Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Review: Dubiosity

I saw someone comment that they didn't care for this cover, but I actually really like it.  It has a mysterious feel, which is fitting; the colors are very natural and it catches my eye.  I also love the title, because it is very accurate and unique.  So many books seem to have similar titles right now, so this one really stands out. :)

Savannah Harris vowed to leave behind her old life as an intrepid investigative reporter. But when a friend raises suspicions about two migrant workers who’ve gone missing from the sleepy coastal town Savannah calls home, her curiosity spikes.

As ever more eerie incidents begin afflicting the area, each works to draw Savannah out of her seclusion and raise the stakes—for both Savannah and the surrounding community. Even as Savannah’s new boarder, Clive Miller, makes her feel things she thought long forgotten, she suspects he’s hiding something too, and he’s not the only one. Doubts collide in Savannah’s mind: Who can she really trust?

As secrets emerge and danger closes in, Savannah must choose between faith and uncertainty. One wrong decision might spell the end…not just for her, but for everyone around her.

Will she unravel the mystery in time, or will doubt get the best of her?

About the Author:
USA Today calls Christy Barritt’s writing “scary, funny, passionate, and quirky.” Her mystery and romantic suspense novels have sold half a million copies, won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Suspense and Mystery, and were twice nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Christy was born in Virginia and, while she has been writing since she was very young, she’s also sung at local coffeehouses and was a newspaper journalist for ten years. Her husband is a children’s pastor, and together they have two adorably handsome sons. Christy is most well known for her Love Inspired Suspense novels, as well as her Squeaky Clean Mystery series. She currently has more than two dozen books published.
(Description from Amazon [italics mine], cover photo from the author's site, and about the author from NetGalley.  No infringement intended.)

My Review: 3.5 stars
Interesting mystery, if a little long.
I’m a big fan of Christy Barritt’s, so when I saw she had a new book coming out I was pretty excited. She always draws me into a story and brings the characters and mystery to life. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this one as much as her previous books.
Ms. Barritt does an excellent job of bringing the town of Cape Thomas, and the quirky characters therein, to life. Her descriptions are great, as always, and you can tell she has either visited the area, or done extensive research. I was captured by the imagery of the very first page and felt as though I was actually there. I could almost feel the heroine’s pain, imagined standing beside the villain (which was a little creepy, I’ll admit). I loved it. But, unfortunately, I began to lose interest after a while. 

One of the things I love about Christy’s writing is her ability to stump me and keep me guessing the identity of the villain. But it just became annoying in this story. There are so many possible suspects and motives that I found myself getting frustrated. I wanted the story to progress a bit faster than it actually was, I think. The mystery was very interesting, don’t get me wrong, but I got tired of all the questions and secrets. I just wanted to get to the end and find out “whodunit.”     

I did love the heroine, Savannah Harris. She is very realistic and I connected with her quickly. The very first sentence from her point of view grabbed my heart, “Solitary. Definition: to exist alone I wanted to cry for her, her pain is that palpable. I loved getting to know her and understanding why she was alone and hurting so much. After a terrible tragedy, she walked away from God, claiming He is just a myth. She has become almost a hermit, until strange things begin happening and she is pulled out of her self-imposed isolation. I enjoyed following her as she slowly came back to life and began really living again.

Clive Miller is the hero and a very interesting character. He actually seemed a little bit like a background character at first. The story mainly revolved around Savannah and her search for answers until about a third of the way through the book. So we didn’t really get to know him until later. He is a mystery, as well. We know he’s living off the grid, though we don’t know why. We also know someone may be looking for him, though again, no reason why. I found this to be rather exasperating after a while. I did appreciate the little pieces of information we are given throughout, but I didn’t enjoy waiting until close to the end to find out most of the answers.

Clive and Savannah’s romance was sweet and I really enjoyed it. It kind of has that sigh factor to it. They are both widowed, so they are wary of moving too quickly, especially since neither one has left the past behind, yet. Through the whole story I was rooting for them, hoping everything would work out okay. Of course you know it will, unless you’re reading something like a Nicholas Sparks novel.

