Monday, June 6, 2022

I love a good time travel book!

 

Book Summary (Amazon): In the last stages of a genetic disease, Ellen Creighton has decided to live out her remaining days at the estate of her longtime friend Harrison Burlington. Harrison cares deeply for Ellen, but as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, he's never allowed himself to get serious in a relationship. However, he's desperately trying to save her by finding the holy water that is believed to heal any disease.

When he locates two flasks, Ellen refuses to drink one of them because she believes the holy water killed her sister and father. In an effort to convince her to take it, Harrison ingests the contents first, and when Ellen witnesses the effects, she can no longer deny the power of the substance in the bottles. Dangerous criminals are also seeking the holy water, and Ellen soon learns they will go to any lengths to get the powerful drug--including sending her back into the past to find it for them.

My thoughts...I've never read quite so much about holy water as I have with this book and Jody Hedlund's first book in this series...or imagined what it could do. In Never Leave Me, we see not only its time travel power but also the power it has to heal. All of this can get a little confusing, with different time crossings and the consequences of leaving one time for another. What I love about these books, though, is the way the characters are written. You see how much they change and grow throughout the novel, as well as how they deal with the various plot twists thrown at them. Speaking of plot, Jody is a master story weaver. She takes fantasy (time travel) and adds depth through scenarios and emotions, which makes you want to know what is going to happen next, even if you have to accept the unbelievable. The romantic moments are a particular favorite of mine, which are fun, clean, but still get the heart racing. The first book in this series is still my favorite, but I really enjoyed this one as well and would definitely recommend it. I'm looking forward to the next one!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in order to share my honest opinion.*


Friday, May 13, 2022

When someone else's story collides with your own....


 Who is Stacey Morgan? Stacey Morgan kissed her husband goodbye before he donned his space suit on July 20, 2019, and headed to his waiting Soyuz rocket. With an overwhelming mix of pride, excitement, and terror, she and her children held hands and watched the rocket ignite and lift off for a nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

This is the story of the astronaut’s wife―a journey full of unexpected twists and turns. While the love of her life orbited the Earth, Stacey was about to embark on a knock-your-socks-off adventure right here at home. This season would be different from any Stacey had experienced before. The risks were greater, the loneliness was deeper, and the stress was more intense. Filled with as many unique challenges as surreal opportunities, this deeply meaningful season taught her rich lessons about

  • preparing for any mission or adventure life throws at you
  • rediscovering your fun side when you’ve been trapped in survival mode too long
  • trusting God when you feel weak or alone
  • choosing hope in the face of fear and uncertainty

Containing behind-the-scenes glimpses into a side of space flight that most of us will never experience, The Astronaut’s Wife is a funny, poignant, and meaningful exploration of living life to the fullest―no matter where you roam.

Why I loved this book....This book was not what I expected. I thought it would be a cool behind-the-scenes look into astronaut family life. Well, it was that...but so much more. Stacey Morgan took snippets of their life and circled back around to make them applicable to anyone. For those who are going through transitions, who have seasons of single parenting, who have to do some hard things and make sacrifices, and what hit me the most....when you're searching for "your people" when it doesn't come naturally...this book covers all of that and then some. It encouraged me, made me tear up, and in the end it inspired me to take some "calculated risks" in life. That's what Stacey and her husband, Drew, have done through every phase of their life journey. You see, I used to be more of an adventurer...a calculated risk-taker. I've lived overseas, traveled to different parts of the world, met new people, and even met my husband on a blind date. Lately, with the world shifting around us, fears escalating about so many things...it's easy to forget how to find the joy in life. This book reminded me of that. To not just take chances and do more, but to have hope. Our efforts to live a fulfilling life may look different now, we have scars, but we can't let it stop us from going out there and keep at it. I loved this book and definitely recommend it!

 

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in order to share my honest opinion, which I did.** 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Closing out a fantastic series!

 

Luke and Finley's story...Guilt has defined Luke Dempsey's life, but it was self-destructiveness that landed him in prison. When his friend and fellow inmate lay dying shortly before Luke's release, the older man revealed he left a string of clues for his daughter, Finley, that will lead her to the treasure he's hidden. Worried that she won't be the only one pursuing the treasure, he gains Luke's promise to protect her until the end of her search.

Spunky and idealistic, Finley Sutherland is the owner of an animal rescue center and a defender of lost causes. She accepts Luke's help on the treasure hunt while secretly planning to help him in return--by coaxing him to embrace the forgiveness he's long denied himself.

As they draw closer to the final clue, their reasons for resisting each other begin to crumble, and Luke realizes his promise will push him to the limit in more ways than one. He'll do his best to shield Finley from unseen threats, but who's going to shield him from losing his heart?

