Monday, June 22, 2015

My Review: In Good Company

 
I love the model's expression!  She very nicely reflects what I imagined Millie's expression would look like.  Though, I do have to confess that my favorite part of this cover is definitely the back - it's gorgeous!  I really appreciate how Bethany House is focusing more on the back and making sure it's distinctive.
 
Description: 
After spending her childhood in an orphanage, Millie Longfellow is determined to become the best nanny the East Coast has ever seen.  Unfortunately, her enthusiasm for her job tends to bring about situations that have employers looking askance at her methods.  After her most recent dismissal, Millie is forced to return yet again to an employment agency.
 
Everett Mulberry has suddenly and quite unexpectedly found himself responsible for three children he barely knows.  Attempting fatherhood while also pacifying the less-than-thrilled socialite he intends to marry is made even more complicated when the children scare off every nanny he hires.  About to depart for Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, he’s desperate for competent childcare.
 
At wit’s end with both Millie and Everett, the employment agency gives them one last chance—with each other.  Everett is wary of Millie’s penchant for disaster, and she’s not entirely keen on another snobby, grumpy employer, but they’re both out of options.  As Millie falls in love with her mischievous charges and tries to stay one step ahead of them, Everett is more focused on achieving the coveted status of society’s upper echelons.  As he investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the children’s parents’ death, will it take the loss of those he loves to learn whose company he truly wants for the rest of his life?
 
 
 
About the Author:
 
Jen Turano, author of six books, is a graduate of the University of Akron with a degree in clothing and textiles. She is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her website at www.jenturano.com.

 







My Review: 5 stars
A thoroughly wonderful book!
In Good Company is the second book in Jen Turano’s, A Class of Their Own series. I’ve become a huge fan of Jen’s books, especially after absolutely adoring the first book, so I was of course, supremely excited to read this one. I can very happily say that it lived up to all of my expectations. 

I always adore Jen’s writing. Her details and descriptions are fantastic and it’s obvious that she puts a lot of time and research into each story. I love how she brings each character and setting to life. Her humor comes across on almost every page and had me chuckling or full-blown laughing several times. The story never lags or stalls. There was never a moment that I wanted to skip pages, unless it was to find out what was going to happen next! I can see Jen’s writing changing a bit with each book. Where her first series focused more on the humorous situations the characters found themselves in, as well as the mystery, these books are a bit more serious. They still focus on the characters and there is humor, but there more depth to them. She digs deeper into the shallow society of the day and where they occasionally went astray, rather than keeping the focus on humor. This is in no way a negative point for me, though I know a few of her readers may be rather disappointed. I personally love the deeper moments that give me pause and cause me to stop and think, if only for a few seconds (because I can‘t possibly put it down for longer than that). I was vaguely dismayed in the beginning of the book that the mystery was being cut back, but I have to say that the story works wonderfully as it is. So many things would have been glossed over or completely removed from the story, had Jen changed the focus. I wouldn’t wish that change, so I just took a moment to readjust my expectations.

I absolutely fell in love with Millie Longfellow! I had enjoyed meeting her in “After a Fashion” and had been anxiously anticipating her story. She is such a sweet heroine, though with a strong dose of spice thrown in. I appreciated her unconventional teaching methods and had to laugh out loud at the mischief she often found herself involved in. She is the type of character that I could see myself being great friends with. She is quirky and cute, but also has a strong backbone and doesn’t allow anyone to walk all over her. I also loved her faith. In her own quirky way, she reminded me how important it is to trust God, especially when you don’t understand what He’s doing.
 
Everett Mulberry is an excellent hero. Strong, stubborn, but with a soft spot not many see. I confess, I found him rather annoying at the start of the book, but that made falling in love even more fun. He is definitely the character I saw the most growth in and I loved watching his eyes be opened to the world around him. He is something of a snob in the beginning (not that he would admit it) and is very self centered. Then, I saw him slowly come to the realization that some things were so much more important that what society thought. He also must consider if he’s truly someone to be proud of. That journey is what sold me on him. It isn’t a sudden change, but it was the little moments, where he’s trying so hard, that made me fall in love with him.