I also really liked the spiritual side of the story. While it isn’t overly prominent, there is still a fair amount woven in. Savannah and Clive have questions, though there is a big difference between them. Clive is looking to God, while Savannah looks everywhere but God for answers. I enjoyed their journey as they both found answers, though not without a lot of struggling, especially in Savannah’s case.
Overall, I did like this book a lot. The mystery was interesting, if drawn out, and I fell in love with the characters. I recommend this book if you enjoy mysteries and sweet romance.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley 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 any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
*Note: The quotation is from an advanced copy and may appear differently in the final edition. No infringement intended. 

Thank you so much for coming by and reading my review!  I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear any thoughts you have.  So, please comment! 
If you're interested in checking out the book some more, maybe purchasing a copy for yourself, here are a couple links.  I happened to have noticed that the Kindle edition is currently on sale for $3.99.  Just so you know. ;)


Barnes & Noble

Hope you're having a lovely day!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Review: Always On My Mind

I just love the covers for this series!  Tyndale has really outdone themselves on all of them, thus far!  I love her smile - it makes me smile back and wonder what he said to make her laugh. :)
After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.

Heartbroken, especially when he discovers the identity of the baby’s father, Casper tables his dreams and determines to be dependable for once, helping his older brother, Darek, prepare the family resort for its grand reopening. Casper longs to be the hero of at least one family story, but a never-ending Deep Haven winter and costly repairs threaten their efforts—and the future of the resort.

Worse, one of Casper’s new jobs constantly brings him into contact with Raina, whom he can’t seem to forget. A tentative friendship begins to heal fresh wounds, but can they possibly overcome past mistakes and current choices to discover a future together?

About the Author:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.
A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.
She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. You can find her online at www.susanmaywarren.com.
(Description [italics mine] and cover photo from Christian Book.  Author bio and photo from her website.  No infringement intended.)
My Review: 5 stars
Excellent story, compelling truth. Always on My Mind is the forth full-length novel in Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series. The series follows the siblings of the Christiansen Family as they find and flourish in love. I have adored all of the books in the series and can honestly say that I don’t have a favorite. Mrs. Warren does an excellent job with each and every one. She brings the stories and characters to life with vivid descriptions and details that make it seem as though you are actually there. I love how the stories continue through each book, the siblings constantly stepping into and out of each other’s lives. This allows us to follow the characters from the previous books and keep up with their lives.
I also love how real the characters are. Raina Beaumont has made many mistakes in her life, not the least of which being getting involved with Owen Christiansen, Casper’s rogue of a brother. Raina is so broken and alone because of this. She feels unwanted by everyone, including God. She believes that no one could ever truly love her, if they knew her past. She is beautiful in her vulnerability and brokenness. But she also has an inner strength, an ability to rise above all that life has thrown at her. I loved this bit of a contradiction, because it emphasized both facets of her personality. I was almost in tears at one point, because of how deeply I had been drawn into Raina’s story, how easily I could feel her heart on the matter. That is when you know an author is wonderful at what they do - when they can draw you into a story so completely that you mourn when the characters mourn and rejoice when they do.
I also loved Casper Christiansen. He is a great hero and Susan could not have chosen a better match for Raina. He is kind, loving, forgiving, passionate, gentle, giving, and so many other things. I loved him when I was first introduced to him in Take a Chance on Me. He is the brother that no one really takes seriously, because of his treasure hunting. But he is everyone’s champion. He is always there for them when they need him and he doesn’t back down from the hard things. I loved his heart for Raina. Even though she has hurt him in the past, he can’t help but love her. One of my favorite parts of the whole story is when he turns his love into prayers for her. He knows that she desires space, so he gives it to her and constantly prays that she’d find what she was looking for.
I also really enjoyed their relationship. Because they had a history that neither was able to overcome immediately, they started out as something short of enemies. They mostly kept their distance from each other, but then later found the strength to become friends. I loved watching them progress from being friends, to something more, even though neither of them wanted to admit what they felt for the other. Both were shy of being hurt again, or hurting someone again. They also had their past between them, keeping them apart.
I think my favorite thing of the entire book was the spiritual depth. Susan does such a wonderful job of highlighting God and faith in the story, without overwhelming us with it, or making it seem “preachy.” I loved seeing the spiritual growth in Raina and Casper, as they both learned about the Lord. I already mentioned that Raina believed God didn’t care a wit about her. So her struggle is to believe that He actually does love her just the way she is, mistakes and all. Casper must learn what it means to love unconditionally, as the Lord loves and is challenged by the call to be a light to the world. I enjoyed the progression throughout the story. They didn’t stay in one specific place from beginning to end, but rather the focus shifted as they learned and moved on to another area of growth. There were so many quotes that I wrote down, thinking to use them for my review, but I just have too many and can‘t pick one. Susan touched my heart in so many ways and really challenged me with several things. I enjoy reading a book that entertains me, but I love a story that draws my focus to the Lord, stretches my faith, and points out something I’ve been missing. This book does all of those things.
I can honestly say that I don’t have any complaints or things I didn’t care for in this book. It is beautifully written from beginning to end. It drew me in and didn’t let me go until long after the last page was read. The wisdom found in the midst of the story was wonderful! The ending was satisfying as well as leaving us with a bit of a cliffhanger that leads into the next story, which I am now very excited to read. So, I am very happily giving this book 5 stars and highly recommend it and the rest of the series.
I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the publisher, through The Christian Manifesto 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 coming by and taking the time to read my review!  You're probably shocked at how much shorter this one is, than my most recent ones! ;-)
If you're interested in checking out this book, or maybe the other ones in the series (I highly recommend those, too), here are some links to get you started.
Oh, and before I forget, this review is also featured on The Christian Manifesto , if you'd like to check that out, too (the link sends you to the home page). :)
I hope you're having a lovely day!


