book in this series, but she did! I have no idea how, but her books just keep getting better!
The descriptions and details were wonderful, as always. I loved the little known historical facts she threw in here and there, which were very interesting, without detracting from the flow of the story. I was engrossed from page one and didn’t want to put it down. The characters were fascinating and Julie’s writing was fabulous, as expected. Honestly, she could probably write a textbook on some very boring-to-me topic and I’d think it was great. There were several times when it was almost poetic and touched my heart very deeply. Julie has yet to disappoint me and I doubt she will, until she quits writing.
Megan McClare is the “middle” McClare child. We’ve met her in past books and she was always very shy and rather awkward. She had glasses and braces, and was not the thinnest person ever. When she returns home from spending her senior year of school in Paris, no one recognizes her. She grew and changed in many ways. Aside from outward appearance, her aspirations have also undergone a change. I had adored Meg from the first moment we met her, but I truly fell in love with her in this book. She is so sweet and caring, careful of the feelings of others, and always looking out for everyone. She still struggles with self-esteem issues and being confident in who she has become, even though she is no longer the awkward young lady she was before. I loved this quote that is used a couple times throughout the story. “True confidence blooms in the soil of a relationship with God, in following His path rather than one’s own, pursuing His truth rather than the world’s.” - Mrs. Rousseau, page 369 I enjoyed watching Megan grow throughout the story and discover the truth behind this quote.
Abraham “Bram” Hughes is the hero in this story. We know him rather well from Love At Any Cost, the first book in the series. He is the most serious on of the “Three Musketeers,” as the guys call themselves. He is the one most of them turn to for Godly advice and counsel. He is also Meg’s best friend. He is steadfast, strong, committed, kind, loving, handsome, and many other things. I particularly loved his kindness and compassion toward Meg. He is her anchor and has been for most of her life. But, he’s always seen her as a little sister, so when she returns and he suddenly doesn’t see her that way anymore, it confuses things. He struggles with how to still treat her the same and what to do with his unwanted feelings. I loved how realistic he is, especially in his struggles, not just with attraction, but also with his past mistakes. He is weighed down by guilt, but feels he deserves it, so he makes no effort to escape. I enjoyed his journey, as he found love and freedom, in rather unexpected places.
When I first found out this was to be Meg and Bram’s book, I couldn’t figure out how on earth that was going to work out. I was afraid it might be awkward or weird, but it actually made perfect sense the further I read. Who better to fall in love with, than your best friend? I found their romance very sweet and loved following their relationship as they fought to find their footing and adjust to all of the changes in their friendship. Then there was also the on-going relationship between Caitlyn and Logan. I was very excited to see where that would go and also get to know them better. I actually enjoyed the fact that Julie stretched it out through all three books, as it is somewhat secondary and I believe she needed all three to bring it to a comfortable conclusion. Their romance has been on-again-off-again as they struggle through years of history between them, lies, and fears. I’ve loved the progression throughout each story and the anticipation of wondering where they would go from here. I did almost pitch the book somewhere at one point, because I was just so mad at them. I’m glad I didn’t, though, because the ending was so sigh-worthy.
As much as I adore the characters, the relationships, and everything else about Julie’s books, I have to say that my favorite part is always the spiritual journey the characters go on. I love reading Julie’s books because I know I will always be challenged and encouraged in my faith. I love how the theme isn’t the same throughout the story, but rather it changes and progresses as the characters grow. A couple of the main themes that kind of carry on are forgiveness, and giving your plans and dreams to the Lord. I have already mentioned that Bram struggles with guilt, so forgiveness is a big deal for him. He believes he is redeemed and accepted by God, but still feels he must make restitution. This quote just struck me, “. . . he knew in God’s eyes in no one else’s, he was a man redeemed by a humble carpenter from Nazareth who had given His all. A man who had lain His life down so Bram could be free.” - Bram Hughes, page 351 Julie is very talented at taking something that often seems so simple and giving it new meaning. 
As for the other part, Meg, Logan, and Caitlyn all must learn to trust the Lord’s plans and to give their desires to Him. I really appreciated how she handles this subject and the others. She portrays them with honesty. They are extremely difficult and she shows them as such. The characters struggle with them, they fall down, they get upset, but they also get back up again. We are always left with the hope that even when they fail, they can be redeemed.
As a general rule I hate reading the last book in a series and this one is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful, which is part of the problem. I dreaded the end of this book, because I knew it meant saying “goodbye.” I’ve had three books to fall in love with the McClares and letting them go in the space of just a few pages didn’t seem like enough. One thing is for sure, I will be “visiting” the characters and these books again and again.
I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a compelling story with realistic characters that will challenge and encourage you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in anyway. All opinions expressed are my own.
*Please note, all quotations used with permission from the author. No infringement intended.