Their romance was incredibly sweet, too! There are the usual social standings discussions and things that conspire to keep them apart, but it was never overdone. They had legitimate concerns that were handled expertly. I always tire of drawn out issues that never seem to be reconciled, but that never happens in this book, much to my relief. I loved watching them slowly fall in love, despite that they both fought it with all they had. And Abigail is such a dear, doing her best to play matchmaker, then taking all of the credit for their “happily ever after.”

As the five stars probably already informed you, I have absolutely no complaints about this book! I loved every moment of it, even those in which Everett was a bit annoying! Because there was hope for him. If readers of this book don’t take away anything else, I truly pray that they will be reminded that there is always hope, even in their darkest moments.

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! 

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Review: Sanctuary Breached



Description:
Lieutenant Sam Myerson’s latest mission goes horribly wrong when his SEAL team is betrayed and he is kidnapped. But the problem doesn’t end there—it stretches all the way to the secret witness protection town of Sanctuary…and Sam’s wife.

Beth Myerson is on a mission of her own since her parents were assassinated. Nothing feels right, and it doesn’t get better when Sam shows up determined to protect her and their unborn son. Someone has discovered her location, and they won’t stop until they get their hands on what Beth is hiding.

When the real reason Beth was sent to Sanctuary is revealed, Sam puts the pieces of the puzzle together. But the enemy is closing in.


(Side note: I'm sorry, but I really want to add something to the end of this description.  Maybe something like, "And they're running out of time" or "and the threat is closer than anyone imagined."  I don't know. Something.  It just seems like it cuts off there.  I actually thought I missed something when I copied it.  Anyway, onward and upward. :) )



 
About the Author:
A British ex-pat who grew up an hour outside of London, Lisa attended Calvary Chapel Bible College where she met her husband. He's from California, but nobody's perfect. It wasn't until her Bible College graduation that she figured out she was a writer (someone told her).
Since then she's taken the Apprentice and Journeyman writing courses with the Christian Writers Guild, and discovered a penchant for high-stakes stories of mayhem and disaster where you can find made-for-each-other love that always ends in happily ever after.

Lisa can be found in Idaho wearing either flip-flops or cowgirl boots, depending on the season. She leads worship with her husband at their local church. Together they have two children--a sparkly Little Princess and a Mini Daddy--and there's only one bunny rabbit now (sad face).


My Review: 4.5 stars
First thought: it’s over?! NO!!! (4.5 stars)
Caution: Words like “love” and “adore” and “awesome” and “amazing” will probably be overused in this review.

I should also note that I’m a huge fan of Lisa Phillips’ books, so that undoubtedly will make this a slightly biased review. I have adored all of her books, so of course, I jumped at the chance to review this one, as well. Her stories grab my attention from page one and don’t let go until long after the final page, and this one is no exception! I didn’t want to put it down and read late into the night more than once, trying to find a good stopping point. If you pick up this book let me make it easy for you - there are none! Every time I would start to put it down, something else would happen!

“Edge of your seat” doesn’t adequately describe the suspense in this story. It’s more like “fall out of your chair, did-that-really-just-happen?!” suspense. And I loved every minute of it! Lisa’s books always keep me guessing and I’m never quite sure what will happen next! She’s one of the few authors that can still make me gasp with surprise - then bust out laughing on the next page. I love the dialogue, because it’s so realistic and something I might actually say. The descriptions are excellent, without being overwhelming. There is a great balance of details, descriptions, and dialogue. The town of Sanctuary comes to life within each book and I love the new details she adds with every story.

Though this is the third book in a series, they don’t have to be read in order. There are pieces of the stories that carry over into the next book, but each can stand alone. Lisa fills in plenty of the blanks with little reminders of what happened in the last one so that it isn’t confusing. Though, I would highly recommend reading the other ones, because they were great too!

I adored the characters, too! Well, except the villain. I really just wanted someone to shoot him. But they are all so realistic and I could easily relate to them! We go through several view points throughout the book and I did find it a little difficult to keep up with at times, but on the other hand, I really enjoyed getting the story from several places and opinions. It would just take me a moment or two to switch over to the new position. I appreciated the extra information this allowed the author to incorporate and it kept me up to date with everything going on without adding umpteen conversations about it.

