Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Review: A Love Like Ours


Another gorgeous cover from Bethany House!  All of Becky's books are beautiful!  I love that this one follows the same theme as the previous books in the series, making it obvious they tie-in.  I can't wait to see the cover of Dru's book!

Description:
Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

 

About the Author:
Becky makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three children. She's the Carol Award and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award winning author of contemporary Christian romances, My Stubborn Heart, Undeniably Yours, Meant to Be Mine, and A Love Like Ours.
 
 
My Review: 5 stars
Caution: This book may cause sleep deprivation!
There are so many things I could say about this book! I could tell you how I loved every minute of it, or how the characters tumbled off the pages and straight into my heart, or how I wanted to cry for Jake, or how a year is way too long for me to wait for the next one . . . Many, many things I could say and I probably will end up saying before I’m finished. In case the 5 stars didn’t clue you in, I adored this book! After reading Becky’s very first book, My Stubborn Heart, I’ve been a huge fan. She has not disappointed me yet and I can’t see that she will until she stops writing.
Her writing as always, was wonderful! I was drawn in from the first page and often had to remind myself that I wasn’t in Holley, Texas. I love the descriptions that bring every scene to life. There are just enough to give a good basis, but not enough to overwhelm. The story never once lagged for me and I saw midnight more than once, wanting to find out what would happen next. I was scooping up the book at every opportunity and woe to anyone who interrupted me.
I adored the returning characters from previous books, especially Amber from Undeniably Yours. The Porter brothers have such distinct personalities that it was fun to have them all together again. I know Dru’s book will be next, so it was fun to get to meet her again, but it was also bittersweet, because hers will be the final book. I’m anxious to read it, but at the same time dreading it. I don’t want the series to end! I suppose it’s a good thing, then, that I’ll have around a year to accept the fact it will be ending.
Lyndie James was such a sweet heroine, but with a very stubborn streak, making her perfect for Jake. I fell in love with her at once! She and I are alike in many ways, though very different in just as many. She’s one of those characters that you know if they were real, they would make a wonderful friend. She challenged me more often that not, her unshakable faith in God showing me things in a different light. There are so many other things I’d love to say about her, but I’ll stop here, so I don’t give any spoilers.
Jake Porter is the kind of hero I just want to hug. Like Lyndie, my heart broke for him. There is so much pain shown on every page of his point of view. It shows Becky’s talent, that she is able to take such a difficult theme as Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder and bring it to life. Jake’s real-life pain is never glossed over, never softened in a way to give less impact or insult those who face it every day. There were a couple scenes that were uncomfortable for me, because they pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me take notice. My heart was breaking for Jake, for everyone who struggles with the disorder. I have such respect for them, now, if I didn’t before.
Jake also challenged me. He asks questions: real, heart-wrenching questions, about God, life, and living. Sometimes, they’re ones I’ve thought, but never voiced, others gave me a whole new perspective on things. I loved following his story, because there is hope. Throughout the story, he’s growing, changing, finding answers, asking new questions. I was encouraged so much through his journey.
The spiritual aspect of this book was fantastic! I generally don’t elaborate too much on this, but I have to at least a little bit here. Even though God isn’t mentioned on every page, He is there, woven throughout the story. I loved the discussions the characters had, the way Becky didn’t gloss over anything but led me on the journey with them. Trust is a huge part of it. Trusting God in the hard times. This is something that really hit home with me and a few times I had to just stop and think about some point or another. Mrs. James plays a large role in this part of the story and I really appreciated the fact that her faith stands the test of time. She is no stranger to heartache, making her the perfect person for Jake to confide in and I loved the wisdom she imparts not just to him, but to the reader as well.
There is literally nothing I didn’t like about this book. I have no nitpicking comments, nothing that bothered me. From the first page to the last, I loved it! The ending was wonderful, perfectly written to give us a “happily-ever-after,” but also show the reality that everything doesn’t become perfect because you’re in love. The romance was also excellent, with the main story, but also a side story coming into play, too. I adored the chemistry between them, which was almost palpable. It was also incredibly sweet and found myself smiling quite a bit.
I’ll stop here, because I could go on and on, but then no one would read it. One final thought, if you haven’t read any of Becky’s books yet, you are definitely missing out on some wonderful reading!
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 any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
 