 

Why I loved their story....This book was the perfect ending to the Misty River Romance series! I naturally gravitated towards the setting, being from Georgia myself, but there was so much depth to each character's journey. There were five characters throughout the series who were impacted by an overseas mission trip they took as young students, that ended tragically when an earthquake killed one boy and nearly killed the remaining five. When Luke's brother died that day, the lives of his friends and family were forever changed.

Initially I wasn't crazy about the way Finley treated Luke like her own personal rehabilitation project. Finley is passionate about running Furry Tails, an animal rehab and adoption center, but the way she approached Luke's trauma like she would a wounded animal didn't really connect with me. But as the story continued, and Finley's character developed along with Luke's, Becky Wade did a great job of bringing all together. By the end I could see how every aspect of the story worked. I enjoyed the treasure hunt aspect of the story as well. It was a unique way to connect Finley to her father as well as tie in some light mystery and suspense. Luke definitely fits the bill as my favorite type of hero: wounded, broody, dark, and handsome. Yes, please : ).

If you enjoy clean, Christian romance, this is the book for you! In fact, I would definitely recommend the entire series as you're planning your summer vacation reads!


**I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**


Sunday, January 23, 2022

Two new AMAZING historical fiction releases!

 I'm trying something different this year with my book reviews: instead of just one review, I thought I'd do a little book comparison. Two books that may be the same genre, or like in my last post, they may be completely different. My only consistency is my love for a happily ever after. Yes, I'm that person.

 Last year produced some really great books, but this year looks even more promising! Yet I still have so many books in my TBR pile that I've yet to even get to, so I haven't even tapped all of last year's potential! :D Anyway, to get back on track, one of my favorite authors released her newest book, "A Heart Adrift," this month and it is not only gorgeous in cover, but the story is as luscious as the chocolate it often refers to. 

Book Summary (Amazon): It is 1755, and the threat of war with France looms over colonial York, Virginia. Chocolatier Esmée Shaw is fighting her own battle of the heart. Having reached her twenty-eighth birthday, she is reconciled to life alone after a decade-old failed love affair from which she's never quite recovered. But she longs to find something worthwhile to do with her life.
Captain Henri Lennox has returned to port after a lengthy absence, intent on completing the lighthouse in the dangerous Chesapeake Bay, a dream he once shared with Esmée. But when the colonial government asks him to lead a secret naval expedition against the French, his future is plunged into uncertainty.

Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart, or can their shared vision and dedication to the colonial cause heal the wounds of the past? 

My thoughts...This story reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Jane Austen novels, "Persuasion." Like Anne in Persuasion, Esmee had a chance at love but it slipped by. As time went on, her sea captain returned, to explore the renewal of love that was thought to be lost. While, of course, there are many details that are different, the story lines felt very similar. Different from Anne, though, was Esmee's boldness in exploring her feelings. I loved that aspect of her character. Henri, like Captain Wentworth, fell in the love with the sea in his youth. As he spent years following its siren call, and making his fortune, he eventually made his way back to Esmee, fully expecting her to have moved on with her life. It created a lovely amount of tension as they found each other again, and got to know each other as mature adults, as opposed to the naïve youth they once were. Their reacquaintance is set in the American colonies, on the cusp of becoming a new nation. Frantz' attention to detail is what makes her stand out as a writer. I always feel like I'm being transported to another time and place when I read her books...engaged with all senses. I would highly recommend this novel as must read for clean historical fiction lovers who also enjoy a Christian faith element to the story.

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher as well as a digital copy from Netgalley in order to share my unbiased opinion, which I did.**


Book Summary (Amazon): 
Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she's worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she'll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London's attention she'll need a habit-maker who's not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row's infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts?

My thoughts....Set in Regency London, red haired Evelyn has tasked herself with saving her family with a good marriage. Armed with a little more than determination and amazing skills as a horsewoman, she wants to help turn the balance in her favor by employing the top habit-maker to fit her with something to make her stand above the other ladies in the London season. Ahmad is a talented, but he works in the background as his heritage is not one of respectable London society. While they both are very different, they find some common ground as two who have experienced the pain of rejection from others. 
I absolutely loved this book! It is definitely a love story with some moments of heightened romantic tension, but what I would still consider a "clean read." I loved Evelyn's pure heart towards Ahmad, seeing his worth in so many ways. Yet often she struggled with her own worth, at first only seeing herself as only a means to support her family. Ahmad helped bring out her beauty, physically and internally. I loved the chemistry between the characters, even if the word "sensual" was used several times....lol. I wanted a little more descriptors, but by the time I was thinking that I was already sold on the story. There is a slight faith/historical element to the story in the form of Prince Albert's death and spiritualists that hoped to contact him in the afterlife. The book explores this and treats in a somewhat comical way, but it is still a significant part of the plot. This is a general market fiction novel, but like I said, very clean with few uses of profanity and no open door bedroom scenes. If you're already a fan of Mimi Matthews, you won't be disappointed! There is also a connection between the characters in this series and the previous one, but you can still read this as a stand alone novel. Can't wait for the next book!