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sunday devotional: Psalm 139:23-24

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path to everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24, NLT
(Be forewarned, this is almost nothing like my usual devotional.  This is mostly my ramblings.  Sorry.)

When you read these verses, they may seem a little innocuous at first. Just a simple prayer, something to say and maybe seem a little more religious. I was actually instructed to use this as a prayer when I was a child. But it’s so much more than that. Look at them again. Read them aloud. What do you see now? I see and hear “vulnerability.” Asking God to search my heart? No, thank you. It’s dark. It’s ugly. It’s rebellious. I don’t want God to see that. I want Him to see the pretty façade I wear to church and out in public, not the messed up parts of me. I don’t want Him to test my thoughts, because sometimes, they aren’t very nice. After all these thoughts ran through my mind, something struck me. God already knows. It sounds so simple, but it kind of hit me upside the head. These verses, they just make me a willing participant because I’m asking God to search me, to point out the ugliness I may not have noticed before. God definitely doesn’t need my permission to know me, He’s seen my heart from the very beginning. Scary thought, right? Then I was reminded of this verse: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 God doesn’t look at our sins and count us out. He sees them and continues to call us, “beloved.” How amazing is that?! With God, we don’t have to hide or pretend. There are no walls, no façades, no faking. There is amazing freedom in the knowledge that you don’t have to be something you’re not for God. He knows exactly who you are and He adores you any way.

As for me? I’m not sure I’m ready to use this as a prayer just yet. But I’m working on being vulnerable and with His help, I’m sure I’ll get there eventually (I’m good with later, but I’m sure He would prefer sooner).

Father, thank You for the realizations You brought to my mind while I was pondering these verses. I ask that they would touch someone and encourage them. Please teach us Your ways and show us how to tear away the façades and masks that keep us from fully knowing You. Help us to be vulnerable before You and give us willing hearts. Amen.



Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Review: Brentwood's Ward

Okay, who doesn't love this cover?  Because I do, and if you don't, then I'm not entirely sure I want to know.  You may just keep that information to yourself and nod quietly in that I-don't-really-agree-with-you kind of way, okay?  Now that we've gotten that out of the way, on to the book. :)

Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge.

About the author:
Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones while rambling around a castle. Michelle is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and MCWG (Minnesota Christian Writers Guild). Keep up with her adventures at her blog "Writer off the Leash" or visit michellegriep.com

(Description, cover photo, and about the author copied from Christian Book.  Author photo from her website.  No infringement intended.)