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review!  I'm sorry it's so long!  I really did try to shorten it, but that obviously didn't work out so well.  I can't help blathering on about books I love.  I hope you enjoyed it, anyway! :) 
If you'd like to look into the book some more, maybe see what others are saying, here are some links to get you started. 
 
Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Christian Book



Friday, April 17, 2015

My Review: Together With You


I was first drawn to this book because I heard it was loosely based on The Sound of Music, my great-grandma's favorite film.  While I did see a couple tie-ins, I more enjoyed it for it's own merits than the similarities.

Description:

Sometimes the most unexpected love can be exactly what a heart needs...
When a Lost Child warning blares over the mall's PA system, Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that the child suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's past suddenly confronts her. Never again will she become personally involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny--and Penny's handsome father--tugs at Carly's heart.

Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to put his life back together. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan has put his faith in his Sink-or-Swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruit Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.

Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?


Known for her realistic and engaging characters, Victoria Bylin delivers an emotion-packed story reminiscent of The Sound of Music, one that reminds us all to believe in the power of faith and love.


About the Author:
Victoria Bylin writes contemporary and historical romances acclaimed for their true-to-life characters and stories. Her work has finaled in contests such as the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and the Reviewers' Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky. Visit her website at www.victoriabylin.com to find out more.


My Review: 4 stars
I’d only read one of Victoria Bylin’s books (a Love Inspired Historical) when I requested this one, so I wasn‘t sure what to expect from a contemporary novel. I found that I really enjoyed it, though it did leave me with a few mixed emotions.
Victoria does an excellent job of bringing all of the characters to life and definitely made the Tremaines realistic. I was quickly engrossed in the story and didn’t want to put it down. I’m honestly not sure what drew me in so easily, other than her writing. The plot is a little unusual, with the care of one of the children, but otherwise, we all know how it’s going to end. Despite that, I found myself turning pages late at night, wanting to know what was going to happen next. She also does a wonderful job with the descriptions, using all of our senses at different times to paint a picture of the setting.

Carly Mason is an interesting heroine and I fell in love with her quickly. She is so sweet and kind with Penny, even though it’s hard at times, and she gives her heart away so easily - I almost wanted to warn her to protect it. She is definitely realistic though, with good days and bad days, failings and fears. Though she is a Christian and believes God has forgiven her for her mistakes, she is still tied to them by her inability to forgive herself. She has doubts and questions, she doesn’t like the pat answers people have given her - I loved that about her. It made her come alive for me, because she isn’t perfect. I also loved that she stood up for what she believed, even though her faith may not have been that strong at first.

Ryan Tremaine was a harder character for me to like, perhaps because he is so real. He isn’t like your typical Christian fiction hero - he has some pretty big failings. He has addictions he battles, failures that keep him chained, and doubts that try to bring him down. He isn’t much of a prize when we first meet him, though he’s trying so hard to be worthy. I think that’s where I started to like him - when we saw behind his fa├žade to the hurting, angry, confused man he really is. He doesn’t know what to do anymore, though he wants so badly to be there for his kids. He wants to make up for past mistakes, even though he can’t. Despite his own beliefs, he still respected Carly’s - that’s where I fell in love with him. He put her first.

Now for the mixed emotions part. The romance was definitely realistic, to the point I became a little uncomfortable at times. Ryan, being an agnostic, writes the attraction off as “nature,” Carly just tries to avoid it and not become anymore involved than she already is. There are definitely sparks, some flirty comments, and Victoria shows them both struggling to control it. They have a very blunt conversation about premarital sex and where they both stand on the matter. That was a bit awkward for me, though I did appreciate seeing Carly stand her ground, despite the attraction between them. There are some thoughts they both have throughout that kind of touched that gray area of “possibly inappropriate,” for Christian fiction. On one hand, I have to applaud Ms. Bylin for staying the course and pushing me a bit out of my reading comfort zone. She wasn’t being raunchy or coarse, simply truthful. On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who is very conservative.

