Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

331

Lindsay Harrel presents a powerful story of healing, adventure, and learning how to live life to the fullest.

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

What I Loved: This was an adventure from page to page! But more than an adventure, it was a story with real heart. I loved watching Megan and Crystal evolve and their relationship deepen as the story unfolded. I also enjoyed witnessing their own personal love stories as well.
Harrel did an amazing job describing the various countries. There was enough info to feel as if you have left the states, but not too much that it slowed the story down. And there were so many tidbits sprinkled throughout, that I couldn’t help wondering if Harrel had been on this trip herself.
Aside from all the traveling and romance, there was a solid story centered around some very important themes. Turning to Christ, letting go of a painful past, learning not to worry, and forgiveness was among the spiritual highlights.

Rating and Recommendations: I happily give The Heart Between Us 5 stars and recommend it to Contemporary Christian fans or for those looking for a good vacation read.

~ I received a copy from the Fiction Guild. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Bride Tree by J.P. Robinson

370The year is 1789. France is reeling under the impact of a civil war between its social classes. When a secret agent from Rome joins forces with a vindictive politician bent on revenge, the stage is set for an explosive outcome that will shake the country to its core.

Meanwhile, Queen Marie-Antoinette engages the help of her lady-in-waiting, Viviane de Lussan, in a desperate battle to keep her throne… and her head. But how can she win a struggle she seems fated to lose?

Amid the chaos of the revolution, Viviane’s heart is torn between a nobleman who sacrifices everything for her and a peasant who promises true freedom.

Saturated with suspense and lavish detail, Bride Tree combines  elements of alternative history with Biblical allegory. The result is a  romantic thriller that will grab you by the heart and never let go.

My Thoughts: I found the concept behind Bride Tree to be extremely interesting. Robinson’s choice to use alternative history (which in a nutshell uses real historical setting and some historical events while changing other events or the timeline to suit the story) really paid off. It gave him room to change things as needed in order to keep the reader guessing and offer the story even more possibilities.
There were some of the characters who could have been written with more depth. But the spiritual content was the real highlight here. His spiritual angle was spot on!  In many ways, I was often reminded of The Holy War by John Bunyan. He shared an amazing picture of how our fallen hearts are often led astray by the sinful temptations offered by Satan, and likewise how Christ draws us back to Himself with unmatched beauty and contentment. There was also a clear picture of Christ’s sacrifice as well as His fickle acceptance while here on earth.

I do want to give a slight warning. There were adult topics on the table, but it was never graphic or displayed in detail. It was always only alluded to or mentioned by name. Those who are familiar with the French Revolution will also understand the extremely violent nature of the setting. For those who aren’t familiar, you should know up front that this one includes a great deal more bloodshed. All that being said, there was a balance of honest human behavior and carefully crafted descriptions at work here. It was almost as if Robinson had decided to be just blunt and open about what happens but at the same time without going into further detail.
For me personally, as a conservative reader, I liked this type of balance. I struggle more when the author shares moment by moment details (or feelings and sensations if we’re speaking of sensual moments).

Rating and Recommendations: I give Bride Tree a solid 4 stars. If you enjoy the French Revolution or allegories, I think you’ll want to give this one a try.

~ I received a copy from the author. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

Posted in About the Book, Book Reviews

RELEASE DAY: If Only It Were Yesterday by A.M. Heath

There’s nothing like the gushing heart of a proud parent and that’s what I feel like today: A proud book parent. My dear Liz is all grown up and venturing out into the world. That’s a thrilling and scary feeling. I can’t control who reads it or how they feel about it or even what they say about it. I hope it’s well-loved wherever it goes. But as I sit back and remind myself, yet again, that done means done and I’ll never have to work on this beloved story again, I want to share some of the events surrounding the book launch. 

Liz Party

There’s a party taking place today! A tea party, in fact! You can join me on Facebook. If you’re unable to make it at 10 a.m. (central) you can join me over the next couple of days. I prefer to keep my parties extended for those who aren’t able to make the specific hour. Did I mention that I’ll be giving away some paperback copies at the party? 

There’s also a blog tour. You can visit other bloggers to hear their thoughts on the novel, as well as earn bonus entries for the grand prize giveaway. The full schedule is below the picture. 