Sunday, January 2, 2022

Reviewer's Bookshelf: 2021 Wrap Up!

What a year! I can honestly say I'm not sad to see 2021 go. It was a tough year on all levels: physically, emotionally, spiritually....all the things. Reading was my escape, but I had a hard time sitting down to read the books I normally enjoy. Mainly because I just needed books I knew would be fun, romantic, and have a happy ending. I didn't want to focus or think about what I was reading. Now that 2022 is here, I wanted to do a little catching up on a few books I've wanted to review, and I'm trying to commit to making my large TBR pile a little smaller : ). Another confession: I'm a little hesitant to list a few of the books I started last year because some of them weren't the mental break I thought they would be. There were a few I had to stop and delete altogether. I like to venture out of my normal genre of Christian fiction sometimes, but it's good to have in mind what your personal limitations are. Even so, authors are some of my favorite people, and I'm so thankful that despite the craziness of the world around us, they keep typing away and creating stories that help us all take a mental break. I'm so excited about the upcoming releases for this year!

I'm going to kick off my first review of the year with "Love on the Range" by Mary Connealy. 

Book summary (Amazon): While his brothers and their new wives search for who shot him, Wyatt Hunt is temporarily bedridden and completely miserable. Somehow Molly Garner's limited skills have made her the most qualified in their circle to care for Wyatt. But by the time he's healed, she's fed up with him and the whole ungrateful family. For even worse than his grumpiness were the few unguarded moments when he pulled at her heartstrings, and she has been long determined to never repeat her mother's mistakes.

When alternate plans of finding her own independent life fall through, Molly volunteers to work for the Pinkertons and help investigate nearby ranch owner Oliver Hawkins. She signs on to be his housekeeper, hoping to find clues to prove his nefarious, and possibly murderous, past. Wyatt refuses to let her risk it alone and offers to act as Hawkins's new foreman.

But when another Pinkerton agent gets shot, they realize Hawkins isn't the only danger. The Hunt brothers will have to band together to face all the troubles of life and love that suddenly surround them.

My thoughts...Mary Connealy is one of my tried and true favorite western fiction writers. The way she writes her characters make you respect them, root for them, but also chuckle a little at their feistiness. I love the humor and sarcasm that is woven in that helps balance the intensity that often occurs while the hero, heroine, and their comrades are battling some big time baddies. There is also a thread of faith woven in the story, that I appreciate as one who loves Christian fiction. 
    In this third book in the Brothers in Arms series, the Hunt brothers, despite a rocky start in book one of the series, are learning to work together and depend on each other to figure out who is behind the acts of violence in their area. This series is a little different in that each book backtracks in time a little so that it focuses mostly on the perspective of each brother. Along with each brother, each lady in the "family" gets a turn sharing their perspective. It gave this series something special that I haven't read in Connealy's previous work. 
    I really enjoyed this series for the new aspects and the characterization that I know and love. I also appreciate that I don't have to wait forever for the pace to pick up...there's usually action right from the start. If you're a fan of a slow burn, there's a little of that, but I love that the author isn't shy about showing the fun and excitement of a fresh romance. If you're a fan of this genre, definitely go out and start from book one of this series!

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

One more review on quite a different story....

Book summary (Amazon): 
Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.
Enchanting Regency-Era Gothic Romance Intertwined with Inspiration from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein  
 
Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does. . .in the worst possible way.
 
Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?

My thoughts...This book was a different experience for me than other books I've read by Michelle Griep. It reminded me a lot of Charles Dickens, in the sense that it was in England and highlighted the darker aspects of the times: poverty, mistreatment of those who are vulnerable, and had an overall gothic feel. Griep did a good job creating the tone and atmosphere of the era and setting up the plot to include a connection to Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."
    I took a chance on this story because I love the author, and I was intrigued by how she might craft the plot. It was well done. However, the timing just wasn't right for me to fully appreciate it. It's not really a happily ever after story, but one that left me feeling grieved. Grief for the injustice of evildoers wreaking havoc on the vulnerable, of a family torn apart by said evildoer, of loss of loved ones, and even the loss of a way of life. There's more, which made the book feel heavy for me. The romantic aspect of the plot was nice but brief, and when I finished the last page I wasn't left feeling that this was about the love for a man and woman, but the familial love between a brother and sister. A faith element was also included in this novel, which I appreciated, and it fit in very well with what was going on in the story.
    If you're a fan of gothic regency era novels, you will appreciate this book. Michelle Griep is a wonderful author and I'll probably read more of her work, just not this particular genre. 