I also appreciated the realism of the spiritual side. Carly’s faith drives her view of relationships and life in general, but she also has doubts and questions. I rather liked how the author handled them, giving them full impact and allowing me to feel them with Carly. My only negative comment here, is that Ryan’s “conversion” was rather abrupt. It’s kind of thrown into the ending as a way to remove the final obstacle in their relationship. I would have liked there to have been a bit more build up to it, though it would have drawn the story out more, I think it would have had more of an impact. As it is, it felt rather helter-skelter.

I found the epilogue a nice edition, as it rounds out the rather abrupt ending. It is a little longer than some and neatly pulls together any lingering loose ends, while also giving us a glimpse into the characters’ future.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed this book - it was a delightful way to spend a few hours - though I don’t imagine I’ll be reading it again.

*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 any way. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thank you for once again taking the time to read my review!  I'm sorry I haven't been posting much other than reviews, lately.  My mind is just so crazy right now and I haven't taken the time to do anything else.  I'm hoping to change that soon, once I get my priorities straightened out. 

Anyway, thanks!  If you'd like to check out the book further, here are some links to get you started!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Review: Buried Secrets


I've been a big fan of Irene Hannon for a couple years now and I really enjoyed this book.  When does the next one come out, again? :)


Description:
After seven years as a Chicago homicide detective, Lisa Grant has hit a wall. Ready for a kinder, gentler life, she takes a job as a small-town police chief. But the discovery of a human skeleton by a construction crew at the edge of town taxes the resources of her department. A call for assistance brings detective Mac McGregor, an ex-Navy SEAL, to her doorstep. As they work to solve the mystery behind the unmarked grave, danger begins to shadow them. Someone doesn't want this dead person telling any tales--and will stop at nothing to make certain a life-shattering secret stays buried.



About the Author:
Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than forty-five novels, including the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, two HOLT Medallions, a Daphne du Maurier Award, two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers' Choice Award, and a National Readers' Choice Award. In addition, she is a Christy Award finalist, and Booklist included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011. She lives in Missouri. Learn more at www.irenehannon.com.




My Review: 4 stars

I’m a big fan of Irene Hannon’s, so I was super excited to be able to review Buried Secrets for Revell. This is the first book in her new series, Men of Valor, which is also set in St. Louis and the surrounding area. I really enjoyed the premise of the story, as it’s a bit different from her other books. Keeping with her style, this book is very suspenseful and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I stayed up way too late reading, then picked it right back up the next morning, determined to find out what happened next.

Irene’s books are always very well researched and the details are wonderful, too. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of another area of St. Louis and meeting new characters, while also revisiting some old friends. I love how she incorporates characters from her previous books and series, bringing them to life again and letting us see what’s become of their lives. The suspense was very engrossing, as I’ve already noted. I enjoyed the unique take on the story, as Lisa and Mac search to find answers to a cold case and work to capture the culprit. While this story is something like a typical cold case you might hear about on the news, somehow Ms. Hannon managed to bring new life to it.

One thing I noted and that actually bothered me a bit the further I read, is how perfect the characters seem. Yes, they make a couple mistakes and flub up here and there, but overall they are close to perfect. Almost to the point of being unrealistic. I did like the characters, they are very interesting and I enjoyed meeting Mac and Lisa, but I wasn’t able to really connect with them the way I had hoped. Though I can’t say much, because after giving it more thought, I realized that most of her books are this way and I still really liked them. I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more had I been better able to relate to them, but it didn‘t do much more that irritate me now and them. It certainly didn’t put me off from finishing it or anticipating the next book. I do appreciate that she is changing her style a smidge and making the mystery seem a little more realistic.