I was a bit surprised that Beth Myerson became a little more of a minor character toward the end of the book, but looking back over it, I understand. There are so many things going on and so many details to cover, that focusing on her would have taken away from the rest of the story. Especially since she isn’t in the middle of the action constantly, like the other characters. I did enjoy getting to know her and seeing the world through her eyes. Her thoughts add a depth to the rest of the story and give clarity to several things. We also get to see Sam through her eyes, which was great. I loved Sam. If he wasn’t fictional and already spoken for . . . . *sigh*

As already noted, I loved Sam Myerson! He is an awesome hero! He is strong and brave, but there is also a crack in his armor. His faith. He struggles to make sense of everything, on top of figuring what he believes and where to go from there. He kind of has the wounded warrior thing, but I loved how he kept chasing after Beth and striving to make their marriage work. I also appreciated his commitment to taking care of the residents of Sanctuary, as well as finishing the mission for his team.

The romance is pretty low-key, which actually works great for this book. If there had been more, I think it would have been overdone and would have taken away from the rest of the storyline. I have to give Lisa major credit for knowing where to draw the line and not following the set pattern for romantic suspense novels. Her books are always so unique in how she chooses to handle each situation with her characters. I appreciated that she stepped away from the mold to do what would be best for this particular story.

Lisa does something unique with the spiritual side of the story (big surprise there, right?), which I found I really enjoyed. Sam struggles with how to trust God in a position where he has no control, while John Mason prays almost continually because he knows only God can truly handle the situation. I loved this contrast of opinions and faith. It was interesting, seeing how each man dealt with the circumstances. Honestly, I could see myself in both of them, which was probably intentional. I want to be like John, who relies on God, while doing everything he can. But I tend to be more like Sam, who doubts and tries to do it all on his own, and when he’s at wit’s end, turns to God. While there are some other important questions of faith, this is definitely the largest part of the spiritual aspect of the story that stuck with me. It definitely made me think, which is always something I look for in a book.

Though I’ve nitpicked here and there, I have to end with saying that I did love this story, which is why the rating is up to five stars. The things that bothered me were seriously just me being picky and wanting things a smidge different. But, that’s the wonderful part of reading - authors allow you the privilege of getting to meet the amazing characters they have created. They open themselves up to criticism from readers who don’t always see things quite they do. So, while I may have changed a thing or two, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be that brave, so ignore my nitpicking and I hope you love this book as much, if not more than I did.

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.

Once again, sorry for the long winded review!  I hope you enjoyed it anyway!  Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and read my ramblings!  As usual, purchase links are below.  :)

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Monday, June 15, 2015

My Review: Love's Rescue


I really like this cover, even though it isn't historically accurate.  It's still really pretty and I love the model's dress!

Description:

When her mother dies, Elizabeth Benjamin heads home to Key West, determined to transform herself into the perfect Southern belle her parents always wished her to be. But nothing goes according to plan. Her crippled brother resents her, the servants do not obey her, and Rourke O'Malley, the dashing man she vowed to forget, refuses to relinquish his hold on her heart. Worst of all, it becomes painfully obvious that her father is not the upright man he appears to be.

As family secrets come to light, Elizabeth is faced with a difficult choice: to do her duty and abandon her dreams, or to leave her life of privilege behind to chase the man her father sees as little better than a pirate.




About the Author:                                                                       Christine Johnson is the author of several books for Steeple Hill and Love Inspired and has been twice named a finalist for Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart® award. When not writing, she loves to hike and explore God's majestic creation. These days, she and her husband, a Great Lakes ship pilot, split their time between northern Michigan and the Florida Keys. 



My Review: 3 stars
Love’s Rescue is the first book in Christine Johnson’s new, Keys of Promise series.  Having never read her books, I had no idea what to expect.  I was hoping for compelling characters, an intriguing storyline, and well-researched historical details.  Though I found all of those to some extent, my expectations weren’t exceeded, merely met.  

Christine has definitely done her research for this book and I loved the historical details.  Some might find them tedious, but I’m a detail person, so that was great for me.  Her descriptions and prose were also excellent.  I could almost smell the sea breeze and touch the tamarind tree that grew outside Elizabeth’s window.  Her depictions were so vivid and original.  For example, “Her emotions twisted and tumbled like a sheet in the wind.”  That is such an apt description, but not one I would have ever thought of using. 