My Review: 4 stars
Great book from a new-to-me author!
Brentwood’s Ward is the first book by Michelle Griep I’ve read and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I am happy to say that it was great and I will now be searching for her previous books!

I loved Michelle’s writing, which has a somewhat poetic feel to it. The conversations never felt stilted or forced, but rather flowed smoothly from page to page. I was immediately transported to London, without ever leaving my home (which is a little disappointing, because I would have loved to visit in person, ya know?), so vivid were the details and descriptions. I would look up from the book and be a little surprised that I wasn’t on a cobblestone street with Brentwood and Emily. I could almost hear the English accents, smell the fish at the docks, and hear the gowns at the ball swishing across the floor.
I also really enjoyed learning the history behind the Bow Street Runners and the early law in London. It is very obvious that Ms. Griep put a lot of time and research into making this story feel as real as possible and she definitely succeeded! 

Emily Payne is an interesting heroine. I didn’t love her immediately, but rather the further I read, the more I fell in love with her. When we first meet her she is prideful, conniving, a bit of a brat. I did find myself getting a bit annoyed with her, until I better understood her motives. I can sympathize a bit with Brentwood’s frustration in that aspect. But the more I got to know her, the more I realized that it was simply a front, a reaction to how she was raised. I really enjoyed watching her grow and begin to care more for others than herself.

Nicholas Brentwood, on the other hand, has learned pretty well the art of being selfless. He even accepts a less than desirable job in order to better care for his ill sister. I loved him from the start, for his selfless ways, but also because who doesn’t love a tall, dark, handsome, and brooding man? He is the knight in somewhat tarnished armor that women love. He is also quite stubborn and very astute. I loved the story from his point of view, because of the details and descriptions you don’t normally read in a regency novel. There is little he misses and following his observations was fascinating for me. I really appreciated that Michelle didn’t just tell us what he saw, but allowed us to draw our own conclusions, then explained what he had deduced.

Their relationship was definitely interesting. Emily and Brentwood are both very strong willed and therefore are often at odds with each other. I enjoyed their verbal sparring and arguments. They certainly keep one another on their toes and had me laughing more than once. I loved following them as they first became something akin to friends, then something more. There are a couple passionate kisses, for those who may be wondering how sedate the romance is, but for me the romance was much more than that. It was them getting to know one another and loving them for who they were. They without a doubt fit the “iron sharpening iron” category.

The faith aspect isn’t huge or overwhelming in this story, but is rather gracefully woven throughout. Brentwood prays often and truly believes in God, even though he carries guilt from his perceived failures. Emily on the other hand, knows of God, but thinks He cares about as much as her earthly father. I loved watching her realize how much God loved her and that she isn’t alone. A favorite quote of mine is this: No one escapes this life without scars . . . Not even God.”   Nicholas Brentwood Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection so clearly shown in two sentences. It also reminds me that God understands everything we face. He knows our scars and mourns them with us.

If you picked up this book looking for a mystery, you may be a bit disappointed. While the suspense had me on the edge of my seat, there actually isn’t much to the mystery. There is no guessing whodunit, or anything like that. It is more Brentwood following the clues and figuring things out along the way. I’m sorry, if that deters you from reading the book, because the suspense was excellent!
I highly recommend this book if you enjoy regency romance full of suspense and great characters!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley 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 any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
*Quotation used with permission from the author. No infringement intended.

Thank you so much for coming by my blog!  I hope you enjoyed the review and will come again!  Oh, and just so you know, I love comments, so please leave me one!
If you're interested in checking out the book further, or perhaps purchasing a copy, here are a few links to get you started.

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book

Thanks again!  I hope you're having a lovely day!


Monday, January 5, 2015

My Review: Exiles

As my first time reading a book by this author and only my second foray into Fantasy, I have to say that this book really surprised me.  I now have another author to watch for! :) 


For daring to trust their Creator, Araine and Nikaros are swept from their homes into a foreign land…slaves to their enemies.