The romance was great, as expected. Irene does subtle sparks very well, along with some blatant flirting. Mac became more real to me when we’re shown him struggling to keep his thoughts in line, though they never reach inappropriate. I liked their decision to keep their relationship professional while working together, which kept the romance to the background a bit and it didn’t seem rushed or overdone.

I loved the story coming from the view point of the villain, as it upped the suspense several times and gave us another perspective on everything that was happening. I was given just enough information to keep me guessing and trying to connect the pieces. Each chapter is left to keep you wanting more and trying to solve the case right along with them.

Overall, I would say that I really enjoyed this book and will most likely be reading it again, when the next one releases. Though I am rather disgruntled that we have to wait a year for the next McGregor book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed edge-of-your-seat suspense.

*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 any way. All opinions expressed are my own.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review!  I hope you enjoyed it!
If you'd like to check into the book further, here are some links to get you started! :)

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book
 


Friday, April 10, 2015

My review: The Captive Imposter



Description:
For her own protection following the murder of her brother Will, hotel heiress Estella Everstone assumes the alias of Elle Stoneburner and takes a job as companion to an elderly widow. Never did she imagine that her position would lead her back to her beloved Everston, a picturesque resort property tucked away in the rugged mountains of Maine. Living below her station in a guise of anonymity has its struggles, but her spirits are buoyed by a newfound friendship with the hotel manager, Dexter Blakeley. And his distaste for the spoiled socialites who frequent his hotel causes her to take a close look at her own priorities and past lifestyle.

When Estella finds herself in need of help, Dexter comes to the rescue with an offer of employment she can't refuse. As the two interact and open up to each other, Estella feels a growing attraction to Dexter; and increasing discomfort over concealing her identity. Yet, in spite of the false pretense she's putting forth, she's never felt freer to be herself than in his presence. But will he still love her when he learns the truth about who she is?


About the Author:
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.




My Review: 4.5 stars
Hoping for another one!

The Captive Imposter is the final book in Dawn Crandall’s Everstone Chronicles series and I’m sad to see it end. I’ve been eagerly anticipating Estella’s book since reading The Bound Heart and was not disappointed in the least. This book may have been my favorite of the series, though I’d have to go back and read them all in order to say for certain.

I’ve come to adore Dawn’s writing. It wasn’t what I’d expected when I first picked up her books, but it is very distinctly her. I think I could read a random quote from any of her books and be able to say “that’s Dawn’s.” She once again does an excellent job of bringing the setting and characters to life! I often felt as though I was actually there with them, taking in the beauty of God’s creation with Estella and spending my days at Everston. I loved that Dawn was able to write a historical romance with little suspense and have absolutely no lag in the story. It kept me engrossed from the first page and I hated putting it down to get my work done.

I have to say, that I did get a bit confused in the beginning. There are several characters that are introduced around the same time and I struggled to keep them straight. I think it may have been easier if Estella had actually met them, but they are just mentioned in passing, then met later on. I had to keep thinking back, trying to remember who was who and how they fit into the story.

I had liked Estella Everstone from the previous books, but she really came to life for me in this one. She is a very relatable character and I connected with her almost immediately. She makes you care about her and cheer her on, though she did seem a bit spoiled at first. I loved getting into her thoughts; seeing Everstone and Dexter Blakely through her eyes. Her opinions on things sounded like something I would say and I quickly fell in love with Dexter, too. Who doesn’t love the tall, dark, and brooding hero? The one that doesn’t say much, but what he does matters immensely? Well, I do and Mr. Blakely is an excellent foil for Estella. He kept her grounded and drew her closer to her faith. Those alone would be enough for me to love him, but then he had to go and be incredibly sweet, the rescuer. That sealed it for me. It’s rare I’m jealous of a fictional character, but I confess that I was just a teensy bit envious of Estella.