I confess, I struggled to get into the story, at first.  The beginning seemed to drag on a bit and I kept finding reasons to delay reading any further.  It took until about a third of my way into the book before it really grabbed my interest.  Then I found I didn’t want to put it down.  The story actually does flow quite well, minus the beginning.  With some suspense thrown it, it sped up for a short time, then evened back out to a fairly satisfying ending.  I had needed a reason to cheer the characters on and I didn’t have one at the start, but found one later on, when their pursuits came to light.
Elizabeth Benjamin is the heroine of the story and I honestly didn’t like her very much.  She came across as spoiled and extremely selfish.  I really wanted someone to shake her and tell her to grow up!  She was supposed to be twenty in 1850, but she seemed so childish for most of the story.  She does grow throughout the story and learns to put others before herself (a large part of the moral), but I still didn’t connect with her.  Most of the story comes from her perspective and after so many pages of her self absorbed focus, I was ready to move on.  She had my apathy from the beginning and unfortunately, it never really switched to sympathy.   

Rourke O’Malley is a great hero: loving, selfless, strong, brave.  He doesn’t give up, doesn’t quit in his pursuit of loving well those around him.  There were a few times that I honestly wondered what he saw in Elizabeth.  He was everything she wasn’t.  I’m also still trying to figure out why he waited four years for her.  He supposedly fell in love with her before she left, but he barely knew her and right up to the day before her ship sailed, he had considered her a little sister.  I found that very strange and it made the romance rather awkward for me.  In return, her love was that of a besotted teenager, rather than a woman.  She wanted to be with him no matter what, but she hadn’t seen him in four years and had been mostly ignored by him in the years prior to that.  The highlight of the romance for me was when he opens her eyes to sacrificial love.  A line that is repeated several times and is the turning point for Elizabeth is, “Love does right even when it hurts.”  - Rourke O’Malley   I loved that line and the reminder of what real love is - not the sappy, happily-ever-after endings, but sacrifice.  Putting another’s needs before your own.  It also shows Christ’s love for us, His beloved.
Another overarching theme throughout the story is forgiveness.  Christine did a great job of highlighting it, without overwhelming the story.  I wish the ending would have been different, that Elizabeth had given her father the forgiveness he desired.  Though she does in an offhand way, I think it would have made a larger impact had the words been spoke in a straightforward manner.  I could be wrong, since that is simply my impression and opinion. 

Overall, this book was okay.  I’m going to be honest and say that it isn’t one I would reread.  It was good and had some important life lessons, but they were overshadowed by my dislike of the heroine.  I would recommend it to someone who is a huge fan of historical fiction and is looking for a thought provoking read. 

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

*Please note, I own no rights to the book or the quotations used within my review.  No infringement intended. 


Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review!  I hope you enjoyed it!





Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Review: A Worthy Pursuit


Description:
Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan's Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the little girl entrusted to her care after her mother's death. Charlotte promised Lily's mother she'd keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When the teacher he's after produces documentation that shows she's the little girl's legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he's been led to believe. Is Miss Atherton villain or victim? She acts more like a loving mother than an abductress, and the children in her care clearly adore her.

Then a new danger threatens, and Charlotte is forced to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone becomes determined to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he's ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte's heart.




About the Author:
Christy Award finalist and winner of both the ACFW Carol Award and HOLT Medallion, CBA bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.






My Review: 5 stars
Another for the keeper shelf!
Amazing. Superb. Fantastic. Fabulous. Her best yet. I would (and probably will) use all of these to describe Karen Witemeyer’s, A Worthy Pursuit! I had high expectations for this story, after having loved her previous books, and I can happily say that it surpassed every one of them!

A Worthy Pursuit grabbed my attention from the very first page and never let go! Even when I had to put it down for work and to sleep, the characters and story stayed in the front of my mind, prodding me back to find out what would happen next. The suspense was awesome, though it didn’t overpower the story. I loved the chase and the moments where I was on the edge of my seat, but I also loved the slower moments, where I got to meet the characters and have them scramble off the page and into my heart and mind. I was trying to read slowly, so that I would have more time with them, then I’d look up and realize I’d been reading for two hours straight and was almost late for work! 