I know most of you probably skimmed over my review (and I don't blame you, seeing as how it is really long) to find out what's up with the giveaway.  I actually ended up with two copies of this book and rather than being a hoarder (which was my first idea), I thought I would share one with one of my readers.  The giveaway will be open until Wednesday, November 19th.  To be entered, please answer one of the questions below and leave your email address.  You must leave your email to be included in the drawing.  You may gain extra entries by following this blog (options are on the right hand side of the screen) and sharing my giveaway on social media.  If you do either of these, please be sure to let me know!
Everything clear as mud?  Good.  :)

Have you read any of Julie's books?  If so, which one is your favorite and why?

If you could have coffee (or your drink of choice) with Julie, what is one question you'd like to ask her?

Why do you think people enjoy historical fiction so much?

Oh, before I forget!  In case there is someone who would rather not wait around for the giveaway, here are a few links so you can check out this awesome book in more depth and maybe purchase a copy.  Thank you so much for stopping by!  I hope you will visit again!


Christian Book

Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Face Me Blog Tour - Dare to Show Your Beauty

I’ve been thinking and praying about what to write for this blog post ever since Jaime came up with the idea and guess what I have. That’s right. I still have a whole lot of nothing. Oh, I’ve written down ideas - they all got crossed out. So, if you’re feeling brave, then please continue reading. I honestly have no clue where this post is going to go, or if it’s even going to make sense. I’m just hoping and praying that God is able to use something from what is probably going to be a conglomeration of my thoughts, to encourage or inspire you.

Here is a makeup free picture of me.  I actually took it Sunday morning, before getting ready for church - that should explain the semi-sleepy expression and half smile.

I’ve struggled a lot with self-image issues, as I’m pretty sure most women do at some point. It’s nothing new. Even in historical times women struggled with comparing themselves to others. The only difference now is that the images are right there, bombarding young girls and women almost constantly. In our high-tech world the fashion industry is able to influence so many more people at once. And if you pay attention to what the ads say you’ll soon realize that, according to the world’s standards, you can never be “good enough.” There will always be some new product to hide this, thin that, etc. It isn’t overt, but it’s right there. Just when you think you’ve reached that elusive “perfection” something else comes along and you’re right back to striving once again.
The theme verse for this blog tour is Psalm 139:14, which says “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV) I’ve heard this verse over and over in my life, well-meaning folks doing their best to encourage me to see myself the way God does. Which is so much easier said than done. Until I read something (and I honestly have no idea where I read it) that has stuck with me. Someone pointed out that the Bible says we are each created by God. Every one of us is unique in our own way, there are no two alike, right? So if God created us, then when we complain about our appearance or some other facet of ourselves, we’re telling God He made a mistake. That He did something wrong. How could that be, if God is perfect? How could He essentially create junk? It isn’t possible. He made each of us to be exactly who we are, with our looks, personalities, quirks and all. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” because of Who made us. Not because of anything we can do, or anything we can achieve. When we look at a priceless work of art, we don’t applaud the piece, as though it made itself, but rather we praise the maker of it. One other thing about art, is that it actually isn’t perfect. I’m told that if you look closely at a painting, or a piece of pottery, or something, you will notice tiny flaws, things the artist either didn’t notice or chose to leave as is. This is because as human beings, we’re flawed. We are unable to create something that is “perfect,” because we are not. Unlike us, God creates perfect things. There are no tiny flaws or things overlooked. We are truly His perfect, priceless, one-of-a-kind masterpieces.
Thank you so much for coming by my blog and joining us on our tour!  I hope this mess made some sort of sense. :)  For the next stop on the tour, be sure to select this link to head over to Emilie's blog.  I'll also include the list of all participating blogs at the bottom, in case you missed one.
Now, for your part of this tour.  We would love it if you would share a makeup-free photo of yourself on social media and dare to show your God given beauty!  If you do this, be sure to use the #FACEme.
Thanks again for stopping by!  If you don't take anything else away from this post, I pray that you will remember that you are beautiful and precious and loved and enough in God's eyes.

Participating blogs:


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 119:105 & Matthew 5:14,16

"The thing about light is that is doesn’t come from us. It’s God in us that provides the light to the world. So if you want to be a light to her, you’d better make sure that light is shining in you first." - Darek Christiansen, Always On My Mind by Susan May Warren.
(Please note, this quote is taken from an ARC and may appear different in the final edition.)

I read this quote and it just stuck with me. With work and coming in contact with so many people on a daily basis, I’ve been struggling with how to be a light to them.  "How do I show them Him?" has been my question for weeks now.  I looked up the word "light" in the Bible, because it is used several times in the quote, and it seemed as good a place as any to start.
Here are a couple verses I found:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” - Psalm 119:105

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” - Matthew 5:14

So, we have what sounds like two examples of light here.  God's and ours.   But according to the quote, it’s all God’s. It’s God that lights our way and He puts the light in us. We can’t take any credit for it, because the light doesn’t come from us. When Jesus said we are to be “the light of the world,” He also said that it is so the Lord would be praised (Matthew 5:16, paraphrased).