The romance was great, as well! Dawn does romantic tension quite well and I could almost see the sparks between them. Their kisses were definitely sigh-worthy, the kind that were both sweet and a tad steamy. I very much enjoyed their relationship, as it progressed from awkward acquaintances, to friends, then took a sudden leap to something more. I loved the honesty between them, even though Estella wasn’t being completely honest about her identity, they shared the most important things. I also enjoyed the bluntness Dawn employs, showing us that though they love each other, it isn’t an ambiguous emotion, but rather a choice.
I really enjoyed the spiritual side of the story, too. Dexter’s words challenged me as much, if not more, than Estella. It focuses on finding who you are in Christ and just being His, without all of the trappings of life getting in the way. I needed that reminder. I love reading a book for entertainment, but it’s even better if it encourages or challenges me. I found myself often using the “highlight” option on my Kindle to mark the things I’d like to recall.

I honestly can’t think of anything else I didn’t like about this book. If I had any other complaint, it would be that this is the final book in the series, at least for now (I’m hopeful). I didn’t want it to end! I’ve fallen in love with all of the characters and definitely was not prepared to see them go. Happily, I can “visit” them as often as I like, simply by opening a book.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the author 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 taking the time to read my review!  I hope you enjoyed it!
If you'd like to check out Dawn's books so more, maybe consider downloading a copy, here is the link to Amazon.  Unfortunately, they are only available in eBook format right now.  
 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My review: From the Start

 
Isn't this cover so adorable?  I love their expressions!  It makes me smile back. :)
 
Description:
Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.


While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?



About the Author:
Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former newspaper reporter, current nonprofit grant writer, and total Iowa girl. When she's not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever. She's passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly at www.melissatagg.com.

 
 
My Review: 5 stars
Why did it have to end?!
Very few books receive a full five star rating from me, but Melissa’s books definitely rank up there with some of my favorites. She is, in my opinion, an excellent writer, and her stories seem to jump off the page and right into my heart. I was engrossed from the very first page and didn’t want to put it down! For me, this book equaled late nights and work days with too little sleep. Even when I would put it down, the characters would stay in my thoughts and I couldn’t wait to get back to them.
 
I simply adore Melissa’s writing style! Her descriptions make me smile and bring the story to life. I rarely read books that pull me in so immediately and don’t let go. I often had to remind myself that it wasn’t real and no, I couldn’t call Case and ask him a question (you‘ll understand when you read the book). I so wish I could visit Maple Valley and all of the quirky people who live there! It sounds like a wonderful place, somewhere I would love to live. This is one of those books that I raced to finish, but then I didn’t want it to end.
Kate Walker is the heroine and I fell in love with her immediately! She is so easy to relate to, what she struggles with, her questions, her fears. I also loved that she is a romance writer who is looking for something meaningful to do with her life. It is something that really hit home for me. I also enjoyed watching her grow and change throughout the story, as she becomes brave and makes the decision to step out and take chances.
 
Colton Greene is a fantastic hero! He definitely has the brooding thing going on in the beginning, but he was so strong, as well as being kind to Kate, I just had to love him! I loved following his story as he figured out how to go forward and just where he wanted to end up. Seeing him become part of the town before he even knew it, challenging Kate, learning what it meant to have family . . . (sigh) it was wonderful! And the dialogue between them! I could probably go on and on about it! They had me laughing out loud, grinning like a nut, and making the people around me question whether or not I should have been allowed out alone!
I was very ill-equipped to deal with the assault Colton, Kate, and all of the Walkers would lay on my heart! I felt like I needed some sort of forewarning, because they just stepped right into it and I’m not sure they’ll ever leave! I fell in love with every one of them, from the patriarch Case, to little sister Raegan, to Logan and Charlie, Beckett and Seth. They feel like family now and I don’t know if I can let them go. Case’s advice to Kate and Colton often felt like he was speaking directly to me. Logan is a great big brother, razzing them both, while also watching out for them. Raegan is awesome, too! She was the surprise, the one I wasn’t expecting, but she snuck right into my heart while I wasn’t watching. I can’t wait to read her story and see her finally get her “happily ever after.”