Blog tour

Release Day Spotlights: 
Sept 4: 
Amanda Tero @ With a Joyful Noise
Becky Dempsey @ Blossoms and Blessings 
Alicia G. Ruggieri @ A Brighter Destiny

Reviews:

Sept. 5:
Laura Wilson @ Blue Eye Books

Sept. 6:
Alicia G. Ruggieri @ A Brighter Destiny

Sept. 10: 
Karen Hadley @ Karen Sue Hadley

Sept. 11:
Becky Dempsey @ Blossoms and Blessings

Sept. 12: 
Virginia Winfield @ Bigreadersite

Sept. 13:
Heather G. @ Blue Jeans and Teacups

Sept. 17:
Raechel Lenore @ God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae

Grand Prize

You can enter the grand prize giveaway here. It closes Sept 17, 2018. I’ll announce the winner here on the blog. I’m sorry, the giveaway is only open to Continental U.S. residents. 

AmazonLizBOOK DESCRIPTION:

Liz Cooke has two problems in life: Her social media is filled with brewing political conflict and her idea of a perfect man seems to have gone extinct a century ago. Inspired by the contents of an antique trunk, Liz dreams she time-travels to 1885. As she sets out to enjoy the Victorian era in all its glory, armed with knowledge gleaned through historical novels and period dramas, will she find the past to be all that she thought? And does the right man for her exist only in her dreams or has he been in her life all along?
Loosely inspired by Alice in Wonderland, A.M. Heath brings you a fun read chock-full of humor and whimsy with a special message for the avid reader in all of us.

You can add If Only It Were Yesterday to your TBR list on Goodreads or pick up your copy today at Amazon

If Only It Were Yesterday Quote 2

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

330Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines—until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

What I Loved: This was a fantastic debut novel! There’s so much to love and appreciate here. I always enjoy reading about a main character who has a disability or ailment of some sort, so I thrilled to read about Keziah and her struggle with epilepsy. I quickly connected with both Micah and Keziah. There were times, though, when I felt like some of the characters were too knowledgeable about the matters of war when the history books had yet to be written. But other than that, I found it to be a very strong and accurate historical novel. The characters relied heavily upon God to serve where they felt led to serve. The plot kept moving forward, and their romance was sweet and ended perfectly.

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction, Civil War fiction, or those looking for fiction revolving around the Underground Railroad.

~ I received a copy from Tyndale House. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

329Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first. 

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano welcomes readers to Trevelyan Castle, home of the poorest heiress in Victorian England, for a treasure hunt they’ll not soon forget.

What I Loved: This was a prime example of fine Christian fiction. From the moment the story began, I was captivated by Tressa, her world, and her story. And as it unfolded, I was treated to an interesting new mystery. The conclusion of the mystery wasn’t clear from chapter one, so it was nice to go on the treasure hunt with the rest of the cast. The romance was sweet and clean. But what really stood out to me was the way Politano crafted the story to include tips on keeping a vineyard to mirror the Christian life. Again, and again, and again I found myself being convicted, refreshed, and reminded of various areas in my relationship to Christ. If you read this novel, keeping in mind the Biblical context of Christ being the vine and you being the branches, there is so much more waiting here for you than just an entertaining story! Bringing the focus back on Christ is what makes Christian fiction such a valuable form of entertainment, and Politano kept the focus where it ought to be in the most natural way.
Oftentimes, with a vineyard setting, the reader may see things such as wine tastings but that wasn’t the case here. The focus was solely on the growth of the grapes and not the producing of wine.

Rating and Recommendation: I highly recommend A Rumored Fortune to all Christian Fiction fans but especially fans of Christian Historical Fiction. I give it 5 stars.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House through Net Galley. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. All thoughts are my own.

*I picked up the audio version and can highly recommend it as well.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Another June With You by Krista Noorman

101Shannon McGregor never expected to run into her high school sweetheart, especially not as the best man of the wedding she’s photographing. But Micah’s back, as handsome and charming as she remembered, and pressing her for the truth about why she ended their relationship—a truth she’d rather keep to herself. 

Life is good. Micah Shaw has a job he loves, great friends, and a wonderful girl by his side. But seeing his first love again opens his eyes to the charade he’s been living without her. He never really got over Shannon or the dreams they had for their future—dreams she seemed to casually brush aside when she broke things off a decade ago without much explanation.

As wedding events unfold, avoiding Micah is impossible, and with their connection as strong as ever, Shannon finds herself battling the desire to tell him everything. How long will they circle the truth before Shannon admits defeat? And what does it matter when he’ll be gone by Sunday?

A sweet, clean second chance romance. The first book in the McGregor Family series.

What I Loved: Another June With You was great friction-filled romance! It was an endearing cat and mouse game of former sweethearts who have allowed secrets, hurt, and even a bit of pride and insecurity to stand between them. After reading other novels along this theme, I walked in thinking I knew what to expect, but Noorman threw in some unexpected twists and turns along the way … not to mention a few laughs.
The reader is also treated to spiritual themes such as relying on God to find your true happiness and trusting Christ when things don’t go as planned.
Fans of Noorman’s previous Cornerstone series are in for a treat when previous characters step in for a cameo. It’s not strongly connected so don’t feel bad if you hadn’t read the other series yet. In Another June With You, we’re introduced to the Shannon and her siblings, and we catch a glimpse at what the upcoming novels have in store for us. The McGregor Family is already promising to be a fantastic series!! I can’t wait to get my hands on the next two books!!