Have you ever been in the dark for a while? When the light is turned on, you tend flinch away from it until your eyes have time to adjust. It is uncomfortable.  I think the same is true for unbelievers.   They have been living in a spiritual darkness and when they first experience God’s light in any form, it’s uncomfortable, so they have a tendency to keep their distance.  But the thing about light is that it draws us, like a moth to a flame, to be cliche. But God’s light, unlike that flame, doesn’t devour us. Instead, it consumes and refines us, to make us more like Him.

So, how do we make sure that God’s light is shining in us? I know it sounds simplistic, but the answer I’ve found is to spend time with Him. When we pray, study His Word, take time to really listen and just be still, we become more like Him and His light naturally shines through us.

Father, please continue to guide me throughout the coming days and help me to be a light to a world lost in darkness.  Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Review: The Gift-Wrapped Bride

Sophie Stewart’s family has just moved to Chicago to join her brother and help start a church.  Sophie is an artist with big dreams, but she feels her parents are pushing her to marry someone like Noah Jackson, a young man from their Ohio hometown.  But forgiving the past and recognizing Noah’s maturity and changes may take a miracle.

About the Author:
Maureen Lang writes stories inspired by a love of history and romance.  An avid reader herself, she's figured out a way to write the stories she feels like reading.  Maureen's Inspirationals have earned various writing distinctions including the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest, a Holt Medallion, and the Selah Award, as well as being a finalist for the RITA, Christy, and Carol Awards.  In addition to investigating various eras in history (such as Victorian England, First World War, and America's Gilded Age), Maureen loves taking research trips to get a feel for the settings of her novels.  She lives in the Chicago area with her family and has been blessed to be the primary caregiver to her adult disabled son.
(Cover photo and description from Christian Book.  Author bio copied from book.  No infringement intended.)

My Review: 2 stars
Didn’t care for it.
The Gift Wrapped Bride is the fourth book in Barbour Publishing’s The 12 Brides of Christmas series. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy it much past chapter two. I found the story intriguing when it opened, but quickly lost interest. Ms. Lang did a very good job with the descriptions and details, but the story itself just fell flat. I was unable to connect with the characters and there wasn’t really anything to hold my attention.
Sophie Stewart is one of the main characters and I really wanted to like her, but she seemed so childish. The entire story she denies Noah even the slightest chance, because of all of the pranks he played on her during school. Even though she hasn’t seen him in five years and it is quite evident that he’s changed, she refuses to accept that he isn’t the same annoying boy as when he left. I don’t understand how she could hold such a grudge about something so minor as a few harmless pranks. She ignores him, is rude, refuses to accept his help, and definitely will not allow his courting her.
Noah Jackson is the hero and I felt so bad for him. The way Sophie treats him is terrible and he just keeps coming back, determined to show her the change in him. He is very sweet and kind to her, always looking out for her best interests. I had really hoped for his sake, that he would move on and find someone else. 
I expected this to be a sweet romance, but honestly, there wasn’t any romance at all until the last few pages. I have no idea how the characters managed to “fall in love,” because they spent very little page time talking. Sophie did her best to be Noah’s enemy throughout the story, so I’m not quite sure how she had such a startling turn around right at the end. It seemed quite unbelievable that she would suddenly love him, even after realizing that he isn’t the villain she had painted him as being.
The only reason I’m giving this book two stars is because of the spiritual element. The subject was on forgiveness and the Lord’s ability to change people when they come to Him. I really appreciated the importance Ms. Lang put on this and how she used the characters’ actions and reactions to illustrate the point.
I’m truly sorry that I didn’t enjoy this novella. I had high hopes for it, but it sadly fell short of them. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sunday devotional: Psalm 34:8

“Taste and see that the Lord is good . . . “ - Psalm 34:8

I don’t know why but this verse has been on my mind a lot lately. I looked it up and one of the meanings of taste is “to experience.” Experience in turn means “knowledge from observation.” Have you ever experienced God for yourself? Have you been in His presence? Have you felt His peace, His arms wrapped around you? If you have, I guarantee that you will remember it. Experiencing God in any way is not something easily forgotten. Even if you move away from Him, whether intentionally or not, you will find that a part of you longs for what you’ve lost. A relationship with Someone who knows you fully and loves you still.

Many people don’t experience the Lord for themselves. They attempt to rely on others to tell them what it’s like. But if you pay attention, you’ll notice that those are the people who are easily discouraged, who walk away as soon as life becomes difficult. They don’t know God, they only know about Him. That is why David, the writer of this psalm, was encouraging his people to “taste and see.” He knew that in order for them to stand firm in faith, they had to have a personal relationship with God. He knew that his faith wasn’t enough to carry the nation, that they had to believe for themselves, that they had to be praying and seeking the Lord along with him. Otherwise, they would be quickly defeated by doubt, fear, and the multitude of other things the enemy would throw at them.

Lord, please help us to experience You in a new way this week. May we go beyond simply knowing things about You, to actually knowing You and having a personal relationship with You. Amen.