The romance was so sweet and undeniably sigh-worthy. It is definitely similar to the old movies Melissa so adores and I have a strong urge to go dig up a pile of them now! I really enjoyed the fact she was able to so seamlessly incorporate many quotes and references from them. Even when I didn’t completely understand them, they made me smile. I loved Kate and Colton’s relationship, which started out as a simple friendship then slowly became more. Knowing they would end up together in no way negated my enjoyment of following them as they discovered that for themselves.
 
The spiritual side of the story is flawlessly woven throughout. I appreciated how the story continually pointed to God without His name having to be mentioned. He was there as a main character that you may not always see, but you know is there just the same. One of the themes is one of trusting God’s leading and being willing to step out of your comfort zone. It really hit home with me and challenged me. As much as I love to laugh, I appreciate even more a story that encourages my faith. Finding both in one book is awesome!

I honestly can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book. From the writing, to the story, to the characters, to the romance, everything came together into an excellent book! I’m so excited that this is the first book in a series, because I’m so unprepared to tell Maple Valley and all of the wonderful characters there, “goodbye.” This book will definitely have a place on my keeper shelf as I eagerly await the release of the next one!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves romantic comedy with heart and characters that become like family.
*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 any way. All opinions expressed are my own.


Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read my review!  I hope you enjoyed it!  Today is actually release day for this book (yay!), so if you'd like to go check it out, maybe consider purchasing a copy, here are some links to get you started!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book

Thanks, again!  I hope you're having a fantastic day! :)


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Interview with Melissa Tagg


I am SO excited that the lovely Melissa Tagg agreed to let me pester her with questions for an interview!  As you may or may not be aware, her newest book, From the Start, releases this week and next (ebook, then paper), so the fact that she had time to answer all of my nosy questions just astounds me.  I probably would've been freaking out, trying to keep up with everything.  Who am I kidding, that's my usual day and I don't even have anything that exciting going on. LOL So, without further ado, say hi to Melissa! :)

 I love this picture, by the way!  I hope it's not weird if I say that you are beautiful, Melissa! :)

Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at www.melissatagg.com.


Let's start with some random questions about you:

Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Good question - I’ve never been able to figure out!  I really think I’m straight down the middle.  There’s a term for that: ambivert.  The first time I heard someone use it, I thought, “Finally!  I have a category!”  I love being alone and I love being in crowds.

Oh, that's a good word!  I admit to being an introvert - I love people, but after a while I just need my own space. 

What are three “fun” or “unique” things about you?
1.  I love flannel probably more than any person in the world.  Flannel pajamas, flannel sheets, flannel shirts.  I just love it.  Weird, I know!
2. I can say the alphabet backwards really quickly.  Why I need this skill, I have no idea.
3.  I’ve decided my new dream in life is to become the social media manager for my favorite band.  Not to sound cocky, but I think I’d be really good at it AND it would give me an exuse to follow them around the country.  Such a great life plan, don’t you think?

LOL sounds like a great life plan to me!  I wish that was an option for stalking, I mean following my favorite bands. 

Describe yourself in one word.
Elegant.
LOL!  Just kidding!  “Quirky” is probably more accurate.

I think "quirky" is a great word - probably because most people use it for me.  I choose to take it as "unique" or perhaps "interesting."  :)

What’s your favorite color?
It’s a toss up between blue and green.

What is the most random question someone has asked you about writing/being an author?
I don’t know if this is random, but it’s definitely the thing that makes me laugh the most:  How can you write about romance if you’re not married??
My perfect comeback: How do sci-fi writers write about space when they’re not astronauts?

LOL That is a GREAT comeback!  I wish I could see someone's face when you reply with that! 