**I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in order to give my honest opinion, which I did.**

Coming soon: Laura Frantz's newest, "A Heart Adrift"! 


Monday, October 11, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Provenance" by Carla Laureano

 


Book Summary (Amazon): Los Angeles interior designer and former foster kid Kendall Green is in high demand, both for her impeccable eye and for her uncanny ability to uncover the provenance of any piece. But for all her success, skyrocketing costs have put her California home and her business in jeopardy. Then an unexpected inheritance provides a timely solution: a grandmother she never knew has left her a group of historic properties in a tiny Colorado town on the edge of ruin.

To young, untried mayor Gabriel Brandt, Jasper Lake is more than another small town—it’s the place that saved his life. Now, seeing the town slowly wither and die, he’s desperate to restore it to its former glory. Unfortunately, his vision is at odds with a local developer who wants to see the town razed and rebuilt as a summer resort. He’s sure that he can enlist the granddaughter of one of its most prominent former citizens to his cause—until he meets Kendall and realizes that not only does she know nothing of her own history, she has no interest in reviving a place that once abandoned her.

In order to save his beloved town, Gabe must first help Kendall unravel the truth of her own provenance—and Kendall must learn that in order to embrace the future, sometimes you have to start with the past.

My thoughts...The architectural details in the cover of this book are what first caught my eye. I love that there are blueprints snuck into the skyline, which go so well with the storyline. I was also intrigued by the summary and I'm a fan of Carla Laureano, so I was excited about this new contemporary novel. Set in the quaint Colorado town of Jasper Lake, the first half of the book was a lot of ground work. Setting up the dilemma, introducing the characters (Kendall and Gabe), and some backstory made the initial pace a little slow for me. I didn't want to give up, because I knew that in the end, I would most likely finish very satisfied. And I did! By about the middle of the book, the pace began to speed up, the plot thickened, and I appreciated the growth in both Kendall and Gabe. In true form, Laureano offered a more realistic piece of fiction. It's one of the things I love most about her writing. Her characters have real questions, real struggles, and she doesn't shy away from posing these things in a faith context. One of the themes of this book is about understanding your worth, which was beautifully written. I believe that this will appeal to readers with or without a faith background. There is a clear faith message presented, so I would consider this novel to be Christian fiction. I finished this final page with these thoughts: life can be hard, unfair, and messy, but God can redeem it. He can transform us, with all of our scars, into something of worth and beauty. It's a message I needed to be reminded of. 


**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, and was happy to share my honest opinions.** 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Gold in These Hills" by Joanne Bischof

 


Book Summary (Goodreads): Two second-chance love stories, hope across the centuries, and the legacy that binds them together.

Upon arriving at Kenworthy, California, mail-order-bride Juniper Cohen was met by the pounding of the gold mine, the rowdiness of its prospectors, and her greatest surprise of all: the love of the kind man who awaited her. But when the mine proves empty of profit, and when Juniper’s husband vanishes, doubt and discouragement are as prevalent as the pioneers fleeing this dwindling boomtown.

As winter blows in, Juniper pens a series of letters to her husband but fears she is waiting on a ghost—or worse, an outlaw. Carving out survival for her and her young daughter in a ghost town requires trusting in the kindness of a few remaining souls, including the one who can unlock the mystery of her husband’s disappearance.

A century later, trying to escape the heartache of his failed marriage, Johnny Sutherland throws himself into raising his child and restoring a hundred-year-old abandoned farmhouse in California’s San Jacinto Mountains. While exploring its secrets he uncovers the letters Juniper wrote to her Dearest John and is moved by the handwritten accounts that bear his name. Having learned that truth and courage go hand in hand, Johnny dares to love again, and armed with lessons from the past, a modern-day romance unfolds in the very same mountains that once held a love story that touched history.

My thoughts...There are rare moments when I read a book and it affects me deeply. Enough to cause a few tears to come as I not only get lost in the story, but feel a deep personal connection. "The Gold in These Hills" was one of those stories. This book was filled with tenderness and heartache that I've felt in my own life, written with a level of descriptive language that painted word pictures on the pages. The loss of a loved one and how it changes you. The tenderness of friendship that brings comfort through the loss. The stench of betrayal and how trust is hard won after being hurt so deeply, yet God can patiently wash the layers of dirt and grime of it away over time, bringing restoration. Embracing humility in some of the most difficult of situations. The love that is found through community. All of these things are what I took away when I finished the final page. I knew I would love this book before I started, having certain expectations based on the author, title, and summary...but this was so much more than I imagined. There's a plaque I've had my eye on for months that says, "There is gold in every piece of your story." This is the perfect summary for this book. I would highly recommend it. Bravo, Joanne Bischof!


**Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in order to give my honest opinion, which I did.**