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and I recommend it to Christian Contemporary fans.

~ I was given a copy from the author. But all thoughts are my own. And I was not obligated to review or love the book. 

Here’s a bonus for you!! It’s .99 RIGHT NOW on Amazon! 

38128358_1999300696978036_2072557565564157952_o

Quote from the author: She’s the wedding photographer. He’s the best man. They were high school sweethearts, but she suddenly walked away. He wants the truth, but will it keep them apart forever?

38671021_2006004426307663_4926035362016395264_o

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Three Words and a Kiss by Sondra Kraak

371When a big-hearted debutante collides with a small-town blacksmith set in his ways, it can mean only one thing—a war of hearts has come to Pine Creek.

Washington, 1892

Cameron Wallace thrives as both the blacksmith and the minister in his community of Pine Creek. Out of the fires of a chaotic childhood, he’s forged a peaceful life filled with safe relationships and predictable routines. But when the smithy he’s been renting is sold out from under him, the impulsive woman who buys it stokes the embers of emotions he’d rather keep unlit—and even has the audacity to lend a helping hand to his smithy work.

Samantha Klein has never been afraid to push boundaries when it comes to helping those whom society—and God—have overlooked, be they orphans, immigrants, or injured animals. When her latest attempt to aid a group of Chinese women lands her in a newspaper scandal, her high-society family sends her packing from Seattle. Setting out on her own, she purchases the Pine Creek smithy and hatches another plan for helping her immigrant friends. But only weeks after arriving in Pine Creek, her plan turns to ashes, and she’s overwhelmed by needs she can never hope to meet, including her own need to be seen and cared for. And the one who seems to understand her is the man who won’t let her anywhere near his heart, no matter the attraction that burns between them.

As Cameron struggles to find a new normal, and Samantha yearns for someone to share her burdens, old hurts and dangerous secrets make them both terrified to admit that what they need—and what God has planned for them—just might be each other.

What I Loved: I’ve been following this series since book one and was greatly anticipating a new novel. So when I picked up Three Words and a Kiss, I was looking for the kind of read that would suck me in and amaze me. This one fit the bill! I loved it. All of it. Every last minute of it.
It picks up with a gripping scene and the story unfolds at a smooth pace. I loved the chemistry between Sam and Cam … and Sam, Cam, and the duck. The themes of loving and accepting people who are different from you and how to live a benevolent life were beautiful additions, making this novel more than mere entertainment.
I hear there’s one more book in the works and I can’t wait to see what Sondra has in store for us.

Rating and Recommendation: I give it 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or those looking for a series based in a small western town.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Finding Christmas Joy by Amanda Tero

What I Loved: Tero reminds us that Christmas is more than a season, it’s about Someone to have an everlasting relationship with and she uses a common setting–pain– to bring the message to life. Lots of people feel alone or disjointed during the holidays. Whether you’re saved or not, Tero reminds us Who our focus and source of emotions ought to be centered on.
Finding Christmas Joy is a short story, so we’re not given much time with the characters and the cozy setting they bring to life, but the message is one that will stick with you.
Rating and Recommendation: I give it 5 stars and recommend it to those looking for sweet Christmas moment.
mY_qHH2Q

Amanda Tero is giving away a copy of “Finding Christmas Joy” with one of her piano CD’s! You’ll be able to enjoy the music of the season as well as a story that brings you the happiness of the season. (Note: there are two giveaways: one for physical copies for residents of USA, and another for international residents)

LINK: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/483ac2ab27/?

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY(electronic copies of both)

LINK: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/483ac2ab28/?

 

Be sure to stop by these other blogs to see what others are
saying about
Finding Christmas Joy! 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: June and July’s Backlist: 3 in 1

I made it my goal for the year to focus on squeezing in some great books from the backlist. It’s not that easy to do when there are so many new releases to try to keep up with. But here are the ones I’ve read over June and July. 
*All links will lead you to Goodreads unless otherwise stated.

235Letter Perfect by Cathy Marie Hake:

Laugh-Out-Loud Historical Fiction!
Ruth Caldwell has always tried to live up to her mother’s expectations of what a lady should be…often with less-than-impressive results. But when she’s forced to journey west to meet the father she’s never seen, Ruth hopes that this might be the place she’ll finally fit in. 
But her arrival brings about more mayhem than even Ruth is used to. She soon meets Josh McCain, the son of her father’s business partner, but discovers some startling news: Her father passed away years ago. And though Josh urges Ruth to claim her inheritance, he grows suspicious of something more sinister at hand when her “accidents” seem to go beyond Ruth’s normal bumbling ways and leave her very life in danger.