When you have a spare moment to read, who is your go-to author(s)?
YAY I love this question!  There are probably a ridiculous number, but these are the latest author I’m obsessed with: Lori Benton, Kristy Cambron, Cathy Gohlke, and Susan Meissner.  I also adore every single thing Susan May Warren has ever written.  I've reread so many of her books so many times.

*Sigh* Now I have more books to add to my TBR list - I have a never-ending one it seems.  I do have Kristy's first book in my pile, I just haven't found the time to read it yet.  That's next on my to-do list. 

Now, I should probably find some questions about your book. :)




If you were meeting me for the first time and I had never read your books, how would you describe them and your writing style?
Probably like this: My books are like updated classic Hollywood movies - think black and white, 1940s, romance, comedy, and plenty of banter.

Okay, I would so be hooked if I didn't already love your books!  

I heard that you knew next to nothing about football prior to writing this book, so I have to ask: where did you get the inspiration for Colton Greene?
Honestly, I have no idea!  I really don’t. I don’t know what possessed me to drop a former quarterback into this story because football has never really been my thing.  However, I did love the idea of writing about a guy with a big, BIG career . . . the kind of career he could hide away in while in the public spotlight.  And when he loses that career, suddenly he’s forced out of his make believe world and has to face his past and his very empty-looking future.

Well, I adored Colton, regardless of the fact that I probably know less about football than you and Kate combined.  His story really challenged me and I loved how down-to-Earth he is. 

I loved that Kate is a romance writer and a fan of old movies, but despite those similarities, I was wondering if she’s much like you?
She’s actually very much like me . . . scarily so, in some ways.  There were moments writing this story when I had to fight the temptation to delete certain paragraphs they just felt way too vulnerable.  For instance, there’s a spot in the middle of the story where Kate’s friend tells her to stop letting her characters be braver than she is . . .to finally be brave enough to admit what she wants and go after it.

Like Kate, I sometimes have trouble admitting what I really want . . .deep down.  Oh, I can joke about the big and crazy dreams.  But those vulnerable desires don’t often make their way to the surface.  And I play things too safe sometimes, hold back from taking risks.  It’s true that my own characters are sometimes braver than I am.  So we’re very much alike in that way.

I can definitely relate with that - being brave is often the hardest thing for me to do.  It requires I step outside my comfort zone . . . I actually scribbled that quote down while I was reading, because it just struck me.  

I know most authors don’t play favorites with their books, but do you have a favorite Walker sibling?  If so, which one and why?
Oh, this is so hard.  I love them all!  I love Seth, the Walker cousin who is the main guy in the novella.  But right now, I have a pretty big crush on Logan.  He’s the oldest and I just finished writing his story and he is . . .*heart flutters* . . .wonderful.

I know!  They felt so much like family by the time I finished the book!  I'm not sure I could pick a favorite, so I don't even know why I asked yours.  Logan is awesome, though.  I can't wait for his story! 



I know you generally can’t talk about the next book so soon, but can you at least tell me who’s it is?  The suspense is killing me!!  
I can!  The next book, Like Never Before, is Logan Walker’s story.  He’s a former reporter turned political speech writer . . . .a total wordsmith kinda guy.  The heroine in that story is named Amelia. You met her just briefly in From the Start.

Ooo, I love the title!  And YAY!  That means I don't have to wait so long for Logan's book! :)

What was your favorite part of writing From the Start?  Least favorite?
My favorite part, hands-down, was writing The End.  This story was a struggle for me, so finally finishing it was . . .relieving.  But I also loooooved writing Kate and Colton’s scenes together.  I love flirty, banter-y scenes.  So the scene where they first meet, the scene in the corn crib, the one with the waterfight in the shower . . . Sigh, I loved writing those.

I remember reading a couple of your blog posts where you talked about how much trouble you were having reaching that elusive phrase.  I'm glad there were fun parts for you and I definitely loved reading those scenes - especially when they met! 