Karen does a fantastic job with the details and bringing each setting to life. Her descriptions are almost poetic at times and paint a broad, sweeping picture, filled with bright colors and little details. Before you start to picture a copy of War and Peace, this isn’t like that. The awesome part is, she manages to do that in just a few lines, not multiple pages. So this story is much shorter than a tome and is never bogged down by the details or descriptions. The story never lagged for me and I never wanted it to hurry up. In fact, I was mourning the fact that it wasn’t longer - I didn’t want to say good-bye at the end! I need at least another book, maybe two, before I would be even close to that point.

May I also say how much I loved the characters?! I’ll try not to be too long, but they are awesome! Stone Hammond and Charlotte Atherton are such vivid, realistic characters that they immediately felt like lifetime friends. Both are flawed, but strong. They butt heads more than once, but also try to compromise and do what’s best for the children. I loved getting to know them! Stone’s strong faith is something of a counterbalance to Charlotte’s shaky trust. She’s been hurt before, so she masks everything behind a calm fa├žade. I enjoyed following her as she learned to let down her guard and be honest with others.

Stone is just like his name - strong, stubborn, steady, but with a gentleness that touched my heart. It’s a wonderful author that can create a character so real that you fall in love with them, and I did with him. I confess to being slightly jealous of Charlotte and I may need therapy now, after having to let him go. His faith is what sets him apart. He strives to live a godly life, even in the midst of the worst the world has to offer. He has a moral code that stops him from following greed or chasing after what he thought he wanted. I loved watching him put Charlotte and the kids first, even when he barely knew them.

And the romance! Whew! There are a few steamy moments, typical of Karen’s books, but as always, they are respectful and don’t cross a line. I think what I loved most about it, is how Stone loves Charlotte. He keeps chasing after her, winning her trust, and just loving her, until she had no choice but to love him back. He’s just so honorable, but is also realistic in his struggles, but respects her too much to hurt her. I loved watching her slowly come to trust him, then figure out what it meant to love him in return.

The spiritual aspect of the story was extremely well done, as well. It focuses a lot on forgiveness, trusting God in the hard times, and giving control to Him. Or maybe that’s just what I got out of it. I’m always a little curious about that. Maybe that’s what I saw, because that’s what I needed to hear. Either way, I loved how it was woven throughout the story. Even though God isn’t mentioned on every page, I could still see Him there, in the words and expressions. Karen handled things with such finesse. It never overwhelms the story, but is constant throughout. There are a few discussions about faith and the characters seriously consider it. My biggest cheering moment is when they cross the line to fully believing. There is a difference in the characters by the end of the book - for me, that is what makes a book great: characters that grow and change throughout. They aren’t the same from beginning to end.

As the five star rating probably already informed you, I had absolutely no complaints about this book - it is definitely one of my all-time favorites, and it will definitely be staying on my “keeper” shelf to be read again and again!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical romance with fantastic characters, great suspense, and a romance that will make you sigh.

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!  (and yes, I know it's too long - I couldn't resist)  :)

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Even So Come

 
 
Kristian Stanfill has a new song (or, at least new to me) titled “Even So Come” and the beginning of the chorus says, “Like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a Church ready for You.” I’m no expert by any means, but aren’t most brides excited for their wedding day? Don’t they number each day, counting down with anticipation? Then what happened to the Church? Because I don’t see that spark, that excited waiting, knowing something wonderful is coming ever closer. It’s as though we’ve become weary of waiting, tired of anticipating only to be left still waiting. We don’t have that expectation any longer. We’ve become content with the status quo and that has made us complacent. Our faith should be more than the “Christian” checkbox when Facebook asks your religious preference. Anyone can claim Christianity, and many do, but it’s how we live it out that truly matters. Our hearts, our words, our actions: they matter so much more than a social media status.

At this very moment in time, if Jesus were to return, would you be ready? Would you be able to look Him in the eyes and say like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”? (2 Timothy 4:7, NIV) Is your heart ready to meet Jesus? Are you confident of what He’ll say when you come face to face with Him? I may sing, “Even so come,” along with Kristian, but then I’m left praying, “Father, make me ready. Give me a heart that beats only for You. Help me to be able to say as Paul did, that I have done the best with what You gave me.” I don’t want to be complacent any longer. I want to see what life would be like if we truly lived like Jesus was coming back in the next instant. Because one day, that will be reality. Would that knowledge change how we live our lives? I sincerely hope so. You never know, we could change the world, if only we believed and lived out what the Word of our Lord says.