Araine Khalome of ToronSea follows the goddess Atea. But Araine secretly questions Atea’s power as a goddess. Wrestling with her spiritual doubts, Araine finds old scrolls containing verses that come alive, beckoning her soul. Within those words, Araine senses the presence of the Infinite, the despised Most Ancient God, enemy to all Ateans, and she’s captivated—secretly risking her life to read the Books of the Infinite.

You are forever in My sight…

Betrayed and condemned, Araine is swept away to the kingdom of Belaal, where she is swiftly apprehended and marked as a slave. Caught up in the lethal political and religious struggles within Balaal, Araine joins forces with another slave, Nikaros, a hostage and exiled son of an Eosyth Lord. As they fight to survive the antagonistic royal court, Nik and Araine soon realize that they must also protect the despotic god-king who has enslaved them.

But the god-king, Bel-Tygeon, has plans of his own.

Child of Dust, are you My servant?

About the Author:
R.J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals featured in publications such as Women's Devotional Bible and Seasons of a Woman's Heart. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons. The Books of the Infinite series marks her debut in the fantasy genre.

My Review: 4 stars
Surprised - in a good wayExiles is the first book in R. J. Larson’s new series, Realms of the Infinite. It connects with her first trilogy, Books of the Infinite. This is the first book I’ve read by her and only my second foray into the Fantasy genre and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I enjoyed it very much and will definitely be looking forward to the next book by Ms. Larson!

Araine Khalome is one of the main characters and I quickly fell in love with her! She has been raised to worship a goddess, but desires more than the deity gives. She wants to know she is heard, that she matters. So when she discovers some scrolls of a god known as the Infinite, she is quickly drawn in. This God says He loves her, that she is precious and beautiful. His words call to her and even though she knows it is punishable by death, she can’t help but love the Infinite. I really enjoyed getting to know Araine and follow her through her story. Her path isn’t an easy one by any means, but she still decides to follow her Lord. Araine is very realistic in her reactions and how she deals with everything that goes on around her. When she decides to follow the Infinite and obey Him, she counts the cost before taking that step. It is not a blind leap of faith, but she can’t imagine going through life without Him. I was able to easily relate to her questions and uncertainty. I must confess to being a bit jealous of her, because I wish my “Infinite” spoke as openly and clearly to me.

Nikaros of Eosyth is another main character that I really enjoyed getting to know. He is a slave, a captive of the king Bel-Tygeon. He struggles to accept his lowered status as a slave and adjust to palace life. He is strong, a warrior, and it shows in much of what he does. He is also trained as a scribe and that also shows in his careful words and self control. He truly cares for many of the people he encounters and does his best to do right in the Infinite’s sight.

This story is very loosely based on the book of Daniel and in several ways I can see the comparisons. In others, Ms. Larson made it her own and took it places I would not have guessed or imagined. Followers of her books will enjoy seeing Ela and Kien again, as well as finding out more of what happens to them. Ela is something of a mentor to Araine for a short time and she helps her to understand more of what it means to follow the Infinite.

As someone who has read little fantasy, there were a couple things that confused me a bit at first and I’m sure would have made more sense has I read Ms. Larson’s previous books. I would recommend them solely based on this story and plan to read them myself once I have the time.

One thing that did bother me a bit was the descriptions. While Ms. Larson does bring the main “stages” to life, such as the palace, gardens, and in the beginning, ToronSea, we know little of the rest of the Realm. This bothered me as it made the world seem somewhat flat. I wasn’t as drawn in as I would have liked. Also, we are often told what characters are wearing and the details there became rather repetitive after a while. I’m hopeful that as the series proceeds Ms. Larson will show us more of the kingdom and the world she’s created.

Whether you’re looking for a new genre to try, or are already a fantasy lover, I highly recommend this book! It will challenge your faith and leave you wondering what comes next for Araine and Nikaros.
I received a complementary copy of this book through The Book Club Network 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 any way. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thank you so much for coming by and reading my review!  I hope you enjoyed it!  This book is currently only available in Ebook format, as far as I can tell.  If you'd like to look into it some more, here is the link for Amazon.