What do you hope readers will take away from your new book?
In From the Start, both Kate and Colton have a very clear picture in their heads of what their lives should look like.  And every decision they make in the first half of the book is an effort to make those pictures in their heads a reality.  But they both learn, slooowly and at times not-so-smoothly, that God might be weaving together a completely different picture.  That he uses change and circumstance, reshapes broken dreams and heals wounds . . .that he’s been there, at work, from the start.  And there’s great peace and confidence in that truth.
I think that’s a theme we can all connect with . . .because  I have a feeling no matter how wonderful our lives may look on the outside, we probably all have that pesky unfulfilled dream or that nagging voice whispering that we’re missing out or a failure we can’t seem to let go of.  And so we push back and try to make our dream come true on our own or do ALL the things so we couldn’t possibly miss out or strive and strive for success to cover up that one failure . . .we try to paint our own pictures and we get frustrated when they turn out smudged and imperfect.  And all the while, God is there, saying “Give me the paintbrush, Melissa.  Give me the paintbrush and you’ll see what a beautiful picture I can paint with your life.”  

I love this!  That is definitely a theme I can relate with and I know many other people will, too.  Following Kate and Colton as they learned to let God have the paintbrush, it felt like God was trying to get my attention with your words.  He kept bringing me back to the same theme, to the same quotes, the ones that challenged me and forced me to take a close look at myself and where I am. 

Describe From the Start with 5 adjectives.
Witty (I hope)
Romantic
Probing
Relatable
F-U-N (again, I hope!)

I agree with all of these!

I love choosing favorite quotes from the books I read!  Do YOU have a particular favorite quote in From the Start that you can share with us?
Ooh, that's hard!  I have a lot of favorite lines for different reasons.  Here's one of my favorites and I'll tell you why . . . because I remember the exact moment the lines came to me.  I was standing outside my front door after a Target run.  I'd been mulling a scene that just wasn't working out.  And as I unlocked my front door, it's like God said, "Melissa, here's why I've go you writing this book.  Because in this scene, at this time in your life, you're Kate."  Here's the quote:
Stop letting your characters be braver than you are.  Be the girl who takes a risk . . .It's okay to admit what you want.  When you do, you might finally be brave enough to go after it."

That's one of my favorite quotes!  Definitely one that challenged me.  I just sat there looking at it, like "God, are You trying to tell me something?"



What are some ways we can support and encourage you, both personally and as an author?
I'm very tempted to say "buy the book."  LOL!  But seriously, anytime I hear someone has actually gone online or out to a store and plunked down money for a story I poured my heart into, well, we're talking warm fuzzies by the boatload.
But something readers can do to encourage me personally is to simply drop me a line - whether it's via email or Facebook or Twitter or wherever, I absolutely love hearing from readers.  Knowing there's someone on the other side of a story, investing in my characters - and thus, me - it's hugely impacting.

I want to note that Melissa just gave me free reign to email/message my favorite authors!  I always feel like I'm bothering them when I do that, so I try to keep the fangirling to a minimum, but now I have an excuse.  So if any authors read this and you get messages from me - you know who to blame. ;)

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks so much for hosting me today, Sarah.  You are a treasure of a person and I've loved reading your comments on my blog and getting to know you some online.  I hope we get to meet in person someday!

Oh!  Thank you so much!  I would love to one day meet you!  Just be ready, I'd probably start crying from excitement or turn bright red because I stuck my foot in my mouth. LOL 


If you'd like to connect with Melissa, you can find her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram at: melissatagg, and for the other book addicts, Goodreads.  You can also check out her website at www.melissatagg.com.  She has a newsletter and a blog, if you'd like to keep up with what's going on with her and her writing. 

Oh!  And before I forget! Melissa's novella, Three Little Words, the prequel to From the Start is currently FREE on all ebook formats!  So, if you haven't read her books and would like to try them, this is a great way to do that, or if you already love them and don't want to wait to visit Maple Valley, here's your chance!

Sorry, I don't have the ones for other eReaders. 

Thank you for spending time here!  I hope you enjoyed the interview and will come back next week for my review of From the Start!