My Review: Entertaining and God-focused. Here’s a book where the Christian character walks the walk and talks the talk, and I found it refreshing. Hake kept the reader grounded with the themes of loving yourself the way God created you, how to have a healthy marriage, and waiting for the right spouse. She also kept the reader entertained with the silly antics of Ruth. I was a bit disconnected with the ending, but overall it was a fun western read.
I give it 5 stars!

335Bittersweet by Cathy Marie Hake:
Laney McCain has unabashedly had her sights set on Galen O’Sullivan for years. And though Galen has treated her as nothing more than his best friend’s pesky tag-along sister, Laney dares hope that now is the time he will open his eyes and truly recognize the woman she’s become. 

But the arrival of Ishmael and Ivy Grubb, squatters on the O’Sullivans’ land, diverts Galen’s attention. Though the Grubbs are crass and uneducated, Galen shows mercy and allows them to stay in exchange for help around the farm. But it becomes a decision he lives to regret….

Sometimes the Journey to Love Is Truly Bittersweet

My Review: The story matches the title, and, yet, I couldn’t put it down. I will say that I felt like the lead characters lacked chemistry together and this was a hindrance for me. But by the end of the novel, the example of genuine Christian faith, true surrender, and sacrificial love far outweighed anything I thought might have been lacking. I truly believe the Lord was honored here.
Hake is someone I plan to read more from as often as I can.
I give it 4 stars.

234

Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen:

Even a proper vicar’s daughter can make a mistake…and now Charlotte Lamb must pay a high price for her fall. To avoid the prying eyes of all who know her, she hides herself away in London’s forbidding “Milkweed Manor,” a place of mystery and lore, of old secrets and new birth. 

But once there, she comes face-to-face with a suitor from her past—a man who now hides secrets of his own. Both are determined, with God’s help, to protect those they love. But neither can imagine the depth of sacrifice that will be required. 

Sprinkled with fascinating details about the lives of women in Regency England, Lady of Milkweed Manor is a moving romantic drama about the redemption of past failings and the beauty of sacrificial love.

My Review: If you’ve been a fan of Klassen, then I can simply tell you that this was a typical Klassen novel. If you’ve never read her, you should know that she has such a style with Regency fiction. The setting comes to life. The plot keeps evolving. And the characters are endearing.
I will warn more conservative readers that this one centers on more adult topics. There was one scene about nursing a baby that was a bit graphic for my tastes, but all else was handled nicely.
I was able to listen to the bulk of this one in audio and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I give the novel and audio version 5 stars.

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden

230As a biochemist in early 1900s New York, Doctor Rosalind Werner has dedicated her life to the crusade against waterborne diseases. She is at the forefront of a groundbreaking technology that will change the way water is delivered to every household in the city–but only if she can get people to believe in her work.

Newly appointed Commissioner of Water for New York, Nicholas Drake is highly skeptical of Rosalind and her team’s techniques. When a brewing court case throws him into direct confrontation with her, he is surprised by his reaction to the lovely scientist.

While Rosalind and Nick wage a private war against their own attraction, they stand firmly on opposite sides of a battle that will impact far more than just their own lives. As the controversy grows more public and inflammatory and Rosalind becomes the target of an unknown enemy, the odds stacked against these two rivals swiftly grow more insurmountable with every passing day.

My Thoughts: I adored this novel!! From start to finish, it had so many elements that I want to find in an enthralling book. We brushed against characters from the last book. Revisited ongoing issues with their family. The characters are well developed and have such a realness about them. It’s easy to see them as real people and sympathize with the difficult situations they find themselves in. And, oh, the difficulties don’t stop for these characters! I was impressed with the variety of twists and turns. Camden keeps a steady pace throughout the entire novel.
The romance and was sweet and clean. And the historical elements are a treat. I never would have considered what a battle it was to get the clean water we take for granted today.
The spiritual content was really light in this one. It felt more like the characters had an underlying Christian principle but without directly connecting to the source. I would have liked to have seen them purposely turning to Christ as they navigated through their problems, so it felt more like a clean read than a Christian read. But it’s still one I can highly recommend.
While you can understand this story as a standalone, some of the issues found in this book were built upon things that happened in the first so I would recommend reading the series in order if you can.

*I picked up the audio copy and adored it!! The narrator did a great job, and I particularly enjoyed her version of Nick’s accent.

Rating and Recommendations: I give it 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House through Net Galley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.